Reflexion Begins Testing MLB Draft Prospects
On Sunday, June 26th, 2022, the Pittsburgh Pirates were finishing up a 3-game series against the Rays in Tampa Bay. While they were out of town, 3 members of the Reflexion team entered PNC Park to embark on our first official service agreement with the MLB’s Draft Operations Dept.
It was Pro Day for the MLB Draft League summer collegiate baseball athletes. Each year, MLB sponsors 2 collegiate baseball leagues, consisting of elite college players who have been identified by scouts and are expected to eventually be selected in the MLB Draft.
Testing was performed on roughly 140 athletes in a 7-hour window and everyone hopped on their respective buses to reach their hotel destination where they would play the next day. A glimpse of what life will be like climbing the minor league ranks of whichever club drafts them…
Measurements were recorded on height, weight, wingspan & hand size. A dynamometer was used to assess grip strength in both an outstretched arm at shoulder height and overhead arm positions. VALD force plates measured vertical jump and ground force reaction pressure, then athletes filtered over to Reflexion to complete the indoor testing stations. Outdoor activities were primarily hitting & fielding.
Reflexion got on MLB’s radar after Dr. Dan Laby (sportsvision.nyc) conducted research, correlating Reflexion scores to on-field metrics, such as batting average, swing-strike percentage, on-base percentage, errors, and triples. Data for that study was collected on players who had already been drafted. This pro day event was the first opportunity to expand this talent identification model in pre-draft athletes, in hopes of identifying athletes whose cognitive skills already operate at a major league level.
Most are familiar with the NFL Combine, a multi-day event where prospective draft picks are tested in a battery of physical measurements and on-field drills. This event has occurred annually since 1982 and historical data can show a relationship between size, strength, and speed to elite performance in the NFL for every position on the field.
A “Pro Day” is somewhat of an abbreviated combine, where everything takes place in a single day and the selection of testing is reduced to what is “essential only”. Test results are then compiled and distributed to all 30 MLB clubs, where data analysts & scouts view the overall physical & cognitive performance of an athlete.
This is only the 2nd year the MLB has started collecting official data in combine and pro day testing, so historical data does not exist yet. Therefore, deciding if an athlete is exceptional, average, or has a deficiency is somewhat of an art form.
In the absence of historical information, the MLB decided to bring in a series of experts in each piece of technology used in the testing. Around 20 independent contractors were on-site to ensure unbiased testing, comprised of former major league and minor league strength coaches, sports medicine specialists, and technology partners.