Yesterday, mixed in with all of the news and excitement from Opening Day activities, reports came out that Major League Baseball had determined the 2021 First Year Player Draft will be 20 rounds long. This decision is another in the series of actions MLB is taking to reshape the minor leagues.
MLB has informed MLB's teams that the 2021 draft will be limited to 20 rounds.https://t.co/DldQh8MmWa— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) April 2, 2021
If you don’t have a Baseball America account to read the above, MLBTradeRumors put together a nice synopsis of the situation.
Twenty rounds is an increase from last season’s pandemic panicked five round draft, but still is just half of the traditional forty rounds that were in place prior to 2020. (Before 2012 it was fifty rounds). As part of the agreement reached between the MLBPA and MLB to govern last season, MLB obtained the right to set the length of the 2021 draft within certain bounds. Twenty rounds was the minimum bound of that agreement and MLB has long been expected to choose that mark, in some measure because there are now fewer minor league teams to supply with players.
These changes come in addition to other, previously announced, draft-relevant modifications including the schedule change to hold the event in July, following the conclusion of the College World Series and most state level high school championships, and to coincide with the All Star Weekend festivities. That schedule change also enables the possibility of an NFL-style pre-draft combine event, although that has just been rumored to this point. MLB also announced in November, the formation of a six team MLB Draft League, that will allow the top draft eligible talents to compete against one another in a quasi-minor league setting.
In addition to the length of the draft, teams were also informed of their bonus pools yesterday. Here’s a quick refresher on how that system works. Each pick in the first ten rounds is assigned a slot value. The total of the slot values of all of a team’s picks in the first ten rounds comprises its total bonus pool. Teams can shuffle slot value funds between picks, signing players for more or less than the assigned value of where they were picked, but the sum total bonuses given to their first ten picks cannot exceed the total value of their bonus pool. If it does, the team will face penalties, like paying a tax on the overage for minor violations or loss of future picks for larger infractions.
For picks in rounds 11 through 20, there are no assigned slot values, however the maximum bonus for any of those picks is capped at $125K. If a team chooses to exceed that amount for a player, the amount above $125K counts against its total bonus pool. Also, as of last year, bonuses for signing undrafted players are capped at $20K.
The Twins have 11 picks in the first ten rounds, including two “first round” selections — the 26th pick (1st round, slot value: $2,653,400) and the 36th pick (Compensation A round, slot value: $2,045,400). Altogether, Minnesota has the 18th-highest total bonus pool at $8,101,400. That pool amount is less than the average pool of $8,858,980. Also worth noting is the slot values in 2021 are the same amounts as in 2020.
Pittsburgh and Detroit, owners of the first and second picks, respectively, have the largest bonus pools at slightly over $14-Million each. Houston, which had its first and second round selections stripped as penalty for the sign-stealing scandal two winters ago, has the smallest bonus pool at $2.94-Million — an amount that is less than the individual assigned slot values for the first 22 picks in the first round.
In addition to the draft related details, MLB also announced the international signing pools for the 2021-2022 class. The international signing period is expected to again begin in mid-January (2022). The Twins have an international signing pool of $5,721,200 to allocate to amateur international talent.
While we gained some clarity about the draft with these reports, the location of the July draft (and the All Star Weekend) is now unknown with MLB’s decision not to hold the events in Atlanta (please be nice to one another in the comments!) as originally planned. Wherever the events ultimately land, the combination of last year’s very short draft and additional eligibility granted to collegiate players due to the pandemic impacts on 2020 amateur seasons means the 2021 draft-eligible talent pool will be unusually deep.
John is a contributor to Twinkie Town with an emphasis on analytics. He is a lifelong Twins fan and former college pitcher. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnFoley_21.