It's international showcase season across Latin America and the Caribbean, the time of the year when the top prospects from across the globe perform in front of big league scouts.Major League Baseball has provided a launching pad for some of the game's young international stars for almost a decade with
It's international showcase season across Latin America and the Caribbean, the time of the year when the top prospects from across the globe perform in front of big league scouts.
Major League Baseball has provided a launching pad for some of the game's young international stars for almost a decade with its own event during this period. The trend continues this week.
The Trainer Partnership Program, a new MLB initiative with trainers from Latin America, will host its first showcase for participants in the program Tuesday through Thursday in front of representatives from every MLB team at Temistocles Metz Stadium in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. A similar event is scheduled for Venezuela in the fall.
"We'll have all 30 clubs in attendance and we are looking forward to highlighting the trainers and the players participating in our drug program and complying with MLB rules," said Morgan Sword, MLB's senior vice president, league economics & operations. "We've received a great reception and most of the prominent trainers in the Dominican and Venezuela are enrolled in the program. This showcase is the first step in this program that highlights players and trainers that are going about it the right way."
This week's event, which will run similar to the Player Development Program for high school prospects in the United States, begins Tuesday with timed 60-yard runs, infield and outfield drills along with batting practice for the 130 prospects in the program. A game is scheduled after the morning workout. There will be another hour-long workout for a second group of 20 players after the game.
The event continues with two games Wednesday for prospects eligible to sign during the 2018-'19 and 2019-'20 periods. The showcase concludes Thursday with a workout for players eligible to sign during 2020-'21.
"We are going to run this event with all of the sophisticated technology associated with our high-end scouting events," Sword said. "We'll have state-of-the-art player evaluation tools and give the players the best chance to showcase themselves for interested clubs. We are really looking forward to it."
Showcases are only a part of the new initiative. As part of the program, participating trainers are required to enroll their players in MLB's drug-testing program, submit to background checks and keep updated records of amateur players in their programs. They must also comply with MLB rules regarding international player signings.
Additionally, participating trainers also have access to enhanced scouting opportunities and the opportunity to work with MLB to address issues in Latin American amateur baseball. In all, close to 50 trainers from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela have agreed to participate in the pilot program. More are expected to join in the coming months.
"I support this program because it puts the children first. It puts the prospects first," said Amaurys Nina, a former Minor League player who serves as the president of the International Prospect League. "Background checks are common any time you need a job in the USA and I don't see a problem with that. And testing kids and keeping it organized is something that's a very positive thing. MLB wants to get more involved in Latin America. That's a good thing."
The first MLB-sanctioned showcases can be traced back to 2011, when the league started the MLB Amateur Prospect League with showcases in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. In early '12, MLB combined the two showcases to create the first international prospect event. The most recent international showcase was held in February in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The long list of young international players to participate in MLB showcases includes infielders Rafael Devers (Red Sox), Gleyber Torres (Yankees), Franklin Barreto (A's), Ozzie Albies (Braves) and Amed Rosario (Mets) and outfielder Eloy Jimenez (White Sox).
"I'm giving the program a chance and I think a lot of trainers feel the same way," Nina said. "We are thinking about the future."
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.