Draft : : Story
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Draft '11: Basic Mechanics

Allan Simpson        
Photo: Ryan Young
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 remote location.
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 first.
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 draft-and-follow process.
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 again.
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 from originally.
Eligibility Requirements
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 junior college.
·         College players, 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.
·         MLB Network
·         Major League Baseball, on www.mlb.com
·         Perfect Game (www.perfectgame.com)
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