Recently, we've seen a number of extraordinary female baseball players who made us wonder if they might suit up soon for a pro team.
There is French baseball player Melissa Mayeux, the first female added to the MLB International Registration list.
The 16-year-old told MLB.com last summer that she "would like very much to continue playing baseball in France," and "then have the ability to leave for university or another opportunity abroad," once she turns 18.
There is also Sarah Hudek, who recently picked up her first college win as a pitcher, throwing for Bossier Parish Community College. Her fastball clocks in at 82 mph.
In addition to her college duties, Hudek also plays baseball for the USA Women's National Team.
After seeing the highlights above, it seems reasonable to think they could play in the pros.
With these players in mind, Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch held a roundtable discussion and asked seven writers if they thought a female would be playing in the MLB in the next 50 years.
In addition to the roundtable discussion, Deitsch spoke with ProPublica reporter David Epstein. He also wrote the bestselling book, The Sports Gene, which takes a look at sports science and athletic performance.
Epstein, for one, thinks it's very possible.
He told Deitsch, "women, like men, can clearly develop the anticipatory skills to hit speeding objects — the transit time of a fast softball pitch is not far off from that of a Major League fastball."
However, he thinks we might see a female knuckle-ball pitcher, "very soon."
Not all of the sports writers agreed with Epstein, though.
Shi Davidi from Sportsnet thinks men simply have too much of a physical advantage.
He said during the round table, "It's highly unlikely, simply because once you get past how exceptional an athlete a woman would need to be to overcome the physical differences at such an elite level."
To counter his point, if we look at Mayeux, she was able to nab a single in MLB's Elite Development Camp in Europe. One look at her footage and you can tell she has a legitimate swing comparable to any amateur baseball player. There is no reason why she won't continue to develop.
However, pitcher Zach Grienke, who suffers from social anxiety disorder and depression has been able to overcome these "outside challenges" and maintain a stellar career.
Derrick Goold from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks we could see a female pitcher in the next 50 years.
He said, "Makes sense that we will. Pitching is such a valuable commodity that teams are looking anywhere and everywhere for a reliable, healthy arm."
Perhaps a pitcher like Davis could make the leap. The aforementioned pitcher, Hudek, who is the daughter of former major-leaguer and All-Star John Hudek, is another possibility. She considers herself a finesse lefty, according to CBS Sports, which means she relies on placement and movement, as opposed to power, to get people out.
The legendary Sandy Koufax, who won 3 Cy Young Awards, "was never timed faster than 93.2 mph," as per an LA Times article. While he played in a different era, it still suggests that you don't need to throw 99+ mph to win games or be effective over the long term. More recently, Cy Young winner, Barry Zito threw on average, 87 mph, as per SB Nation.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports said no, because of "biomechanical" differences. He feels that "puberty sends boys' velocity on a steep trajectory, whereas girls peak in their early teens."
In fairness, we have seen above that these girls are very effective in their age groups, but we have to see how they continue to develop. While there may be a difference in when sexes peak in terms of puberty, any human continues to develop physically as they enter their 20s. An athlete's prime peak of physical condition is typically considered sometime between the ages of 27-32, so puberty may have less to do with development, as opposed to a continued work ethic in their adult lives.
But Passan does have a point about how the amateur system is set up and how it needs to be changed. He said, "The infrastructure for girls playing baseball barely exists. What does—and what offers full scholarships to college—is softball. So the best baseball player would have to forgo a free education to chase what amounts to a lark. It's possible. I'd love to see it."
While infrastructure is certainly important, other writers such as Ken Rosenthal from Fox Sports feel as though it is a possibility without that consideration.
He said, "Yes. In fact, Fox is developing a pilot right now on that subject, The Pitch," which is a show about the first female pitcher in professional baseball. It will star Kylie Bunbury.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "It's hard to imagine." Due to the overwhelmingly deep talent pool and how many top-level players never crack the majors, she does not see it as such an easy possibility.
However, she did point out that you don't need to be the hardest thrower or the most powerful hitter to have an MLB career. We can look at players such as David Eckstein, who was notoriously known for his relatively short height of 5'6'' and lack of home-run power at the plate. In his 10-year career, he had only 35 home-runs, according to Baseball Reference.
Jayson Stark of ESPN agrees it's definitely a possibility for a situational-lefty pitcher.