Major League Baseball will host the first-ever three-day showcase for Draft-eligible Puerto Rican players starting Jan. 24 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan. The four-team showcase will be made up of players from different regions on the island and consist of a pro-style workout and two doubleheaders.
"The idea is to have the clubs come in and see these guys and then see how their seasons go right before the June Draft," said Joel Araujo, manager of Latin American Game Development for MLB. "The clubs are excited about it. Anything we can do to provide exposure to the players and more opportunities to service our clubs is something we will look into doing. It's already been a busy year-and-a-half for us in Puerto Rico."
Last May, Major League Baseball and the Department of Recreation and Sports of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico joined forces to create an after-school baseball program designed to help develop high school players on the island. In addition to the after-school program, Major League Baseball, through a partnership with the Puerto Rico Scouts Association, supervised the annual "Torneo de Excelencia," the biggest high school tournament on the island, the following month.
Nineteen players with ties to Puerto Rico, including six players from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School and two from Carlos Beltran's Baseball Academy, were selected in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Two more signed after participating in the second-annual MLB showcase on the island for players not drafted.
Carlos Correa, who attended the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School, made history as the first Puerto Rican player selected with the first overall pick in the 2012 Draft. Correa and Jesmuel Valentin, who was selected by Dodgers with the 51st pick, were among the four players taken in the Draft from the Academy. Overall, 25 players from the island were drafted in 2012, and four more Puerto Rican players were signed after competing in the Puerto Rican showcase that followed the Draft.
Overall, the number of Puerto Ricans in the Major Leagues has declined since the commonwealth became subject to the Draft in 1989. However, there were 13 players from Puerto Rico on Opening Day 25-man rosters in 2013 compared to 11 players in 2012.
"There is a lot of talent in Puerto Rico and we want to give exposure to the island again," Araujo said. "For whatever reason, the signings have been down and there's a misconception that baseball in Puerto Rico has dropped, but it's alive. We just want to help the island in terms of baseball development and create avenues and exposure while also changing the mindset that baseball in Puerto Rico is out. Lot We want to bring the talent to the surface."
Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.