There is finally some MLB news that doesn’t revolve around owners and players bickering over money, it’s Major League Baseball’s Draft day. Today is a huge day for up-and-coming ball players, albeit unconventional, especially since there is no start date in sight for the 2020 season.
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 gets underway today (June 10) and will wrap up tomorrow night on June 11.
Baseball’s entry draft isn’t 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 that won’t be seen in the majors until years later. However, the draft is about the only thing going on in MLB right now aside from the bitter negotiations, so here is what to expect as the 7 p.m. (ET) approaches.
- It is going to be (much) shorter than usual: Normally, the event is a 40-round marathon but this year it is going to be a five-round sprint thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. The reduced class comes, in part, as a result of the uncertainty surrounding minor league baseball right now.
- The draft is likely to be collegiate-heavy: Due to signing bonus deferrals and the shorter draft format, it is likely that the percentage of college players drafted will climb this year. More high school prospects will likely honor their college commitments instead of signing with MLB teams, so don’t be surprised if the percentage of collegiate prospects drafted increase tremendously.
- Spencer Torkelson is favored to go No. 1: The Tigers have the top overall pick for the second time in the past three years and they’re most likely going to draft Spencer Torkelson at the top of the board. The first baseman out of Arizona State is an offensive gem and is expected to be close to MLB-ready right away
- Other names to know: There’s plenty of worthy talent behind Torkelson, including Vanderbilt centerfielder/infielder Austin Martin, Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy, Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock and Minnesota righty Max Meyer.
Teams could draft for help this year. Of course, it is still unknown if there is going to be an MLB season in 2020 but that may not stop some teams from drafting for immediate help where they can. Typically, even the best prospects spend time in the minors, but the minor-league shutdown and potential expanded MLB rosters could convince teams to take pitchers who can assist right away.
Once Major League Baseball has concluded its amateur player draft, teams, players will begin the process of signing bonuses and minor league contracts. 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. Players will begin an often-lengthy journey through small town America toward what they hope will be a career in the MLB.
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.
So where do the negotiations stand right now? The MLBPA reportedly proposed an 89-game season with full prorated play and a 16-team playoff in their latest counter to the league this week. The merry-go-round will surely continue in the days ahead.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.