Pawtucket PDP offers glimpse of cold-weather prospects

Pawtucket PDP offers glimpse of cold-weather prospects

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Major League Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline Program event at McCoy Stadium on Thursday served a distinct purpose which other states' PDPs did not.

"Where the Northeast is different from most parts of the country is these kids have more projectability," Northeast Regional scouting supervisor Ray Fagnant said. "In California, Texas and Arizona it's rare where somebody's going to pop up in the spring that you don't know about.

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"In the Northeast, which is a cold region, it's different. There are kids you know about, but there are going to be pop-ups because kids play different sports. Because they play less baseball they may start to develop their senior year. In New England, there may be an average player in high school but he may have a higher ceiling so he can develop more in college."

Given the cold-weather climate, there's a small window in which scouts can view players. As a result, the PDP like Thursday's was of great benefit to the 55 players from the New England states plus New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

"It gives scouts a chance to see Northeast kids and for the kids to be noticed," a National League scout said.

All 30 Major League teams were represented as the players went through a series of drills, batting practice, infield and outfield practice and a live scrimmage.

"We do plyometric drills, implementing the latest in electronic technology," Fagnant said. "One drill uses electronics to monitor reflexes, explosive movement and a plyometric jumping drill to measure explosiveness in their legs. They take a computerized eye test. One drill could be as simple as a hand-grip meter.

"It's information. You're crazy if you don't evolve and take advantage of this advanced equipment. At the end of the day, it comes down to who can play baseball."

One player most scouts rated among the top four was catcher Patrick Winkel (Amity Regional, Orange, Conn.), who's committed to University of Connecticut and last season had a .992 fielding percentage.

Winkel was impressed with the eye-vision test.

"I learned the purpose is they can tell if you don't have a problem with your mechanics but maybe you're not pickup up the ball fast enough," Winkel said. "Maybe your eyes need to improve. It's not a mechanical thing but it helps determine what you need to improve.

"The technology is new. For teams, it's going to be a big part of baseball."

At the risk of mixing metaphors since catcher is football's equivalent of quarterback, Winkel was appreciative of the instruction he received.

"The coaches can give you the little things that you wouldn't pick up yourself, but they can see because they have a really good eye," Winkel said. "Any little mechanical thing they can show you to help you get the throw off faster and accurately can help you in the long run."

One NL scout gave high marks for Winkel behind the plate.

"Once the arm is there, you can improve on the transfer and the quickness," the scout said. "He was under two seconds [with his release time]. Some stand out and have good feel for their position. He's definitely one of them.

"He can catch and throw. There's value to that. Obviously, he's defense-first. If you can swing the bat it'll increase his value even more. You need that take-charge attitude and having that game awareness. It all stems from the catcher. If you have those things, which I think he does, there's a lot of value."

Arguably the top prospect at the PDP was switch-hitting shortstop Bryce Reagan (Amherst, N.H.), who's committed to Texas.

"Obviously, it's awesome to be playing with the best kids in the area," Reagan said. "The drills are tough and you get advice from former MLB players who're the best in the game."

One big takeaway for Reagan at the PDP was to not be complacent..

"I have to get one percent better every day in order to be successful," he said. "I have to improve on everything in my game."

The plyometric drills evoked an interesting response from Reagan.

"I haven't experienced this," he said. "It's different for sure but it should help."

The NL scout expressed the opinion that Reagan is an "all-around player", which was noteworthy given the importance of his position.

"He flashes all the tools," the scout said. "He knows how to play the game. The potential is there. He has a ton of upside. He's only going to get better as he grows and develops as a ballplayer with physical maturity and the mental side of the game.

"He has advanced feel for hitting, which is good. There are going to be times when he chases, but for the most part he has good knowledge of the strike zone."

Mike Scandura is a contributor based who covered the PDP on Thursday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.