The pre-2020 draft: 40 rounds, early June.
The post-2020 draft: 20 rounds, mid-July.
Major League Baseball has overhauled standard practice in the lower levels of the minors. There will be ripples in baseball fabric under such provisions, and 2021 gives us our first taste of a new era. Rookie ball as we know it has been virtually eliminated. 20 rounds of would-be draftees will now be overlooked. The draft will take place in July instead of the traditional June.
Here are some key effects that will ensue as a result:
Amateur ripple: College baseball
Being drafted is a long-awaited moment for many. That moment is even more long-awaited now, and player preparation has taken a new angle.
Every year, most NCAA teams end their season at or near the end of May. 64 out of 299 Division I baseball programs will advance to a postseason regional, leaving 235 schools out of action by June. After the first round of regionals (often the first week of June), only 16 teams remain. For many prospects, the June draft brought a relatively quick transition from final collegiate game to first professional outing. (On rare occasion, a player would be selected while in uniform for their college team.)
Major League Baseball now avoids that quick transition entirely—and many players are waiting on pins and needles unlike before. Soon-to-be draftees are off sharpening their skills without the organizational guidance of a minor league system.
The once-rookie-level Appalachian League and the rookie-level-rebrand MLB Draft League have joined the ranks of existing organizations like the Northwoods League, Cape Cod League and Coastal Plain League. Our freshest take on several prospects may not be in their academic uniforms, but rather in their summer ball threads.
In wake of a canceled 2020 season, the NCAA enacted a baseball-wide redshirt year that gave an extra year of college eligibility to everybody on a roster. This was great for older college players that were short-changed in 2020, but not so great for those same players that have seen a window of youthful ‘projection’ passing them by as a result. They may have already been overlooked with a five-round draft last year. (Some have the ability to enter independent ball, however—see below.)
There can also be a warped perspective across the board right now: the opportunities in the minors are fewer than before.
Professional ripple: Short-season A ball is gone
MLB was forced to cancel the minor league season in 2020 due to the pandemic, which expedited some pre-COVID motives toward cutting short-season A ball entirely. The provision was enacted prior to the 2021 season, and an entire roster of players has been cut from each minor league system.
Some affiliates that were previously ‘rookie-level’ were promoted up the minor league ladder (i.e. the Everett Aquasox; rookie ball to High-A), while some affiliates lost their status altogether (i.e. the Grand Junction Rockies; rookie to now-independent Pioneer League).
There are opportunities in independent leagues for would-be rookie-ballers, such as the Atlantic League, Frontier League, American Association or the newly-rebranded Pioneer League. The indy ball circuit can be difficult on those without financial backing, however, as the pay can be even more distant than the already-dismal paychecks of some affiliated minor leaguers.
This doesn’t have a huge impact on the actual draft, per se, but it could lead some would-be selections in rounds 21-40 to cling onto a ray of hope in a potentially desolate landscape.
How far does a player go at the (potential) expense of their long-term future?
Professional ripple: MLB owners
Lest we forget: the new model is quite favorable for MLB ownership. Organizations are no longer forced to develop and take care ($) of players that would fill short-season rosters. College summer ball leagues cannot pay their players or else they would lose any remaining college eligibility. By pushing some would-be rookie-ballers into indy ball, MLB teams can watch them without taking them under their financial wing.
This new landscape can be a harsh reality when viewed financially, but it could be easier to promote minor league pay raises with fewer players in each organization. (Let’s hope the new reform is less out of greed, and more in fairness.)
Hosting ripple: Denver, Colorado
The delayed draft has been placed in conjunction with MLB All-Star Week. The league is bringing the event to Denver this year!
The Bellco Theater will host the draft, starting on Sunday, July 11th at 5 p.m. MDT. This year marks the first time an All-Star host will also welcome the draft to their city, which allows Denver to set the tone for a format that could catch on for years to come.
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Add the Giants to the latest in City Connect apparel; their design features the Golden Gate Bridge and some ominous ‘fog’ action going on. The Dodgers are expected to reveal their design by the end of August, leaving only the Rockies and Padres without a City Connect jersey kit in the NL West—for now. “By the end of the 2023 season every team is expected to have its own iteration.”
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Jacob deGrom is scheduled to pitch for the Mets just two days before the All-Star Game, or else he would be the clear-cut favorite to start the game for the National League. This opens the door for an arm like Kevin Gausman; the Colorado native has the second-best ERA among qualified NL starters, trailing only deGrom. (Germán Márquez ranks 20th.)
On the farm
- League-wide off day for Low-A, High-A, Double-A
- Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 3, El Paso Chihuahuas 3*
*Game suspended in the fifth inning (rain)
We had a limited taste of Rockies action across the board on Monday: three out of four affiliates did not play, and the big league club also had the day off.
The forecast in Albuquerque took center stage in the only affiliate matchup on the Colorado slate; with two outs in the top of the fifth, the Isotopes’ matchup was suspended due to rain.
Albuquerque recorded six hits in their four innings at the plate; two of them came from Ryan Vilade. Rio Ruíz roped a double out of the leadoff spot and scored twice. El Paso scored all three of their runs in the top of the fifth courtesy of two doubles, a walk and an everybody-safe fielder’s choice.
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