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Does the MLB Draft Need a Medical Combine?

Over the past couple of years, Major League Baseball has openly panned about looking for ways to make its draft experience more like the NFL's. Naturally, that's just not going to happen. Not only do baseball picks, even very high ones, represent a significantly greater risk than top NFL picks, they also tend to be playing collegiate and high school seasons right up until the day of the draft. Sometimes they're still playing then (if they're in the College World Series or some high school state tournaments).

Yet that isn't stopping some from openly calling for MLB to take a page directly from the NFL Draft playbook, with a Cleveland Indians officially claiming the league desperately needs a pre-draft medical combine, where teams could assess the relative health of all the players they're considering picking.

The prospect was raised in a notebook piece from today's Cleveland Plain Dealer by Brad Grant, the Indians' director of amateur scouting. Grant raises the high incidence of late season injuries in college and high school players, particularly pitchers, who are more likely to pitch through elevated pitch counts late in the season and in the playoffs.

Here's what Grant told the Plain Dealer's Paul Hoynes:

"We're the only sport right now that doesn't have one," said Grant. "It's something that we feel we need. Especially, because right now the College World Series is going on. All these players have played; there's been recent injuries that you don't have time to assess.

"If you have a medical combine, it would give you a lot more security in who you're taking. Especially with the amount of money we're spending."

Admittedly, such a combine would obviously have to come after the College World Series, which would require pushing back the amateur draft. That would run into opposition by team officials and coaches who might fear losing some top high schoolers to summer training for their prospective college teams, the kind of workouts which might breed friendships that could sway them to go to college rather than accepting the signing bonus that sits on their table from an MLB team.

Naturally, there are plenty of other logistical problems -- Where do you have it? What events do the players perform in? Do pitchers throw off flat ground or a mound -- but the timing of the entire event seems to be the most significant one.

Will that keep a future combine from happening? Who knows. Regardless, there's clearly some strong interest in the idea, and that might be enough to make Major League Baseball look at the concept more seriously than some might have imagined.

What do people think? Does baseball need a medical combine? What should such an event entail?

By Cameron Smith  |  June 9, 2009; 2:21 PM ET
Categories:  Indians  | Tags: MLB, combine, draft, scouting  
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