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MLB Draft Changes That Need to Take Place

The Major League Baseball draft concluded this past weekend with over 1,000 players being selected.  Some players were straight out of high school while others have been preparing for a few years at the collegiate level.  While the MLB draft is supposed to be a chance for teams to bolster their farm systems, deepen the talent pool, and ultimately field better teams, it is a process that needs to be amended to save time and money and give the best players the opportunity to prove themselves in professional baseball.

MLB Draft Changes

The MLB Draft is now a televised prime time event

Every year there are players picked in the MLB Draft that have no intention of signing.  Zero.  Sometimes it is a high school player who wants to go to college to party for a few years first.  Sometimes it is a college player with high salary expectations that are impossible to meet and who has the luxury of returning for his senior season.  It could also be a player who just wants to finish his degree.  How often does a player not sign because he doesn’t even play baseball though?  Every now and then since teams waste picks in the later rounds on athletes who play other sports.  This year’s prime example – the Boston Red Sox selecting University of Florida quarterback Jeff Driskell in the 37th round.

I understand he played baseball in high school and was pretty good, but the kid hasn’t played in over two years, let alone the fact that he is the starting quarterback for one of the biggest football programs in the country.  The Red Sox would have to give him ownership of the team to lure him away from going back to Florida for two more years.  A minor league stint getting paid in PB&Js doesn’t even come close to being “the man” as a quarterback on a college campus.

The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Cory Hahn with their 34th round pick.  Hahn was an outfielder from Arizona State, which is a highly respected school.  He’ll never play for them however because he is paralyzed.  The D-backs used the pick in round 34 because that was Hahn’s jersey number in baseball.  I am all for the generosity and kindness Arizona showed by using a selection on a player whose career was cut short by injury, but that could be done outside of the MLB draft.  That pick means that one more player won’t get the chance to fulfill his dream of playing professional baseball.

The NFL has 7 rounds.  With a 53-man roster that equates to 13% of a team’s roster coming from the draft each year, assuming all seven sign and whether or not teams have more or less picks.  The NBA has 2 rounds.  The maximum roster size is 13, which means that 15% of a team’s roster will come from the draft each year.  If you include D-League roster spots that number is reduced to 7%.

MLB Draft is the longest of them all

MLB Draft Changes

There are stars as well as busts to be found in the MLB Draft

Major League Baseball has 40 rounds.  Assuming rosters for the pro team, “AAA” team, “AA” team, and one “A” team, that is 100 players.  This means that 40% of a team’s roster should supposedly be gained through the MLB draft.  When you add another “A” team, a few rookie league teams, and other players scattered about, it can be around 200 players within an organization.  Even with that many players, a team is still expecting a 20% roster turnover each year.  That is a ridiculously high number compared to the NBA and NFL.

Why doesn’t the MLB reduce the number of rounds and draft picks each year and make the draft more exclusive like in other sports?  If 200 out of 700 high school players sign contracts, who is scouting these other 500 kids?  There is no need to waste time, effort, money, and other resources on evaluating a 39th round high school kid.  College players are different because they have played on a more competitive level and are usually better prepared for the chance to play professional baseball.  If teams really wanted to sign all the players they are drafting, they would select almost all college seniors in the later rounds, as those are the players with no negotiating power by having other playing options.

The MLB draft has become bigger than ever, with televised early rounds and top picks flown in to shake the commissioner’s hand, but the league should reduce the number of rounds to give the draft more credibility overall.  When players are selected who do not play baseball and teams are using picks to select players out of goodwill, that is a sign that there probably aren’t players left those teams really want or need.  For every 1 Mike Piazza, there are tens of thousands of other players who don’t make or never even sign.

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