12 of the 78 selections on Day 1 of the 2019 MLB Draft were African-American.
Instead, the partnership team continues with its mission of developing, identifying, educating and encouraging players of color through the first diversity-focused “Breakthrough Series” event of 2019, to be held at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, June 7th-9th.
60 rising High School juniors and seniors of diverse backgrounds are invited to indulge in a special amateur development experience that also serves as a showcase for professional scouts and collegiate recruiters.
The participants – all of whom received special invitations via recommendations by former Major Leaguers, MLB, USA Baseball, RBI programs, MLB Youth Academies, and other sources – represent 17 states from around the country and Puerto Rico.
In addition to the on-field action, participants will receive direct instruction by a list of former/current Major League players, coaches, and executives, including Willie Randolph, Tom “Flash” Gordon, Juan Samuel, The Grissoms, Charles Johnson, Ken Hill, Jerry Manuel, Marvin Freeman and Pat Mahomes Sr.
MLB Draft Rise
Under the leadership of former Angels GM Tony Reagins, MLB’s Executive Vice President, Baseball and Softball Development and Del Matthews, MLB’s Vice President of Baseball Development, 25 alumni of previous Breakthrough Series’, as well as additional diverse-focused amateur development camps, were drafted in 2018.
The numbers improved in 2019, as a record 31 @mlbdevelops alumni were selected.
Last year 13 Black players were drafted on Day 1 and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced, “…over the past five years about 20 percent of our first-rounders were African-American, and (our Youth) Academies have been built in communities largely African-American. Almost all of those kids had some touch with one of our Academy programs or with the Elite Development Invitational, and we believe that the bigger we make those programs, the more diversity we will attract to the game.”
12 of the 78 selections on Day 1 of the 2019 MLB Draft were African-American (15.4%), continuing a trend that has seen Black players — particularly those who have participated in the MLB-sponsored camps (Dream Series, Breakthrough Series, Hank Aaron Invitational) — being drafted more frequently.
The first round of this year’s draft saw outfielder Riley Greene from Hagerty HS in Oviedo, Florida go No. 5 overall to the Detroit Tigers.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) June 3, 2019
Greene is considered the best pure hitter in the class, with some defensive flaws to clean up. At No. 5 his salary slot value is reported at $6,180,700.
The San Diego Padres continue to stock their talented farm system with Blessed Trinity shortstop C.J. Abrams out of Roswell, Georgia. Abrams is one of the fastest players in this year’s draft and he has elite athleticism, which projects to either shortstop or centerfield. He’s also known to have a knack for making contact which is always good for a young hitter.
C.J. Abrams runs a 6.2 60. He throws down windmill dunks while wearing Vans. He once went 113 consecutive at-bats without swinging and missing. Meet the Padres' high-flying, baseball-barreling first-round draft pick: https://t.co/PgJPQ6m99D
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) June 4, 2019
He doesn’t possess great power but has all of the tools to become a high-average hitter with wheels and great defensive ability.
The selections of Greene and Abrams marked the second time in three years that two African-American players were selected within the top six picks. In 2017, Royce Lewis was taken with the top overall pick while Hunter Greene was selected second.
It’s the fifth time it’s ever happened, after 1980 (Darryl Strawberry and Garry Harris), 1991 (Brien Taylor and Mike Kelly) and 2003 (Delmon Young and Rickie Weeks). Therefore, this draft must be acknowledged as a watershed moment for the revitalization of African-American talent and replenishing of a diversified talent pipeline in baseball.
Two more African-Americans were drafted in the first round before a run on players of color swept the second round of Day 1.
The Tampa Bay Rays used the No. 22 overall pick on UNC Wilmington shortstop Greg Jones. Jones is the fastest player in the draft and a potential human highlight film. However, scouts have doubts about his long-term hitting potential at the next level, but Tampa is an organization that knows how to utilize a player’s best assets so the potential for growth is strong for Jones.
— Colonial Athletic Association (@CAASports) June 4, 2019
Pitcher Brennan Malone was selected as a compensation pick, 33rd of the first round to the Arizona Diamondbacks for losing Patrick Corbin. He’s a 6-foot-4 imposing pitcher who threw 97 mph gas for IMG Academy. He’s projected as a top of the rotation guy.
Ballers of color drafted in Round 2 include: Matthew Thompson, Nasim Nuñez, Joshua Mears, Rece Hinds, Kyren Paris, Trejyn Fletcher, Antoine Kelly and Arkansas pitcher Isaiah Campbell
Black Knights chosen in the first 3 rounds include:
No. 88 Toronto Blue Jays: Dasan Brown, OF, Abbey Park (Ontario) HS
No. 91 Philadelphia Phillies: Jamari Baylor, SS, Benedictine (Va.) School
No. 98 Atlanta Braves: Michael Harris, LHP, Stockbridge (Ga.) HS
Round 4 and 5 Black Knights
No. 122 Arizona Diamondbacks: Glenallen Hill Jr., SS, Santa Cruz (Calif.) HS
No. 149 Minnesota Twins: Will Holland, SS, Auburn
N0. 164 Oakland A’s: Jalen Greer, SS, St. Rita HS (Chicago)
The following Draft selections are all products of MLB diversity initiative programs.
Isaiah Campbell (P, 2nd Round, Seattle Mariners)
Nasim Nunez (SS, 2nd Round, Miami Marlins)
Kyren Paris (SS, 2nd Round, LA Angels)
Every player that participated in MLB diversity camps and have either been drafted or earned a baseball scholarship, is considered an example of the program’s success.
But there’s always one player who specifically utilized MLB’s diversity initiative programs to his advantage and is a living example of what MLB hopes to accomplish with endeavors like its Breakthrough Series.
Paris has been a participant at MLB’s annual Elite Development Invitational, which has now been re-named the Hank Aaron Invitational, since it started in 2015. He was also a Breakthrough Series participant and played in the inaugural “States Play” tournament last year in Texas.
“He really took advantage of the programming offered by MLB & USA Baseball,” said MLB’s Steven Orocho.
MLB Diversity Initiatives Making A Difference
MLB’s various diversity initiatives continue to prove that they have a working formula for reinserting the funk back into MLB and continuing the long line of African-American stars that contributed so richly and impactfully to the game.
The African-American population in MLB has dwindled from 17.2% in 1994, according to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) to just 7.1% of players on 2018 opening-day rosters, the lowest percentage since 1958, according to a study by USA TODAY Sports. However, when given an opportunity, brothers who ball still find a way to shine.
Josh Bell. Khris Davis. Tim Anderson. Michael Brantley.
We look at the Top 10 Black players in MLB right now. Check out the list here. https://t.co/xPcYGuxCPs
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) June 4, 2019
Entering the 2018 season, there were 62 African-American players among the 868 on active rosters and disabled lists. Eleven teams had no more than one African American on their roster, and the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies had none. On top of that, there’s currently only one African-American skipper; Los Angeles Dodgers Dave Roberts.
Slowly but surely, progress is being made at the talent-development level, which will inevitably result in increased success and minority representation at the pro level.