The Major League Baseball draft is coming, but no one knows the date or whether there will even be a central site.
The draft will no longer be 40 rounds, and it could be slashed to as few as five rounds, an 87.5% reduction in players.
Baseball scouts are permitted to talk to prospective draft picks by phone, text or Zoom, but they can’t even bump into them at the local burger carry-out.
They can study video, even going back to their Little League days, but anything filmed after March 27 is prohibited.
These are the new rules during the unprecedented times of the coronavirus pandemic, preparing for a baseball draft like no other.
It’s widely considered to be a deep and strong amateur draft, one that has had teams salivating for years. But with draft limits in place and signing bonus restrictions embedded, there is a growing fear MLB is endangering their future.
“I tell you what’s going to happen, you’re going to crush the dreams of kids playing baseball,” said San Diego-based agent Lonnie Murray, who has represented baseball players since 2004. “The opportunity is lost now. You had kids excited about what was supposed to be a pivotal moment in their life, getting drafted, and now that’s gone.
And you know who that hurts the most? All of the kids who play in underserved communities, especially Black and Latino players.”
MLB negotiated in its agreement with the players’ union the option of limiting the draft to five rounds. If that’s the case, there could be a dearth of minority players entering the draft.
A year ago, there were only 17 African-American and seven Latino high-school players drafted in the first five rounds, and only 12 from Division I colleges. If the draft is limited to just five rounds, and undrafted players can sign for a maximum of $20,000, where do those kids go? There were 72 African-American and Latino kids from Division I schools drafted after the fifth round a year ago that suddenly could disappear.
Sure, college is an option, but what if you can’t afford it? What are your chances of landing one of the 11.7 baseball scholarships stipulated by the NCAA? (Football Bowl Subdivision schools are permitted 95 scholarships.)
You think those kids will still stick to baseball, or if they continue to play, will they even be noticed.