New developments directly impact the 2020 MLB Draft, as well as current players. This includes members of the KC Royals and college/high school players.
The current proposal that is being considered right now is a shift that could be catastrophic in some way. After coming to an agreement, team owners and players came to an agreement that would benefit the players, specifically toward service time, but also benefit the owners. I’m going to focus on one aspect of the agreement because of the negative impact this could possibly present for the KC Royals.
MLB and MLBPA have agreed to shorten the number of rounds this year’s draft will have. Instead of 40 rounds, this year’s draft could be just five rounds. This isn’t set in stone, but it’s something that’s been going around.
Now, I am in favor of lowering the number of rounds MLB currently has. 40 rounds each year means on average, 1,200 high school and college players are drafted every year. Last year alone, 1,217 players were drafted and 958 players signed. That equates to 79% of drafted players signing.
However, on average, 15 to 20 percent of signed players reach the MLB level. That means roughly 190 players of the 958 will reach the ultimate goal. The majority of those 190 will be players selected in the first 10-20 rounds, too. But this is something to dive into at a later time.
So, how will five rounds negatively impact the KC Royals?
When looking at the KC Royals’ potential 26-man roster (29-man if they play this year), only 14 of the 26 players would have been drafted. Players like Greg Holland (10th round), Trevor Rosenthal (21st round), Brad Keller (8th round), Whit Merrifield (9th round), and Jakob Junis (29th round) wouldn’t have been drafted. Instead, they would have been subjected to signing with a team through free agency.
The problem here is two-fold. One is the financial restrictions for the next two years. Any player that signs through free agency will only be allowed to sign for $20,000. Those of us working outside of sports know without a doubt that living off of $20,000 isn’t possible in most states/cities. If it is possible, it is only with significant cuts to your everyday life.
The other problem is simple to see. Allowing players that normally would have been considered “high draft picks” pick where they go could benefit the bigger market teams or teams that have more success than others. This puts teams that are rebuilding, or may not be considered contenders at a disadvantage in free agency.
Obviously there are more negatives to consider, not just in regards to the KC Royals. For example, this will without a doubt impact high school kids who may now have to consider going to college instead of being a mid/late-round draft pick and finding a scholarship this late in the year might be difficult.
Also, college athletes might be forced to return for their senior year, preventing teams from being able to use a potential scholarship spot on an incoming freshman.
This could also directly impact many team’s abilities to fill rosters for each minor league affiliate team. On average, most organizations have 8 affiliates they need to fill, plus the Major League roster. Removing potentially 25-30 players from the equation may result in players having to stay put at a level they should have graduated from, but also force teams to get creative with how they will fill a roster.
There are way more things to consider here than just the implications on the athletes being drafted. Amateur athletes tend to always be low men on the totem pole, and this situation isn’t any different.
Something to consider
Again, I don’t have an issue with lowering the number of rounds in the draft. However, cutting 88% of the draft seems a bit excessive. To me, an easy fix would have been to cut the draft to somewhere between 10-20 rounds.
This would allow teams to still take some chances on players, allow good players to still get drafted, and this would have a lesser chance of ruining some of the minor league affiliates.
Say what you will, but scouting year-to-year can change a player’s value. Take Georgia star, and MLB Draft prospects’ number one overall player, Emerson Hancock. When you look at his freshman, sophomore, and junior year, you could see a future starter in the MLB or a player that’s drafted but never breaks through?
Last year he had his season cut short because he needed Tommy John surgery. So is he healthy? Were his inconsistencies this year due to being off for a year and a half, or is that truly the type of pitcher he is going to be?
Scouts, teams, and executives want to know that a player who has exhibited some inconsistencies has grown out of those habits, or a player who is coming back from injury is healthy again and back to normal/better, as well as seeing that a player continues to show dominance. Therefore, the notion that scouts have enough information on a player based on past years seems a bit rash.
Having 10-20 rounds allows for those players that have some questions to still get drafted and make a livable wage, verse them signing as a free agent and making $36,000 less than the average American per year.
Baseball Commissioner, Rob Manfred, has been under fire a lot lately. Whether that be because of his desire to eliminate some of the minor league affiliates or his threat of canceling the MLB Draft/season altogether.
Money is always a driving force in the world. With no baseball being played, ownership can’t make money. By them being unable to make money, paying players and future prospects obviously becomes difficult.
However, there is a clear distinction between drastic moves and rational moves. Changing the 2020 MLB Draft to 5-rounds and paying free agents just $20,000 to sign with a team is a drastic move, whereas changing the draft to 10-20 rounds and giving free-agent signees at least a livable wage is a bit more rational.
Obviously the players and owners agreed to terms. My hope is that teams that rely on the draft gave a lot of consideration to the fact that they are potentially going to miss out on players they normally could have drafted after the 5th round due to free agency, and hoping that they can get good players via free agency over teams like the Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, and other big-name franchises.
These next two years could have significant impacts on many teams. I just hope the KC Royals are on the positive side of this impact.