An overview of the compromised 2020 MLB Draft

As we head into the weeds of the 2020 MLB Draft prospect preview season, it’s worth taking a step back to better understand how the draft is actually going to proceed, now that most of the details have been firmed up this week. It’s going to be unlike any draft we’ve ever experienced, and not for the better.

When: June 10-11

The first day of the draft will start at 6 p.m. CT, and it’ll be limited to the first 37 picks, which covers the first round and the first competitive balance round. The second day will cover the other four rounds, starting at 4 p.m. CT. Both rounds will be broadcast on MLB Network.

Where: Remotely

Baseball already has plenty of experience conducting the draft over conference calls — that’s how the third day proceeded, even in the era of MLB Network — so applying that to the two days of the 2020 draft shouldn’t be that big of a departure.

The workflow for individual teams could be quite different, however, because draft rooms are not allowed unless it’s somehow possible for all 30 teams to gather in their respective locations.

How (much): Not a lot

The original slot values will apply to the five rounds, with the 159th and final pick of the draft checking in at $327,200. From that point on, any undrafted players can be signed for a maximum of $20,000.

Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser did the math and said teams stand to save an average of $777,300 from the sixth through 10th rounds, and $2.64 million over the final 35 picks of the draft.

The actual savings will be more than that when factoring in the time value of money, because the agreement between the MLB and the MLBPA allows teams to delay paying out signing bonuses, starting with $100,000 within 30 days of a player signing, half the remainder due on July 1, 2021, and the remaining half a year later.

Over at ESPN, Kiley McDaniel said some teams may intend to withhold even more money from the process:

I’ve heard rumblings that a half-dozen or so clubs are in dire enough financial straits that their executives have discussed just taking the best college player on the board for their picks in Rounds 1-3 (the rounds with compensation for unsigned picks) and, without calling ahead to check on their signability, offer the player something like 70% of slot. In that situation, the club would get either a great bargain or, if the draftee doesn’t sign, a compensation pick of equal value in 2021, plus a savings of $100,000 over the next year, which could end up saving a staff member’s job if no games are played this summer.

It’s an extreme position to take, but some execs are worried that if no MLB games happen in 2020, making even the short-term $100,000 bonus payment could impact jobs.

Major League Baseball already wanted to pare down the draft because it didn’t intend to fill so many minor-league affiliates, so it’s hard to tell what portion of any austerity measures will be directly related to the pandemic versus the direction many clubs already aimed to move.

It would surprise me if the White Sox were one of the teams to cut corners. The Sox added scouts while other teams were reducing their ranks, they’re no strangers to exceeding their bonus pool by an allowable amount, Chris Getz has maintained that he’d rather have more affiliates than fewer, and ownership hasn’t changed hands in nearly 40 years.

I suppose we might be able to discern a little about the capital situation in the near future. While most teams agreed to pay all full-time employees through the month of May, a couple clubs have opted out from that arrangement afterward. The Reds and Marlins have announced staffing reductions starting June 1, and I imagine they’ll have more company in that regard. From there, we’ll have to see if there’s any correlation between the teams furloughing employees and the ones skimping on the draft, or whether these clubs are prioritizing one over the other.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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lil jimmy

Six or so teams ignoring high school players because they can’t be low balled.. six teams is 20% the or so part could take it to maybe 25%. Even if the quality of talent in this draft is 60/40 college vs high school, which is about right. That indicates 64 of the best 160 players are high school players. The way this is playing out, 40- 45 will be drafted.


If any of those lowballed college players don’t sign they’ll just add to what should already be a huge glut of players in next year’s draft. 2021 will be fascinating


The more I think about this “low-balling” concept, the more I wonder about its effect on future drafts. As detailed above, teams don’t really have a ton to lose if a player doesn’t sign. They make almost the same pick the next year. An individual college player has a lot more at risk if they have to go perform and stay healthy for another year, all while losing one year of potential future mlb earnings.

If we see 2020 test cases play out in favor of lowballing teams, we could see a lot of reduced offers in years to come.