Since 2019, when Major League Baseball and USA Baseball combined forces to create the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League, it's become one of the key stops on the summer showcase circuit, giving the top high school players for the following year’s Draft class a chance not only to show the scouting industry what they can do against top competition, but also to compete to make Team USA’s 18U National Team as well as the MLB-USA Baseball All-American Game held in the All-Star Game host city each July.
While the baseball calendar has changed a bit, with the Draft also taking place during All-Star week, the importance of the PDP League remains the same. Because of the timing, this year's PDP League, set to begin on Wednesday and run through July 6th, is now thought of as the kickoff for the all-important summer showcase schedule.
“The PDP League has become an integral part of the scouting calendar and we are looking forward to another year in partnership with USA Baseball,” said John D’Angelo, MLB’s senior vice president of amateur and medical baseball operations. From the first year of the league, and alongside existing programs like the Breakthrough Series and DREAM Series, our goal has been to provide players with an unparalleled player development experience and opportunity to receive exposure in front of all 30 MLB Clubs.
“Additionally, select players from the league will have the opportunity to compete in the High School All-American Game and the 18U National Team, all part of a series of exciting summer events for this 2023 Draft Class.”
On Monday, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced the rosters for this year's event, and it is a veritable who's who of talent expected to be high on scouts' follow lists for the 2023 Draft. There will be 100 of the top high school players in Cary, N.C., home of USA Baseball’s National Training Complex, split into four teams for a series of intrasquad games.
Games begin on Thursday, after a day of workouts and performance assessments, with two games a day Thursday-Saturday and again Monday-Wednesday, with Sunday reserved for workouts and player-skill development.
Rosters for the All-American Game will be chosen following the event, with that exhibition taking place at Dodger Stadium on Friday, July 15, at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT (to be streamed live on MLB.com). A total 40 players will also be invited to the 18U National Team Trials from Aug. 29-Sept. 2 in Fort Myers, Fla., before the 20-man 18U National Team roster is named. The 18U team will continue to train in Fort Myers from Sept. 4-8, before competing at the WBSC U-18 Baseball World Cup from Sept. 9-18, in Bradenton and Sarasota, Fla. The United States will host the event for the first time since 1995 when Team USA finished the tournament with an 8-1 record and claimed the gold medal with a 10-0 victory over Chinese Taipei in the championship game at Fenway Park in Boston.
“We are excited to welcome so many talented players to the National Training Complex this summer to kickstart the 18U National Team identification process,” said USA Baseball 18U National Team General Manager Ashley Bratcher. “We are looking forward to a great week of competitive play and identifying the 40 young men who will be named to our 18U National Team Trials roster and compete for the chance to represent our country at the U-18 Baseball World Cup in Florida in September.”
The players will be coached and taught by a number of former big leaguers including Lance Berkman, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jack Wilson and Denny Hocking, who will manage the 18U team in September.
“I’m extremely excited for the group coming to the PDP League this year,” Hocking said. “It’s another year where the most talented kids in America will have an opportunity to compete against one another and battle for a shot at the 18U National Team. The coaching staff we have assembled brings an incredible amount of talent and wisdom, which will translate both on and off the field. It’s going to be a great week as we shape the team.”
Many of the participants are no strangers to USA Baseball, with several having played in international competition and/or other events. That includes some who are considered to be the top prospects heading into the event.
Outfielder Max Clark might be the toolsiest player in Cary. The outfielder from Franklin Community High School in Indiana has plus bat speed and power to be a premium offensive performer to go along with the speed and defensive acumen to play center field. Oh, and he also has been up to 98 mph on the mound.
Walker Jenkins, from South Brunswick High School in North Carolina isn’t too far behind Clark in the talented outfielder category. He has a plus feel to hit with the power potential to be a future run-producer. He also has the chance to stay in center field because outstanding instincts.
On the mound, a lot of eyes will be on lefthander Thomas White from Phillips Academy in Massachusetts. He’s shown glimpses of his mid-90s fastball and excellent secondary offerings, but he hasn’t pitched much, especially not at any big showcase events, so in many ways, this could be a coming-out party for the southpaw.
Why pay attention to this crop of prep stars? In 2019, the initial PDP league produced seven first-round picks in the 2020 Draft. Alumni from the 2021 edition are all over MLB Pipeline’s 2022 Top 200 Draft Prospects list, including all four at the very top.