MLB Draft: Breaking down the Butterfly Effect created by COVID-19
The coronavirus seems to have zapped energy from the sporting world and created a Butterfly Effect that will impact the MLB Draft
The baseball season has come to a halt, not just in the professional ranks but across the college and high school game, which serves as a proving ground and scouting hotbed for potential professional talent in the MLB Draft.
According to Baseball America, the MLB Draft will go as scheduled, but with a dramatic cut in financing amateur talent acquisition, MLB has cut the number of rounds to five, meaning an 86 percent reduction in the amount of players taken. Players will be able to attend showcases, workout with individual teams, and likely seem some form of game action before the draft.
Undrafted players will be capped at a $20,000 signing bonus, and since there are only five rounds, most players will likely decline to sign if not taken within the five rounds, which tips the scales dramatically in terms of returning college players, as well as high school players who will attend college instead of signing as a potential mid or late-round pick. The draft situation will be furthermore complicated with the NCAA declaring current seniors can have an extra year of eligibility, which hurts every class beneath them in terms of scouting exposure and overall playing time.
Another thing to consider is reductions on international signing financing, but the league has increased flexibility in terms of signing dates. This pandemic could also affect future drafts, mainly the 2021 draft, in terms of money available, number of rounds, etc.
This is a shot in the arm for the MLB, as the typical 40 round draft, which may seem excessive to some, has allowed MLB stars to emerge from outside the high-bonus rounds. Wade Boggs, Nolan Ryan, Albert Pujols and Fred McGriff were all drafted in the seventh round or later. Mike Piazza was drafted in the 62nd round. By cutting the draft by nearly 90%, the league has weakened the talent pool to a point where we may not get to see the next face of the game, because he couldn’t sign on for a $20,000 bonus, and now is coaching high school instead of setting records.
Here are some things to consider. High School and college talent may have draft stock today, but what about freak injuries that hurt their stock? What about the loss of millions of dollars for athletes that don’t have any financial stability to begin with?
This new draft process doesn’t just limit financial and athletic successes of those talented enough to play professionally, it murks the waters for rising Seniors and Juniors that had playing time expectations for their final year of baseball and for the incoming Freshman who will have to battle with a class of fifth-year Seniors.
The amateur and professional pipeline connection has been damaged by this pandemic, and as much as the MLB may try to rationalize their decision making, the wound given to the draft will linger for some time.
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Aside from all that, an important thing to remember is that this is all out of the league’s control. In a semi-perfect world, the season would have started by now and the amateur and international talent would be vying for a slot in one of 40 rounds. But it is not that way. We are still in the early stages of this pandemic, and the MLB Draft is the least of the world’s problems.
In this delay the league may figure out a better drafting system for the short-term, but maybe not.
All we can hope for is that baseball will come back, and it will come back in some semblance of what it was in previous years.