MESA, Ariz. -- It was Super Bowl Sunday, but at Sloan Park, the Spring Training home of the Cubs, baseball ruled the day as the top high school prospects in the area took part in the Prospect Development Pipeline Premier event.The event is a joint venture between MLB and USA
MESA, Ariz. -- It was Super Bowl Sunday, but at Sloan Park, the Spring Training home of the Cubs, baseball ruled the day as the top high school prospects in the area took part in the Prospect Development Pipeline Premier event.
The event is a joint venture between MLB and USA Baseball created to enhance exposure for 16- to 18-year-old prospects leading up to the Draft.
Players went through drills that helped determine their balance and agility, while state-of-the-art technology was used to gauge their reaction time and bat speed.
"Those were actually cool," right-hander Boyd Vander Kooi said. "I didn't know they could measure all that stuff. It's kind of cool to see how baseball has progressed."
Kooi, a senior at Skyline High School in Mesa who has committed to attend Arizona State Univeristy, was one of 43 players invited to participate from Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Utah.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer spoke to the players in the morning and then hung around to watch some of the drills. Following the drills there was a game, which gave the large crowd of scouts in attendance a chance to see some of the pitchers face hitters.
"I just got out of Chicago, and for the last three months, I feel like it's been freezing," Hoyer said. "I'm excited to watch these kids play. To me, sometimes you focus on the Major Leagues and you lose sight of the fact that this is a game played by kids and these guys are excited to come out and compete at this level. This is the essence of baseball, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids having fun on a Sunday morning."
Not just any kids, though.
"This is the best of the best, especially when it comes to Arizona," said one scout who was in attendance. "This allows us to see a volume of players in one location competing against each other. That's invaluable for us as scouts."
Gage Workman, another ASU commit, took some balls at shortstop during drills before moving to third to start the game. Workman is set to graduate from Basha (Ariz.) High School this spring, a year ahead of time.
"It's a different experience," Workman said of some of the drills at the PDP. "But it's been fun trying to do different things. It's awesome out here. All these guys out here are good players, and I'm just excited and trying to soak it all in."
Other names in attendance that prospect aficionados will recognize included: shortstop/third baseman Nolan Gorman and left-hander Matthew Liberatore, who are top 2018 Draft prospects; and right-hander Chandler Murphy, who is among the top prospects in the Class of 2019.<o:p>
There were also a few players with Major League Baseball ties. Right-handed pitcher/second baseman Cole Bellinger is the brother of Dodgers prospect Cody Bellinger, and the son of former big league utility man Clay Bellinger.
Catcher/third baseman Alex Stinnett, a senior at Westwood (Ariz.) High School, is the son of former big league catcher Kelly Stinnett, and catcher/first baseman Logan White shares the same name as his father, who is an executive with the Padres.
Hoyer said the more comfortable that the players get being around the scouts at events like this the better off they will be, because the more a scout knows a player's personality and character, the more likely he is to push for him to be drafted. After all, teams are looking at more than just a player's raw skills.
"The ability to compete, the ability to be a good teammate, love of baseball," Hoyer said. "I think those things are really important. I think the most talented guy physically doesn't always become the best Major League player; a lot of times it's the guy that is really dedicated, the guy that is just a better competitor than the other guys."
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.