The search for the next Ronald Acuna Jr. resumes Tuesday in Aruba.The Trainer Partnership Program, a new MLB initiative with trainers from Latin America, will host its second showcase for participants in the program, this time for international prospects and trainers from Venezuela, starting Tuesday at Stadium Nadi Croes/Crismo Angela
The search for the next Ronald Acuna Jr. resumes Tuesday in Aruba.
The Trainer Partnership Program, a new MLB initiative with trainers from Latin America, will host its second showcase for participants in the program, this time for international prospects and trainers from Venezuela, starting Tuesday at Stadium Nadi Croes/Crismo Angela on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba.
The three-day event will feature the 60-yard run and infield and outfield drills, along with batting practice for 66 prospects eligible to sign during the current and upcoming international signing periods. The format also includes one game scheduled for Tuesday and two games in each of the following two days.
Acuna, who signed out of Venezuela as a teenager in 2014, was named the National League's Rookie of the Year on Monday. Could the next Venezuelan star be on hand on Tuesday?
"We are very excited to have everyone in Aruba," said Morgan Sword, senior vice president of league economics and operations for Major League Baseball. "We have lots of club scouts here ready for an exciting couple of days of baseball."
In addition to the traditional scouting methods, the showcase will use a camera during batting practice to measure exit velocity, launch angle and projected distance. Another camera will be used to track pitch types, velocity and spin rate. Sensors will be attached to the bottom of the prospects' bats to measure bat speed, barrel speed and other swing analysis. Laser sensors will be used to time the 60-yard run.
There are 19 trainers from Venezuela participating in the Training Partnership Program, increasing the total to close to 70 trainers overall across the Caribbean and Latin America in the program. Overall, MLB's efforts in Latin America include prospect registration, a temporary prospect league, a focus on age and identity verification, and central drug testing, along with new tryout rules.
"We have doubled in size and are expanding as fast as our drug testing apparatus will allow us to," Sword said. "Ultimately, it's our goal to have any trainer that wants to participate be able to. We are on our way."
The event is being held in Aruba because of the facilities available and club scouts find it easier to travel to the island compared to Venezuela, which is facing economic crisis and political unrest.
The Trainer Partnership Program held its first event in September in front of more than 200 scouts at the Chicago Cubs academy in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic. The first two days of the event showcased prospects eligible to sign during the 2018-19 and '19-20 signing periods. The final day featured prospects from the 2020-21 window.
"The first event was a big success and as a result, we have been contacted by dozens more trainers in the Dominican and Venezuela that are interested in enrolling in the program, and we are expanding as fast as we can," Sword said. "The trainers were very happy with the program in the Dominican. They were able to meet with our staff, along with Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem, to discuss some issues going on in international baseball, and we plan to do the same with the trainers from Venezuela. I'm looking forward to spending some time with them."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.