The recent article about Mitch Keller (and frankly the other past regime's pitching development failures) got me thinking about how pitchers are developed. I'm not an insider to the process, but from the outside looking in, it appears to be something like this:
The player is signed and assigned to a league with similar age players and those with similar skills. The coaches take the scouting reports, regardless of the results, and start implementing mechanical changes in delivery, teaching new pitches, etc. based on the perceived weaknesses in their games. From there, once they've mastered those pitches and changes, they wait for results and eventually promote them. Repeat the cycle at each level.
I think this method might have worked better in the past, when there were fewer levels of MiLB and when scouts actually watched the players in competition. Most of the scouting for HS pitchers is now done at showcases, where there is no pressure to get someone out, no "I'm gassed and don't have my best stuff but have to get through the 7th inning". College pitchers at least have professional-type game film, but the game is managed there in the same way -- protect arms at all costs. The end result is that you really don't see the pitcher, you only scout the throwing.
This might sound off the wall, but I think the very first step in a pitcher's development is to get them in town with the MLB team and have them throw a batting practice/scrimmage game against the club's starting lineup. Maybe you do that a few times before assigning them to any level.
First off, and probably most importantly, you have a baseline to see how they perform against MLB hitters with zero adjustments to mechanics or new pitches. The statement "Your curveball isn't good enough" carries a lot more weight when you throw your best one 0-2 to B Rey and it ends up in the river. It gives the player a real sense of what it will take to be successful in the majors.
Second, I think it's important for players to be challenged. Pitting them against similar players tells you nothing really, short season was essentially like a high-school or college All-Star game, the gap is not as big as it needs to be. Yes, it can be humbling, but frankly, a little humility wouldn't hurt anyone in this generation of youth. They need exposure to failure, something foreign to many of them, early and often. You're going to be a grown-up now, where you will often be overmatched and underprepared. Let's see how you respond.
Lastly, it gives you some feedback outside of the scouting world about a pitcher The MLB players should provide honest assessments of what they're seeing from the pitcher.
I feel if teams started doing this, they'd have a far more accurate barometer of the talent, be able to set realistic and attainable goals, they have the player on the same page as the team from day one, etc.
What do you all think?