2021 will begin a new era of lead development for Major League Baseball
It is difficult to envision a healthy return to normal as we are still overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. Sport has always been the great escape from reality and hope in times of despair and darkness. Unfortunately, the current global health crisis has also affected the sport business at all levels of competition.
From today, we must look with optimism past billions in lost revenue, empty stadiums and canceled sports competitions to seek a beacon of light in 2021 when it comes to sports. For example, Major League Baseball has already started to think differently with an innovative plan to create meaningful engagements with future stars of the game. Three trends of interest will focus on the development of prospects, infrastructure and improving the profile of the annual project.
The metamorphosis of Appalachian League in a 10-team summer collegiate wood-bat league starting in June embodies Major League Baseball’s bold vision for lead development. A 54-game regular-season schedule will be played under the watchful eyes of Major League Baseball and USA Baseball. Instead of waiting to get top-class student status and hopefully earn an invitation to play in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, the Appalachian League will provide first-year and up-and-coming second-year students access to elite coaches, highly competitive ball games, and technological advancements that will aid their overall development.
Another neat idea that will grab attention in 2021 is the MLB Draft League. It will be made up of six former minor-league affiliated baseball clubs that will play a 68-game regular-season schedule starting in late May and ending in August. The lists will initially be populated with the best prospects eligible for the draft. They will benefit from a premier platform to showcase their talents to a captivated audience for several weeks before the annual draft. The objective of the two leagues and created previously Lead development pipeline is to establish an infrastructure through a clear path to identify talent and provide unprecedented access to extraordinary resources under the leadership of Major League Baseball.
The annual draft is sadly an afterthought, as other professional sports leagues have turned their drafts into shows generating weeks of interest and media attention. Unless you are an avid Baseball America reader and MLB pipeline, the average fan views the Major League Baseball Draft as a bunch of names on a board in a television studio. A lack of knowledge and marketing has led to disinterest, as it may take years for some of these prospects to even appear on a major league list.
Fortunately, Major League Baseball decided to try something different and move their early June draft to coincide with the All-Star Game festivities in July before 91st Midsummer Classic at Truist Park in Atlanta. Not only will this allow many of the top draft prospects to attend, but it will also provide Major League Baseball with the opportunity to be creative in its promotion to amateur ball players. It might not be the overblown extravagance we’re used to seeing in the National Basketball Association or the National Football League, but ultimately it will be a celebration that has the potential to grow into something bigger.
We have already seen seismic changes in minor league baseball with new affiliates for major league baseball clubs and downsizing. Independent leagues have also undergone notable changes with the creation of MLB partner leagues. This distinction was awarded to four independent leagues (Pioneer, Atlantic, American Association and Frontier) which cover different parts of North America. The leagues will work with Major League Baseball on various initiatives and develop ball players who have little or no professional experience.
A unified and structured approach to lead development will be a topic of interest throughout the summer months of 2021 for Major League Baseball. There are high expectations for new business models both on and off the field for Minor League Baseball. The new strategies encompass a wide range of areas such as education, health, safety, nutrition, technology, coaching, training and travel accommodation.
Major League Baseball is indirectly sending a message to youth sports culture to wake up and let children enjoy the sport on their own terms. Experts will identify talent at the right time. Travel teams, summer tournaments, private lessons, camps and clinics have consumed youth baseball. Besides the extraordinary financial commitment and the pressures that go with it, politics can also be quite underhanded. It’s not just about talent, but also about the reputation of the coaches a young athlete has played for as well as the overall quality of the travel teams, competitions and summer tournaments.
With the Winter Virtual Meetings officially over and the Rule 5 Draft is in our rearview mirror, the next significant date on the Major League Baseball calendar is January 15, 2021, the deadline to trade in. salary arbitration. In what has already been a frosty offseason in terms of free agent activity, expect to see the trend continue throughout the New Year. However, let’s not focus on the negative but on the intriguing possibilities 2021 could offer Major League Baseball when it comes to developing prospects.