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MLB Draft 2020: The new draft rules

The MLB Draft will be one eighth of its normal length this year — here are some things to expect in June.

The 2020 MLB Draft will bring optimism back to the game of baseball—but some notable alterations will take place for the 2020 draft class.

Just as the 2020 NFL Draft took center stage with no competition, MLB will now shine in the spotlight amidst the silence of the sports world. Here is what to expect in 2020 — from the standard protocol, to the changes being made, and how it all applies to Rockies fans.

A Standard MLB Draft: The Basics

Major League Baseball follows a format that resembles the more widely publicized NBA and NFL drafts, with a few exceptions:

Baseball players will often compete in the minors for several years after being drafted, contrary to the prompt ‘big league’ debuts of NFL or NBA picks. When Von Miller was drafted by the Broncos in 2011, he suited up in the NFL that fall; when Nolan Arenado was drafted by the Rockies in 2009, he debuted in MLB four years later.

Some differences of the baseball draft include early compensatory and competitive balance rounds, the inability to trade picks (excluding competitive balance picks), and a fair number of selections being turned down by players opting to attend or return to college (Charlie Blackmon was drafted three times).

Baseball draftees don’t need to ‘declare’ like the NFL or NBA, but NCAA rules prohibit baseball players from being selected in their first two collegiate years (or prior to turning 21). This means there is power in having college eligibility remaining as a junior; that leverage will almost assuredly lead to more money than an identical senior pick. Money can incentivize a junior to go pro, rather than stay in college and complete a degree.

The draft itself lasts 40 rounds in a normal year. The length helps to fill a minor league system that is far more abundant than the ‘minor league’ of the NBA or NFL.

MLB.com elaborates on how compensatory and competitive balance picks work in their ‘2020 Draft Order’. There won’t be any compensation picks after the first round this year, because “none of the eight free agents who declined a qualifying offer this year played for a revenue-sharing recipient” (i.e. Gerrit Cole).

Teams in one of the 10 smallest markets, or 10 smallest revenue pools, are eligible for ‘competitive balance picks’. The selections come after the standard first round and compensation round, or after the standard second round. Colorado will receive a pick in Competitive Balance Round A—the 35th overall selection

A Modified 2020 Draft: The Changes

The 2020 MLB Draft was originally scheduled to take place in Omaha, Nebraska, home of the College World Series. It will likely occur in a telecommunication format instead, akin to the NFL’s virtual draft.

The standard 40 rounds will be shortened to five—just an eighth of the standard draft. After the five rounds have concluded, teams can issue an unlimited number of free agent contracts at $20,000 max.

Notable Rockies that were drafted and signed after the fifth round: Dom Nuñez (6th), Daniel Murphy (13th), James Pazos (13th), Sam Hilliard (15th), Scott Oberg (15th), and Phillip Diehl (27th).

All current NCAA baseball players will maintain 2020 leverage into 2021, due to an eligibility extension the NCAA has issued due to the coronavirus. Play stopped for these college players in mid-March, which only allowed them to complete about a third of their regular seasons. The measure will ensure they can be seen again after only playing a few weeks this spring—no current juniors will lose money next year as a “senior sign’,” as they instead remain a “junior sign.”

One other change for 2020: the Astros have lost their selections in the first and second round, and the Red Sox have lost a second-round pick as punishment for sign stealing.

What to expect while watching the 2020 MLB Draft

For those familiar with amateur prospects and the draft: Everything will run essentially as normal, but the draft this year will end much, much earlier.

For those that haven’t really followed college baseball or the draft: Imagine the NFL or NBA draft, but with additional picks in early supplemental rounds. There will be a variety of schools represented, from high schools to premier college programs.

For Rockies fans: Colorado will pick 9th, 35th, 46th, 81st, 109th, and 139th.