SEATTLE – The 2023 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft wrapped up Tuesday, July 11, where a total of 614 selections were made over a three-day process. While the Pittsburgh Pirates selected LSU’s Paul Skenes as the No. 1 overall pick, a slot worth $9.7 million, there were still plenty of dollar signs surrounding the other 613 draftees, including the local talent that was selected from Southwest Riverside County.
After an amateur player is drafted by a Major League Baseball team, he is given a period of a few weeks to negotiate a signing bonus and agree to a contract. Each club, and player, had until 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 25, to come to terms. If a player has exhausted his collegiate eligibility, he can sign at any time up until one week prior to next year’s Draft.
Draft-and-follow picks, high school and junior college players selected after the 10th round who attend a two-year college after the Draft, can sign with their selecting teams for up to $250,000 up until a week before the following year’s Draft.
Each choice in the first 10 rounds comes with an assigned monetary value, with the total for a club’s selections equaling what it can spend in those rounds without incurring a penalty. If a player taken in the top ten rounds does not sign, his pick’s value gets subtracted from his team’s pool.
In order to be eligible for the MLB first-year player draft, a player must be a resident of the United States or Canada and must have never previously signed a contract with an MLB franchise. Players can be drafted right after graduating from high school, but if they have already begun to attend a 4-year university they must wait until after their third year or 21st birthday in order to take part in the draft.
Even though this year’s 20-round MLB draft has concluded, many organizations continued to add college talent as nondrafted free agents. NDFAs can sign deals up to $125,000. After being limited to $20,000 per contract in 2020 and 2021, the maximum amount a player can sign an NDFA deal for and not count against a team’s bonus pool raised to $125,000 in 2022. In 2023 that number rose again to $150,000 before the bonus counts against the pool. High School players selected in the draft usually have a bit more leeway in bargaining for more money since they are picked at an earlier age than most.
Once signed, players will report to their organizations sprint training complex, either in Arizona, or Florida. There, they will begin instructional workouts and playing in intrasquad games, which then leads to work in the complex leagues, the ACL (Arizona Complex League), or the FCL (Florida Complex League). A good showing in the ACL or FCL, also known as Rookie ball, could get a player called up to start their minor league career, which consists of four more levels of play before making it to the big show. Those levels are Single-A, like the Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres) for example, then High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.
Single-A ball is the first step toward playing a legitimate professional season as a baseball player. It’s where players first have Spring Training and prepare themselves for a 140-game season stretching just over 5 months. Players coming straight out of high school are usually assigned to Low-A (Rookie) while college players, especially ones who come out of major college programs, can start their first full season at High-A.
While the baseball seasons are shortly coming to and end, and with the playoffs starting this week for some of the lower divisions, here is a look, as of Tuesday, Sept. 5, at where our local talent from this year’s draft wound up.
Eric Bitonti from Aquinas High School netted the most worth as a semi-local drafted player after being picked in the third round by the Milwaukee Brewers, a slot value worth almost $800,000. Bitonti and the Brewers came to terms, agreeing on a signing bonus worth $1.75 million. Bitonti was assigned to the ACL where he finished with a .179 batting average that consisted of 7 hits in 39 at-bats, with 2 homeruns. Another semi-local player is Luke Scherrer of Yucaipa, who signed as a NDFA to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Scherrer signed for $150,000 and appears to have only played in four games in the FCL, where he went hitless in six at-bats.
Former Great Oak standout Zach Arnold, who was drafted out of high school in 2019 to the Baltimore Orioles in the 34th round (back when the draft was 40 rounds, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic). Arnold chose to go to LSU, before transferring to Houston two years ago and was picked up this year in the 14th round by the Philadelphia Phillies. Arnold agreed to a $150,000 contract and after a short stint in the FCL, he was called up to Single-A on Aug. 4, and during his time has 21 hits in 76 at-bats, hitting .276 for the Clearwater Threshers.
Two Temecula Valley alumni in Cole Urman, and recent graduate, Adler Cecil, are the remaining local names cited from this year’s draft. Urman graduated in 2019 and was a junior on the Cal State Fullerton baseball team and was taken as the 481st overall pick in the 16th round by the Baltimore Orioles. Cole, who signed for $150,000, was called up to the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds from the FCL on Aug. 24, where he played in 6 games before being placed on the 7-day injured list on Sept. 3. So far he has batted .346 with 9 hits in 26 at-bats.
Cecil, a lefty pitcher and 2023 graduate was taken in the 19th round by the San Diego Padres as overall pick No. 581. Cecil signed for $175,000 and did not get moved up to the ACL yet. It appears that he remained in the instructional portion of the Padres training facilities during the summer.
Most Minor League games play out through the first week of September, at which point in time the playoffs begin for those teams still in the mix. After the season ends, players don’t report back until the following spring, when training camp starts over again. Although, the MLB does provide plenty of options for MiLB players to get reps during the offseason, but that’s a whole other story.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at email@example.com.