The MLB Draft has undergone a significant transformation in recent weeks. The original plan intended the draft to be held June 10-12 from Omaha, Nebraska the site of the College Baseball World Series. After reaching an agreement with the Major League Baseball Player’s Association the draft will be reduced to as few as five rounds. Essentially, (potentially) reducing the size of the draft by 85%. While owners will have the final say speculation from various internet sources (Marlins beat writer Craig Mish and ESPN baseball insider Kiley McDaniel among others) seem to indicate the draft will be as many as 10 rounds and possibly as many as 20 rounds. 

The 2021 MLB draft was not unscathed with the possibility of being reduced to 20 rounds. The agreement between the players union and MLB freezes the 2020 and 2021 pick allotments at the former 2019 pick allotment numbers. Drafted players will receive a maximum of $100,000 with the rest of the signing bonuses deferred as two equal payments payable July 1st, 2021 and 2022. MLB also placed a cap of $20,000 on all undrafted free agent signings. These were not the end of the changes as draft picks can no longer be traded.

Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo (across several pieces) rightly speculated that these changes could have numerous impacts.

Obviously, with less talent entering the minor leagues where would minor league teams get talent and frankly, would that matter this season? Would this reduced draft be more than a money-saving venture?

Perhaps, something darker, like the implementation of Manfred’s plan to reduce the number of minor league clubs? Furthermore, what about the effects on players entering college or draft-eligible?

Obviously, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the MLB Draft. Yet, things should become much clearer in the days to come.

MLB recently released the 2020 MLB Draft pools. If the draft is 10 rounds the Indians would have a total pool allotment of $8,551,100 with a total of 11 picks. If the draft is five rounds the Indians would have a total pool allotment of $7,616,200 with a total of six picks. If the draft is extended to 20 rounds players would receive a maximum bonus of $125,000 (the $100,000 limits would apply). Teams maintain the capability of exceeding their bonus pools allows up to 5% without incurring draft pick penalty. However, additional cash penalties would still apply.

Here’s the breakdown of picks with the pool allotment noted:

Rd 1. Pk 23 – $2,926,800 

CBA.  Pk 36 – $2,045,400      

Rd 2. Pk 57 – $1,243,600 

Rd 3. Pk 96 – $604,800

Rd 4. Pk 125- $455,600

Rd 5. Pk 155 – $340,000 

Total allotment for rounds 1-5 = $7,610,500

Rd 6. Pk 184- $263,700 

Rd 7. Pk 214 – $206,500 

Rd 8. Pk 244 – $168,500 

Rd 9. Pk 274 – $152,300 

Rd 10. Pk 304 – $143,900

Total allotment for rounds 1-10 = $8,545,400

The National Football League will conduct it’s annual NFL Draft as scheduled starting Thursday, April 23rd-25. The NFL Draft is wildly popular with mock drafts and trade rumors generating excitement in the build-up of the event that has become the annual NFL Draft. Yet, the 2020 NFL Draft wasn’t unphased as original plans called for the Draft to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, but that plan was scrapped amid the uncertainty. However, it will be held on schedule with numerous adjustments making it feasible. MLB could utilize something very similar.

Imagine the NFL making a similar move to MLB, reducing the size of the draft by 85% or reducing the draft to one round. That is exactly, what Major League Baseball could do if the draft is reduced to just five rounds. Reducing the incoming talent most affects teams like the Indians that are dependent upon developing their own major league talent. Consider some of the players the Indians have drafted after the fifth round like; Jim Thome, Roberto Perez, Josh Tomlin, and Cody Allen, more recently, James Karinchak (9th rd pk). Others like Thomas Pannone (7th rd pk) and Samad Taylor (10th rd pk) were traded for Joe Smith and Ryder Ryan (30th rd pk) who was traded for Jay Bruce. Even 2016 Postseason hero Andrew Miller was acquired utilizing a few later round picks (Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen).

A shorter draft means less incoming talent and less capital to feed the big league club, which is a lifeline for small and mid-market clubs like the Tribe.

The decision to save money by owners is understandable in the short-term because of the lack of income. Yet with payment deferrals the next two draft classes in place perhaps an alternative would be to seize the day. Sports fans around the country are starved for content right now. Televising the MLB Draft (and marketing the game) with plenty of game video, player and manager interviews, and various experts as guests discussing each team and their respective major league and minor league systems with pick-by-pick breakdowns.

Like the NFL Draft, the MLB Draft could become an event across major sports (hungry) networks like ESPN, Fox Sports and the MLB Network airing pre-draft shows covering the top available prospects at each position leading up to the Draft. What was potentially a great opportunity to connect to sports fans and baseball fans across the globe instead, appears to be a missed opportunity to market the game and reach fans in unprecedented fashion.

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2 Comments »

  1. From more than 50 years ago, the NFL has consistently reduced its draft volume.. From 20 rounds to 17 rounds to… to… to. to the current 7 rounds. It’s clear, the feeder system for the NFL comes from a pool of young men who are prepared to compete/contribute upon setting foot on the practice field of an NFL team.

    That readiness is not the same with baseball.. Baseball player development has much more subtle requirements to master to achieve the excellence needed to compete at the highest level. The ability to project the talent necessary to achieve excellence is a mystery, a science, and or an art, thereby, making the need for many bodies to be able to fill the roster with the very best of the best.. It is this kind of ‘time’ that will allow that 13th round guy to develop into a HOF’er.

    The financial side of the equation.. is patently unfair to the younger guys, but, that and their love for the game (not the movie) makes them hungry.. Hungry and motivated..

    Thoughts?..

    • My impression: MLB is pushing it to the colleges and Indy leagues to develop talent when you factor the soon-to-be reduced minor league system.
      While I am not against a reduction in the draft maybe something like 20 rounds would be more appropriate going forward.
      This class in particular has tremendous depth with some qlty mid round talents likely to slip into rounds 6-10 if they go that far. I would not be surprised to see some talented prep players end up on campus. With a smaller class will teams be more conservative?

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