Major League Baseball is undertaking its boldest effort yet to reclaim a youth apparatus that has been outsourced to third-party profiteers, planning a summer league for elite high school players that it hopes will eat into the pay-for-play market that exists today, sources familiar with the plan told Yahoo Sports.
The Prospect Development Pipeline League, which is expected to be announced by MLB on Tuesday, would start in June 2019 and stretch until early July. The league is expected to invite 80 of the best rising seniors – most of whom will be drafted in 2020 – and offer the best of the group a chance to play at a high school game during All-Star week in addition to a high school home run derby.
If successful, the league could grow in size and scope and perhaps challenge the current system, in which successful youth baseball players typically come from well-to-do families. Over the last 20 years, the monetization of youth baseball has grown rapidly, with Perfect Game almost monopolizing a showcase circuit that parents see as imperative to children’s development. Teams and colleges have emboldened that notion, attending the events because they offer the greatest concentration of talent in one place.
Because the cost of elite showcases is so prohibitive – hundreds of dollars per event, potentially dozens of events per year – MLB first started PDP events, which were free to participants. The youth league will be stationed at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and some of the games will be played at the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field.
In addition to the games, the participants will undergo physical testing and have their on-field data tracked. While the MLB Players Association has raised concerns internally about the gathering of information on amateur players and its potential use, any fear is mitigated by the recognition that the youth system, as currently constituted, is broken and the union backs the league’s efforts to change it.
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