Pitchers and catchers report next week and, at present, there are close to 100 free agents with nowhere to train. The market is making it hard enough for the players to find work, but if they’re seen as falling behind, conditioning and training wise, it may be even harder for them to get signed once spring training begins.
To that end, Tim Brown of Yahoo reports that the MLB Players Association is going to hold training camps for free agents:
The baseball players’ union is scouting sites and making preliminary arrangements to conduct its own spring training for as many as 100 unsigned free agents, sources said Wednesday . . . The IMG baseball academy in Bradenton, Florida, was believed to be among at least three options. The union also is identifying coaches and other personnel to staff the facility.
The last time something like this happened was in 1995, during the last work stoppage, as unionized players trained in Homestead, Florida as owners began spring training with would-be strikebreakers before resolution of the work stoppage. This time the circumstances are certainly different, but the need for players to train to be ready for the season is the same.
Should be good and awkward.
This morning Major League Baseball announced a new elite league for high school baseball players who are likely to be drafted. It’s called the Prospect Development Pipeline League. It’ll start next summer and it’ll invite 80 of the best current high school juniors to play in a league in Florida from June through early July, culminating in an All-Star Game during MLB’s All-Star week.
The idea behind the league: to combat the current system in which a couple of pay-to-play, for-profit showcase leagues dominate the pre-draft season. Major League Baseball, schools and a lot of players’ parents have criticized this system because it favors rich kids who can afford to play in them. Major League Baseball is also likely quite keen on having greater control over the training, health and physical monitoring of prospects.
As Jeff Passan notes in his report about this, there will be a component of the program which involves live data-tracking of players during games and drills. Major League Baseball has become increasingly interested in such things but is limited in how much it can do in this regard due to labor agreements. There is no such impediment with high schoolers. Your mileage will vary when it comes to how you feel about that, I presume.