Damon Oppenheimer speaks out in favor of pre-draft physicals

A quick review and some thoughts about the Yankees' recent first round picks
RAB Live Chat

Via George King (subs. req’d): Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer wants baseball to begin giving pre-draft physicals to draft prospects every year. “Baseball is in the dark ages,” he said. “We are the only sport that doesn’t do pre-draft physicals … We go into this thing blind. Without the physical, you make an assumption.”

The Yankees, of course, have gotten burned in recent years by drafting players who turned out to be injured. A pre-signing physical showed an “abnormality” in first rounder Ty Hensley‘s pitching shoulder last year, and you can also go back to recent second rounders Sam Stafford (2011, shoulder) and Scott Bittle (2008, shoulder). Yeah, I think every scouting director of every club would love pre-draft physicals. Examining the 1,500+ draft eligible players every year is not feasible, but the top 200 prospects (according to MLB’s Scouting Bureau) are drug tested before the draft. Those guys should undergo a physical as well.

A quick review and some thoughts about the Yankees' recent first round picks
RAB Live Chat
  • jjyank

    Sounds like common sense to me.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Just call Seattle. They always know in advance.

    • dkidd


      beat me to it

  • Bob Buttons

    Don’t see why not, for the most part. It’s not like it is to the benefit of specific teams.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    From a labor perspective, though, why should they?

    • Gonzo

      Draftees don’t become union members. The union has no reason to protect them except to get a concession for the current members.

      • Gonzo

        Basically it’s just a bargaining chip.

    • Ghost of Joe Dugan

      The other sports do it, why not baseball. Obviously you can’t force them but if they were offered and declined it would probably hurt their draft position thus the incentive would be money or loss thereof for the players.

      • trr

        As described above, there’s no problem with inplementing this.

  • DERP

    Per another article from BA:

    • The CBA summary also states: “Top 200 prospects will be subject to a predraft drug test and will participate in a predraft medical program.” The top 200 prospects already are drug tested, but the medical program is new.


  • DInnings

    While I’m all for pre-draft physicals, here are several of a myriad of problems with them:

    What medical group independent of MLB and MLB teams gives the physical and how can devaluing draft picks from physicals be prevented? Would several medical groups give the physicals? Would they be in cities/regions where MLB teams and if one of the groups is how we know for certain the group isn’t showing hometown favortism? How are these groups shielded from payoffs?

    What if the result of the physical is a misdiagnosis or just not true?

    What does the physical consist of? I’ll assume it’s a physical evaluation and a psychological evaluation and if so which evaluation bears more weight privately despite the “both carry the same weight” line given publicly? What if the psychological evaluation is a misdiagnosis or not true? After all, a draft pick is seen only once and maybe interpersonal and/or social forces and circumstances make him look off-balance enough to the psychologist to be rendered unsignable e.g. a draft pick gets his 15-year old girlfriend pregnant and is stressing out about it during the psychological evaluation.

    What if the draft pick somehow hides a malady?

    What if a unfounded rumor created by a rival draft pick’s agent or whoever swirls around a prospective draft pick’s health, teams believe it, and refuse to sign the draft pick despite the clean bill of health? We live in an age where perception is reality at times, unfortunately.

    What if a draft pick fails a drug test where he is found to have smoked marijuana? Should his baseball career be 86ed because he had a joint or he inhaled someone else’s pot smoke (if that could register on a drug test) at some party at age 17? Remember, a draft pick is sometimes that age, so you have to take his developing maturity (not lack thereof as it’s unfair to call a teenager immature) into consideration.

    What is the financial compensation for the prospective draft pick if he fails the physical? After all, he might’ve passed on a job, college, or a spot on a baseball team of any kind (college, Japan etc.) to be a signee.

    I think all draft picks who fail a physical should be given a modest sum of money, say at least $30,000 so they have enough to build on while saving money working and living at home with the parents, get an apartment, pay tuition for a community college education, or pay tuition or most tuition for four years for a state university/college education. Even if every team had one draft pick fail a physical, what’s $30,000 to them? You sign another kid for $200,000 so he costs that plus the $30,000 you spent on the kid who failed his physical, big deal. I mean A-Rod is being paid $28M to do nothing but rehab, so I think the Yankees could afford to give a kid $30,000 in case he fails his physical.

    • Gonzo

      You raise some interesting questions. I think the simplest answer is to look at how the NFL does it and try to fit it for the MLB.

      There are always medical concerns and drug failures on guys in the NFL. Star Lotulelei failed his physical at the combine but was able to pass later on due to what he explained was a virus. Warren Sapp had drug concerns and fell in the draft. From what I understand it happens in the NBA too. I think they found out DeJuan Blair had no ACLs(!) in a pre-draft physical.

      As for payment to go through a physical, I think that’s a little extreme. The NFL isn’t making anyone choose the NFL over the CFL. That would also raise some amateurism concerns for the NCAA. A player might not be able to return for his Senior season because he was “paid” by a professional organization. Not that I agree with the NCCA’s rules on amateurism, but that’s a whole other ball of wax.

      • Bo Knows

        Hey if you have no ACL’s you can blow them out seems like a win to me

        Also As a Panthers fan, I am so glad Star fell. It turned out that the heart problem was a false positive.

        Sorry to go off topic, your right

    • Mikhel

      Players could be subjected to anonymous testing done by a group of medics and specialists, MRIs, XRays and all other tests are done by technicians and not the medics per se, all a medic needs are the results to make diagnosis.

      All they need is to give tests results to the group of medics with no names attached besides a random serial which the player nor teams knows before the results are given. After that is fair play and any team can decide if player X is worthy even with an injury.

      As for drug testing, I am absolutely in favor that any positive for a recreational drug should be notified and affect a player’s slot, we’ve seen too many player’s careers demolished by their use of recreational drugs (in the 1980s cocaine was deemed as a “recreational drug”), look at what happened to Dave Parker, Strawberry and Gooden, to name a few (Stargell, Keith Hernández were other famous drug users and drug dealers in their time, as well as Mays and others mentioned in those Pitssburgh Drug Trials from 1985).

      You could find a gold nugget with a drug addict in the draft, even when marihuana smokers don’t like to be called that, I mean, Lincecum was really great and he was detained what? once or twice for marihuana possession?

  • http://www.twitter.com/matt__harris Matt :: Sec110

    Why not have a combine for the top x number of players? This way you can pump up the draft a little, and get them all in one place and do physicals and other stuff.

    • Bob Buttons

      Baseball one pitch or play can derail your whole career. They shouldn’t pitch (Tony Saunders), shouldn’t bat (Juan Encarnacion), shouldn’t shag flyballs (Mariano Rivera), shouldn’t run around (Wang), and probably shouldn’t even travel around excessively (Jon Lucroy).

      Of course, those are extreme examples, but think of this: Baseball draftees are often quite raw and needs several years to make it to the bigs. Do we really need to subjugate them to a meaningless showcase event and risk prolonging their development time?

      • Mikhel

        Extreme examples? Mariano “shagged” flyballs all his career until ONE time he got injuried… how many flyballs he chased before? in an interview he said hundreds, even maybe thousands.

        • Bob Buttons

          I’m sorry to hear that you don’t fully understand the definition of extreme.

    • Jonathan

      I don’t think a combine is necessary in baseball. They have these guys 60 times and times to first and mph across the diamond/from the outfield/catcher pop times from showcases and have seen the pitchers throw hundreds of pitches. In college football they only play a few games and players are injured a lot or don’t start until their senior year etc but with all the summer/fall baseball being played they have a very good idea of the skills a baseball combine would show.

  • Gonzo

    Some of them are still playing when the draft occurs.

  • Mike K

    To play high school baseball, you’re required to go to your dr and get a physical. To be in the MLB draft, you need to declare for the draft, which I imagine means filling out a form. Why can’t it be as simple as requiring a physical is submitted with the draft paperwork?

    Now obviously, a physical for high school will be a lot simpler than a physical for MLB (though, requiring that minimum is still better than what we have now). But would the standard physical that would provide enough value be THAT much more difficult to do?

    Cost would be an issue if the players were made to pay for it – especially since some of them won’t get drafted – but MLB can still pay for it. Come up a protocol for the required physical, provide a directory of doctors certified to perform the physical. Take your draft-form (with the physical form) to the doctor, who submits to MLB, and MLB pays the doctor.

  • EndlessJose

    Damon needs to not worry about injuries but worry about all the crappy highschoool players he drafted.THe last 5 years has seen so many first rounders fall apart.