Draft : : Story
Draft '11: Basic Mechanics
Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday-Wednesday, June 6-7-8
Major League Baseball adopted its first-year player draft in 1965, making
baseball the last of the four major professional team sports in North America to
adopt a draft as the primary means of equitably distributing the bulk of amateur
talent entering the game.
The draft has always been held in June—the same month as the NHL and NBA drafts.
Historically, it was conducted on the first Tuesday of the month, but it has
been held on a more random basis in recent years. Like last year, it will begin
on a Monday and run three days.
It will be conducted by conference call among the 30 major-league clubs. The
clubs take turns selecting players in reverse order of their 2010 won-loss
records, regardless of league, with adjustments in the first three rounds (as
noted on the accompanying draft order of rotation) stemming from clubs being
granted compensation in the form of draft picks for the loss of select
major-league free agents following the previous season or their inability to
sign premium picks in the 2010 draft.
The draft consists of 50 rounds—as opposed to two rounds in the NBA draft, and
seven in both the NFL and NHL drafts. Each club is entitled to select for 50
rounds, but is not required to do so. Last year marked only the second time in
draft history (and second year in a row) that all big-league clubs drafted the
maximum allotted players.
The Pittsburgh Pirates own the No. 1 selection this year. They unceremoniously
took the honor away from the Washington Nationals, who drafted first in both
2009 and 2010 and had the good fortune both those years to select two of the
most-publicized amateur prospects in draft history. The Nationals chose San
Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and College of Southern Nevada
catcher Bryce Harper in 2010.
With a record 18 straight losing seasons, the Pirates have been afforded a lot
of premium picks every year for almost two decades, and the 2011 draft will mark
the fourth time in club history that they have had the dubious distinction of
going first. The Pirates also had the top pick in 1986 (Arkansas third baseman
Jeff King), in 1996 (Clemson righthander Kris Benson) and in 2002 (Ball State
righthander Bryan Bullington).
For years, the draft originated from the commissioner's office in New York, but
for the fifth year in a row the early portion of the draft will be held at a
In 2007 and 2008, the first five rounds originated from Disney’s Wide World of
Sports complex in Orlando, Fla., with the first round televised by ESPN and its
family of networks. Last year, the draft originated from MLB’s in-house network
studios in Secaucus, N.J., and was spread over three days—not two as was
customary for years.
The first round and supplemental first round (60 picks in all, 10 more than last
year) are scheduled for June 6 in prime time, and will be televised by the MLB
Network. Though clubs will coordinate the draft process from their home offices,
numerous team representatives and projected first-round picks are scheduled to
be in attendance in Secaucus.
Day Two and Three of the proceedings will be conducted in traditional fashion,
originating from the commissioner’s office. The draft will resume with Round 2
on June 7, and continue through approximately 30 rounds. The balance of the
draft will be conducted on June 8.
Each team will be allowed up to five minutes to select a player in Round 1, with
one minute permitted in the compensation round. Teams will continue to draft
players until they pass or reach the 50th round, whichever comes
The club that drafts a player will generally contact the player immediately
after the selection. No team may draft a player unless it has registered the
player's name with the commissioner's office, or his name has been submitted by
the Major League Scouting Bureau.
The team that selects a player has the sole negotiating rights to the player and
must submit a written minor-league contract within 15 days of selection. Failure
to do so, however, no longer empowers players to become free agents—as was the
case in 1996, when four first-rounders took advantage of a loophole in the draft
rules to push for and become free agents. All four players subsequently signed
lucrative deals with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil
Rays—the most noteworthy being Pennsylvania high-school righthander Matt White,
who received a record $10.2 million bonus from the Rays. White never played in
the big leagues.
Some significant rules changes were enacted with the 2007 draft. They were
adopted as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League
Baseball and the Players Association in October 2006. With a new CBA up for
negotiation following the 2011 season, there could be even more radical changes
in store for the 2012 draft.
The last negotiation saw numerous changes enacted that had a significant impact
on the draft process.
Prior to 2007, a club's negotiating rights to a player attending a four-year
college were lost as soon as the player physically entered his first class at
the beginning of the fall semester. For a player attending junior college, the
selecting club retained the negotiating rights to the player until one week
before the following year’s draft. This was commonly referred to as the
But the new rules established a firm universal signing deadline of Aug. 15—for
all players (excluding college seniors whose eligibility has been exhausted). If
a team does not sign a player by that date, it is forbidden from signing that
player—regardless if he attends a four-year school or two-year school, or simply
chooses not to attend or return to college. Effectively, the draft-and-follow
rule, which had been in place for 20 years, was abolished with the 2007 draft.
A player who is drafted and does not sign with the club that selected him may be
drafted again in a future draft—as soon as he meets the eligibility requirements
Correspondingly, any player who is eligible to be selected but is passed over
altogether automatically becomes a free agent, free to sign with any club.
Additional provisions of the 2006 CBA agreement awarded clubs supplementary
picks for the loss of ranked free agents or their failure to sign picks selected
in the second and third rounds of the previous year’s draft.
Teams that lost a Type ‘B’ free agent during the previous off-season are now
awarded a supplemental first-round pick, but only after compensation is awarded
to teams losing Type ‘A’ free agents. There are nine Type ‘A’ free agents in
this year’s draft and 18 Type ‘B’ free agents.
Prior to the start of the second round, there will also be three compensation
selections awarded to clubs that did not sign first-round draft picks in 2010.
The Diamondbacks will pick seventh for failing to sign former Texas A&M
righthander Barrett Loux, the sixth overall pick in 2010; the San Diego Padres
gain the 10th pick overall for failing to sign Florida prep
righthander Karsten Whitson, the ninth overall pick; and the Milwaukee Brewers
are awarded the 15th overall selection for failing to sign California
high-school righthander Dylan Covey.
With the three additional first-round picks, plus 27 more that will be awarded
immediately after the first round to clubs for losing ranked free agents, the
second round won’t effectively start until the 61st pick—the latest
starting point ever for the second round to begin.
For several years, a team was entitled to a compensation selection after the
first round for its failure to sign a first-round pick from the previous year’s
draft. For the first time in 2008, teams received compensation for both unsigned
first- and second-round picks that corresponded to the equivalent draft position
(plus one) in the previous year’s draft.
Teams which fail to sign third-round picks from the previous year are also
entitled to a compensation selection, at the end of the third round. There is
one such selection this year.
Major league Rule IV rules govern which players are eligible for selection in
the draft. The basic eligibility criteria can be described as follows:
Generally, a player is eligible for selection if he is a resident of the United
States or Canada, and the player has never before signed a major-league or
minor-league contract. Players who have played professionally in an independent
league are subject to selection. Residents of Puerto Rico and other territories
of the United States are also eligible for the draft, as are players who enroll
in a high school or college in the United States, regardless of where they are
Certain groups of players are ineligible for selection, generally because they
are still in school. The basic categories of players eligible to be drafted are:
High School players,
if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or
from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years
or are at least 21 years old. In the case of a college sophomore, he must have
attained his 21st birthday within 45 days of the draft. College
players who have dropped out of school also may be eligible, providing they
petitioned in writing to the commissioner's office no later than March 24—75
days before the draft.
Junior College players,
regardless of how many years of school they have completed.
Players who have reached the age of 21 within 45 days of the draft date (this
year that qualifying date is July 23).
A player who is drafted and does not sign with the club that selected him may be
drafted again in a future draft, so long as the player is eligible for that
year's draft. A club may not select a player again in a subsequent year, unless
the player has consented to the re-selection.
Until 2007, a fifth-year college senior was eligible to sign a contract as soon
as he finished his last class in college—provided the player had completed eight
semesters in college prior to the start of his senior and the player’s college
season was completed before the draft. But the fifth-year senior rule was
abandoned, effective with last year’s draft.
One change that went into effect with the 2008 draft was the requirement that
the top 200 prospects for the draft—as identified by the Major League Scouting
Bureau—must take a drug test. Teams are notified which players test positive for
performance-enhancing or illegal drugs, though a positive test does not result
in punishment to the player. However, players in the top 200 who refuse to take
a drug test will be ruled ineligible for the draft.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE DRAFT
Major League Baseball, on
Perfect Game (www.perfectgame.com)
--COMPILED BY ALLAN SIMPSON
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