There was finally some MLB news recently that did not revolve around owners and players bickering over money, it was the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft day. Despite no start date to the season in sight, the first virtual draft went off without a hitch, though it was much shorter than usual. Normally, the event is a 40-round marathon, but this year it was a five-round sprint thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduced class comes, in part, because of the uncertainty surrounding minor league baseball right now.
Also known as the amateur draft, it is Major League Baseball’s primary mechanism for assigning unsigned baseball players from high schools, colleges and other amateur baseball clubs to its teams. This year the draft got underway Wednesday, June 10, and wrapped up the following day.
Baseball’s entry draft is not exactly as prominent or publicized as the drafts in other leagues like the NBA, NFL and NHL, largely because it’s usually comprised of relative unknowns who won’t be seen in the majors until years later. However, the draft is about the only thing fans could sink their teeth into since it is the only thing going on in the MLB right now, aside from the bitter negotiations.
Forty USA Baseball alumni were selected through all five rounds of the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft Wednesday and Thursday night, including 20 of the 37 athletes selected in the first round and 20 more alums taken in the second, third, fourth and fifth rounds, collectively. Twenty selections are the third highest number of alumni drafted in the first round in USA Baseball history (23 in 2007, 21 in 2012). Two-time Collegiate National Team member Spencer Torkelson became the eighth-consecutive Team USA alum to be taken first overall when the Detroit Tigers selected him with the No. 1 pick. The Detroit Tigers have had the top overall pick for the second time in the past three years. The draft order is determined based on the previous season’s standings, with the team possessing the worst record receiving the first pick. Last year the Tigers were 47-114.
Corona High School’s Isaiah Greene was the most local player to the area to be drafted. Greene was selected by the New York Mets with the No. 69 pick, part of the compensation picks sandwiched between the second and third rounds of the draft. He is the third-highest draft pick out of Corona High School, with only the late Mike Darr (No. 52, 1994) and Shawn Curran (No. 53, 1991) having been picked higher.
“We try to put our players in the best possible situations to be seen, which is why we play such a tough schedule every year,” Corona baseball coach Andy Wise said. “Isaiah is a threat on the bases and can swing the stick so he should adapt quickly to the next level.”
Once Major League Baseball has concluded its amateur player draft, the process of signing bonuses and minor league contracts begins. The teams that selected these players have sole negotiating rights to them and must submit a written minor league contract to them within 15 days of their selection. Failure to do so, terminates their negotiating rights and the player will be a free agent and on the open market for contract negotiations. Greene is committed to the University of Missouri, so he soon will have to decide whether to sign with New York or head to college.
Other semi-local players that heard their name called was Long Beach State left-handed pitcher Adam Seminaris, who is an Ayala High School graduate selected in the fifth round by the Angels, and Huntington Beach High School standout, Jake Vogel, who went in the third round to the Dodgers. Seminaris was 1-0 with a 1.23 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 22 innings before the 2020 season was canceled.
The highest Southern California player taken on day two of the draft was La Mirada High School right-hander Jared Jones, who was chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second round with the No. 44 pick. The Texas signee is considered one of the best pitchers in California.
With the draft complete, it doesn’t mean teams are done acquiring talent either. This year, due to the shortened structure, all 30 teams may sign an unlimited number of high school and college players that went undrafted for a maximum of $20,000 each. Temescal Canyon’s DJ McCarty was one of these players and has chosen to agree to terms with the Texas Rangers. McCarty was supposed to report to Central Arizona in the fall.
Early on, most players drafted came directly from high school. Between 1967 and 1971, only seven college players were chosen in the first round of the June draft; however, the college players who were drafted outperformed their high school counterparts drastically. By 1978, most draftees had played college baseball, and by 2002, the number rose above 60%. While the number of high school players drafted has dropped, those picked have been more successful than their predecessors.
Over 80% of players drafted in the first round make it to the major leagues. After that, the odds are less than 50%. Players selected in the draft will receive a signing bonus. For most players, it is the only significant amount of compensation that they will receive for a few years, so the signing bonus is important to drafted players. Under the terms of the latest collective bargaining agreement between team owners and players, each draft slot is assigned a “slot recommendation,” which usually dictates the signing bonus that the player will receive. Often, it will also determine whether a player opts to chase his baseball dream or accept a college scholarship.
A player who is drafted and does not sign with the club that selected him may be drafted again at a future year’s draft, so long as the player is eligible for that year’s draft. A club may not select a player again in a subsequent year unless the player has consented to the reselection.
So where do the negotiations stand right now and when can a season be expected? Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN Monday, June 15, he’s “not confident” there will be a 2020 baseball season and that “as long as there’s no dialogue” with the MLB Players Association, “that real risk is going to continue.”
On Saturday, a day after MLB delivered a return-to-play proposal that called for a 72-game season and guaranteed 70% of players’ prorated salaries, with a maximum of 83%, Bruce Meyer, lead negotiator of MLBPA, said in a letter to MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem: “Given your continued insistence on hundreds of millions of dollars of additional pay reductions, we assume these negotiations are at an end.”
Though there seems to be a stand-still, the merry-go-round will surely continue in the days ahead.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach the Valley News Sports Department email email@example.com.