Every year in early June I take three days off work and cover the MLB Draft for your reading pleasure here at Twinkie Town.
This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic—and in hopes of shattering my dreams, the MLB and MLBPA have agreed to a 5-round First Year Draft.
It’s normally 40 rounds.
And now it’s 5.
So like what the hell am I going to do?
The Twins are likely feeling something similar, having lost two draft picks as part of signing Josh Donaldson and trading for Kenta Maeda (which was only 89 days ago if you believe that).
Luckily, I suppose, the pick we sent to the Dodgers for Maeda was our Compensatory Round B pick, and we lost our 3rd round pick for Donaldson. That means we still have our 1st and 2nd round picks, which should both be Night 1 picks if MLB keeps a two day structure (which means I could still take time off work but admitting that earlier would have ruined my intro).
While the MLBPA wanted a 10 round draft, the two sides ultimately couldn’t come to an agreement for that deal. That is a big loss for teams and prospects. For those unfamiliar with the MLB Draft, each pick in the first 10 rounds of the draft carry a certain dollar value. That money is not spent directly on the player taken with that pick, but instead added to the bonus pool of the team that owns the pick. Teams can use their bonus pool money however they want as long as they sign a player with every pick in those first ten rounds. This financial flexibility allows teams to utilize ““senior signs,” or college seniors who sign for way below slot value. For an example, a senior sign taken in the 8th round might sign for somewhere between $10,000-$50,000 even though the slot value is somewhere between $150,000 to $180,000. So by drafting and signing a pretty good senior, they save over $100,000 which they can use to sign another player for an over-slot deal. A great example of this is the Twins during the 2017 draft, when they signed three senior signs on day two of the draft (typically rounds 3-10) and used that extra money to sign Blayne Enlow who signed for $2,000,000 or about $1.25 million over the slot value of the third round pick they used to take him.
So by eliminating rounds 6-10, each team loses about a million dollars of slot value money they can use to entice players to sign with them instead of agreeing with another team or going/returning to school.
While shortening the draft eliminates a lot of that from draft slot trickery, the 2020 draft will add a new wrinkle, as undrafted players can be signed for a maximum of $20,000. So undrafted players could sign with their favorite teams, or teams with good development programs, or teams with little depth. There is already speculation that players will be drafted as part of deals that require the team to also sign their friends and teammates to the maximum $20,000 figure. That strategy could be used against teams or by teams to entice the players to sign with them for slightly less than slot value, so it will be interesting to see how that goes.
Junior Colleges should have a huge uptick in high quality recruits this year, as high school prospects who would have gone above slot in rounds 6-10 may very well look to go to a JUCO for one year and test out the draft next year.
The side that loses, other than my early-summer vacation, is obviously MiLB. A 40-round draft and subsequent undrafted signees were largely responsible for filling two rookie ball teams for those short season leagues. If a team ends up with 4-6 draft picks and 15 undrafted signees (probably a lot of seniors), they are essentially losing an entire minor league team worth of bodies. That makes MiLB contraction even easier in the near future.
The 2020 MLB draft will be unique, and it will still be interesting and worthy of keeping an eye on, but it definitely points to the greed of MLB owners and Rob Manfred’s complete lack of understanding of the game and how to improve it long term.