The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft held its first and second rounds last night, June 5th. The rest of the draft will conclude on the 6th and 7th. MLB has taken the route of the NFL and NBA and made its draft into a prime time televised event to take advantage of the marketing opportunities and fan base.
While it doesn’t make sense to hold the MLB draft in the off-season like other sports because of the collegiate and high school baseball schedule, there could be an adjustment to the timing of the draft.
If the MLB draft was held just a few weeks later after the College World Series is finalized, it would make the CWS that much more competitive for the athletes competing in it. Since the draft is held before the Super Regionals even take place, the need for players to perform well in the last part of their seasons is negligent. In fact, it even deteriorates what some teams have worked all season for as draftees are already looking ahead to their professional careers and contracts they will be signing.
This does not affect all players drafted. High school players have already finished their seasons by the time the draft takes place. Division II, Division III, NAIA, and junior college players have also completed their seasons and post-season runs. However, the majority of players that get airtime and coverage are the Division I players. By shifting their attention to the MLB draft, whether or not they will go pro (for underclassmen), and worrying about how much money they will get, the college players have little reason to continue to put all their time and energy into the rest of the college playoffs.
Teams have short season rosters and teams in place regardless, and because the players drafted are not going to impact a Major League roster until the following season at the earliest anyways, MLB should allow these players to finish out the college season before trying to lure them into the professional ranks.
A recent season by the Florida Gators shows how this could have impacted drafted players in their run at winning the College World Series. In 2012, Florida was 47-20 and reached the CWS being the number one national seed. They swept the Gainesville Regional by defeating Bethune-Cookman and Georgia Tech. Florida then swept NC State in the Super Regional.
Once the Gators were in the College World Series in Omaha, many of their star players had already been chosen in the MLB draft:
|Mike Zunino (C)||Seattle (1st)|
|Brian Johnson (LHP)||Boston (1st)|
|Nolan Fontana (SS)||Houston (2nd)|
|Steven “Paco” Rodriguez (LHP)||L.A. Dodgers (2nd)|
|Austin Maddox (RHP)||Boston (3rd)|
|Preston Tucker (OF)||Houston (7th)|
|Hudson Randall (RHP)||Detroit (7th)|
|Daniel Pigott (OF)||Cincinnati (9th)|
|Greg Larson (RHP)||Boston (20th)|
Nine players in total were drafted from the 2012 Florida baseball team that was about to play in Omaha for the College World Series. Zunino was the third overall pick and there were five players taken in the first three rounds. You can imagine how the excitement and locker room chatter shifted from the CWS opening opponent to how big of a signing bonus each player would receive.
The Gators went on to lose their first two games in the CWS and were one of the first teams eliminated. I’m not saying that the players were less focused and less determined to win, but it is hard to believe that they certainly were not distracted in Omaha with so many of them about to embark on their professional careers.
Had the MLB draft been held after the College World Series, the Florida players and other draftees from the rest of the teams, might have felt they had more to prove and played better in Omaha. Maybe they wouldn’t have. It leaves much to question though about why Major League Baseball can’t wait just a few more weeks for the draft to take place.
MLB draft at the end of June?
The All-Star game is in July, and there is so much going on around that time that it would be hard to have enough focus and manpower to concentrate on both the draft and the festivities surrounding the All-Star game. However, it would benefit the college players that are still in their seasons to postpone the MLB draft. Moving it to the end of June would allow the CWS to conclude and for all eligible players to be finished with their seasons before worrying about their professional future in baseball.
Imagine if the NFL held its draft the week before the bowl games, or if the NBA held its draft the weekend before March Madness began. It would be detrimental to the players who were drafted and for their teams since there would be less motivation to win and impress scouts since they already knew who was drafted and who was not.
There is leverage to change the MLB draft, and it needs to be utilized. It may be great to talk about the players in the College World Series who were drafted and how they project going forward, but the focus should be on the college teams up until the season is over. It is not fair to the players being drafted, their teammates who are still competing for the college championship who were not drafted, the coaches who have put in the time to prepare their teams all year long, and the fans who want to see athletes performing at their peak.
Like I said before, not all players are affected by the timing of the draft. Most potential draftees are sitting around for weeks waiting to hear if their name is called. They can wait a few more weeks and so can Major League Baseball. Players play the game to reach the professional ranks, but leaving something on the table in the Super Regionals and College World Series should not happen.