19 Day 2 selections put the 'Draft' into the MLB Draft League

July 11th, 2023

SEATTLE -- Sean Campbell admittedly wasn’t watching the MLB Draft League too closely before taking over as the league’s executive director in May of 2022. But he was certainly keeping a close eye on what transpired on Day 2 of this year’s Draft, when 19 players from the fledgling league were selected between Rounds 3-10.

The MLB Draft League -- which was formed in 2021 -- is a six-team summer league that gives Draft-eligible players from any level the opportunity to improve their Draft stock ahead of the annual MLB Draft in July. The first half of the league’s season features amateur players from both the high school and college ranks. The second half provides an opportunity for professional players who have exhausted their amateur eligibility or otherwise wish to begin their pro careers.

The six teams -- the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, the State College Spikes, the West Virginia Black Bears, the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Trenton Thunder and the Frederick Keys -- are all former Minor League affiliates.

When the Minor Leagues restructured and the Draft was moved to July during All-Star Week, the Draft League arose as an opportunity to continue amateur player’s development in that down time, while also keeping baseball going in those communities.

“There was going to be a need for ... players to play, you know?” Campbell said. The fun part for me has been not only like the player procurement side, but also helping coaches get back into the game and then also the affiliate side and trying to help them keep players playing games in those communities because those are historic. There has been baseball being played there for a lot of years. So that side of it's been fun as well.”

There were 47 Draft League players selected in the 2021 MLB Draft, but none higher than pick No. 171. This year, seven were selected in the top 200 picks, and six before 171.

Here are Draft League alumni who were selected within the first five rounds of the 2023 Draft:

3rd round, 94th overall -- Sabin Ceballos: Ranked No. 152 on Pipeline's Draft Prospects list (Braves)
3rd round, 98th overall -- Devin Saltiban: No. 182 (Phillies)
4th round, 106th overall -- Carlson Reed: No. 196 (Pirates)
5th round, 155th overall -- Ryan Birchard: Unranked (Brewers)
5th round, 159th overall -- Zach Thornton: No. 165 (Mets)

When asked if he could’ve envisioned the level of talent in the Draft League growing as quickly as it has, Campbell said both yes and no.

“You always hope,” Campbell said. “But I think the more important thing is that we do a good job of providing these kids with a great experience, right? Yeah, first and foremost for me is like we provide them with a great experience, and that they're in environments where they feel they're having fun, they're getting better, and working day in and day out. I think that the atmosphere I think that we have, oftentimes is a lot more baseball than these kids have ever been through.”

For Campbell, being drafted is only one part and one goal of the Draft League as he sees it. The Draft League provides high school and college-aged kids a safe and fun environment to further evaluate if baseball is something they even want to pursue professionally in the long term.

“Again, I think that's my hope, just first and foremost that they have a good time,” Campbell said. “ And then yes, I think the cherry on top is if they do get drafted. Like it's a great for us as an introduction to what that potentially is going to look like because they're going to be going through the same things once they sign and they're out there participating. And hopefully, it's a good introduction, they have fun, they enjoy it, and then they realize, yeah, this is something I definitely want to pursue.”