Five 2023 first-rounders are alumni of MLB Develops

In total, 10 Day 1 picks participated in baseball's talent development program

July 10th, 2023

One year after six of the first 18 players selected in the MLB Draft were participants in the program, another five MLB Develops alumni were taken in the first round on Sunday. In total, 10 picks from Day 1 of the Draft are alumni of MLB Develops. 

“It's important, number one, just to see these guys you know fulfill their dreams -- especially going in the first round,” said Tony Reagins, MLB’s chief baseball development officer. “But for us, this is about creating opportunities. Most of the time, their talents will shine. 

“We have a lot of talented young ballplayers and talented coaches that pour into these individuals. This sets an example for young men and women behind these players that these programs have value.”

MLB Develops is an all-encompassing initiative that promotes baseball and softball development among youth and college players, with an emphasis on underserved communities.

The first MLB Develops player taken Sunday was Enrique Bradfield Jr., an outfielder from Vanderbilt University selected at No. 17 by the Orioles. The speedy Bradfield participated in both the High School All-American Game and the States Play tournament in 2019 before going on to a successful college career.

Four picks later, the Cardinals selected University of Arizona outfielder Chase Davis, who began participating in MLB Develops events in 2015 as part of the Elite Development Invitational. 

Davis was not selected out of high school during the pandemic-shortened 2020 Draft; three years later, he’s a first-rounder. 

“Chase Davis, we had him when he was 14 years old. To see him have the disappointment out of high school, then [seeing] him go to college and then do his thing in college, that's powerful,” Reagins said. “Number one, there are not many African American players in college, and then to see him come through our programs and then get drafted high, I think it speaks to our programs and speaks to him as a young man.” 

After taking part in that 2015 EDI, Davis participated in the Dream Series and Breakthrough Series between 2017-19, also playing in the Dream Series in 2020. Earlier this year, he even made a long drive to attend the Dream Series, speaking to the young players about the value of the program. 

“In terms of makeup, Chase is the best player I've ever been around as an amateur,” Reagins said. “Hands down.” 

Davis, who appeared at the Draft Combine in June, was effusive in his praise of MLB Develops programs. 

“Not only do they give you advice for baseball, those mentors, those coaches that were at Develops, they were always in my ear about things whether I wanted it at the time or not,” Davis said last month. “But now I'm so, so grateful, and I've had these phone calls with them and I've told them how grateful I am for them to be able to give me their two cents.”

Dillon Head (No. 25, Padres), George Lombard Jr. (No. 26, Yankees) and Brice Matthews (No. 28, Astros) also went in the first round, adding three more MLB Develops alumni to the growing number of first-round picks. 

“It definitely played a big role [in my development],” Head said. “I started probably sixth or seventh grade. Every time I went, I was just surrounded by great coaches -- Marquis Grissom, Eric Davis, Lou Collier. They were definitely great at helping me develop as a player throughout the years. … Being around great players and great coaches with MLB Develops -- it definitely helped.” 

Reagins noted that most of the MLB Develops programs are cost-free, presenting opportunities to young players that might not exist within what he called “the showcase world.” 

“Sometimes it works out that if you just do it within our programming, it’s more economical with similar exposure, and then hopefully the day ends up like this,” Reagins said. “What I think is going to happen is that these kids that are in our programs now -- and even kids that aren't -- will start to see it pay off. That what we've been trying to preach to them for many years is real and it could happen.”

Black players made up six of the first 30 selections (20%) for the fifth time since 2012, and the second time since 2015 following last year’s nine first-round selections. Ten of the first 50 selections (20%) were Black players, while 16 of the 50 (32%) were from diverse backgrounds, including Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian.

The Breakthrough Series, established in 2008, is a joint effort between MLB and USA Baseball that focuses on developing players on and off the field through seminars, mentorship, gameplay, scout evaluations, video coverage and the highest level of instruction, all while providing a platform for the players to perform for scouts and collegiate coaches. Since its creation, 22 participants have been drafted in the first round. 

The EDI/Hank Aaron Invitational was created in 2015, producing six first rounders prior to this year (including Reds flamethrower Hunter Greene). That total now stands at nine after Bradfield Jr., Davis and Head were selected Sunday. The Elite Development Invitational and Hank Aaron Invitational are joint efforts with the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation.  

“[MLB Develops] helped me out a lot,” said Nazzan Zanetello, who was selected in the second round (No. 50) by the Red Sox. “They helped me build relationships, just getting that pipeline and being able to connect with people that I consider lifelong friends.”