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MLB Draft: New voluntary MRI program could be a difference maker

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College starting pitching is the strength of next year's draft class, and MLB's new voluntary MRI program could determine who gets selected first.

University of Florida's RHP Alex Faedo leads a strong class of college pitchers in the upcoming 2017 MLB Draft.
University of Florida's RHP Alex Faedo leads a strong class of college pitchers in the upcoming 2017 MLB Draft.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Major League Baseball amateur draft is still 175 days away, but for Chicago White Sox fans enjoying watching the rebuilding process unfold, it’s understandable to look ahead to wonder what’s next.

The consensus is this upcoming 2017 draft class greatest strength will be college starting pitching. Especially from the SEC conference with pitchers Alex Faedo (Florida), Kyle Wright (Vanderbilt), Tanner Houck (Missouri), and Alex Lange (LSU) all considered to be Top 10 talent. Throw in North Carolina's J.B. Bukauskas and Stanford's duo of Tristan Beck and Colton Hock, and we could see seven college pitchers selected before the White Sox first pick at 11.

With plenty of excellent starting pitchers that will be draft-eligible in June, MLB's new volunteer MRI program is going to get a great first test. Adding to the drama of how the top 10 picks will shake out and waiting to see who the White Sox add to their prospect pipeline.

Baseball America's Hudson Belinsky did a great job outlining the voluntary MRI program. The top 50 pitching prospects will be invited to participate in the program, and in the case of a failed physical, any team that selects that pitcher must offer at least 60% of the slot value to receive a compensatory pick if the player doesn't sign. There is a significant risk for the pitcher if they do volunteer. A failed test by any of the top starting pitchers could result dropping down draft boards and losing out on millions.

On the flip side, Belinksy referenced New York Mets, Anthony Kay, as a good example of a player who would have benefitted from the rule change.

Mets prospect Anthony Kay is a good example of a case that could have been effected by this procedure. Kay pitched effectively late in the college season for Connecticut, but his physical with the Mets revealed issues with his elbow. He ended up signing for $1.1 million as the 31st overall pick, receiving approximately 56 percent of slot value ($1,972,100). Under the new rules, Kay would have earned a higher bonus had he participated in the MRI program and still been selected in the same spot.

Speaking with Chicago White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting, Nick Hostetler, he is happy that the MRI program was created.

"I think it will give us greater confidence in the player that participates in the program," said Hostetler. "We are the only professional league that doesn't have an opportunity to evaluate the player medically before drafting them. There are no requirements for the player to provide us with his medical history. I've never fully understood the reason we do not have access to a player's health history unless there is something to hide."

Despite the Sox amazing ability to keep starting pitchers healthy, Hostetler feels this MRI program will aid in his ability in making the right choice if selecting a pitcher in the draft.

"The current way is not the ideal way when making multi-million dollar decisions, but this MRI program is on the right track and gets moving in the right direction. I'm not quite sure how the MRI program will be received by the players and their representation, but I hope they realize it is important, to be honest, and transparent with the clubs."