In Seattle on Sunday, for the fourth year in a row, Major League Baseball will hold a simplified amateur draft conference for all classes of college hopefuls. From unlimited-round events, to 50-round, then 40-round events, and now just 20-round events, the draft is exclusive and efficient, in line with baseball’s restructured minor league system.
But efficiency comes at a price. It’s a myriad of long-term careers that may never materialize. Dozens of active major leaguers turned pro after being drafted in rounds that no longer exist. They appreciate the timing.
“The 20th round just doesn’t seem like enough,” said Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who was drafted in the 31st round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010. Then you would never have had a chance. “
The 33-year-old Keymeyer is perhaps the best modern example of the talent that was once bubbling well below the surface of the draft. The 941st overall pick from a community college in Illinois, he won three Gold Gloves, appeared in the World Series and earned more than $60 million in his 11-year career.
Four players who made the All-Star team last summer, David Bednar, Nestor Cortez, Ty France and Joe Mantiprai, were also selected after the 20th round. So did the two members of last fall’s Houston Astros’ World Series-winning lineup (Chas McCormick and Martin Maldonado), as well as longtime major leaguers Jesse Chavez, Seth Lugo, Kevin Piller and Rowdy Telles. .
Two Hall of Famers (Mike Piazza and John Smoltz) were drafted in the extinction round, along with a few others from Cooperstown, including Mark Bührle, Keith Hernandez, Andy Pettit and Jorge Posada. Many of the bottom-drafted players could have stayed amateurs and tried to move up the draft next year, but of course their careers would have played out differently.
“Reducing the numbers would give players who would have otherwise been drafted a chance to play in games,” said Omar Minaya, a former general manager and longtime scout who is now a Yankees advisor. will have to be made,” he said. “It’s good that MLB is working on building this kind of infrastructure because it can slow down player development.”
From the 2021 season, teams will be limited to 180 players under club management (previously there was no limit), with four domestic farm teams, plus one “composite team” operating out of a spring training base. Limited to ~2 teams. The class A team with a short season was eliminated due to calendar reasons. In 2021, the league changed the date of the draft from June to July to increase visibility for the All-Star Game.
Some of the cut teams are now part of MLB’s pre-draft leagues, created to give scouts one last look at prospective players before picking them. Other teams participate in so-called partner leagues, such as the American Association, Atlantic League, Frontier League, and Pioneer League, which are partly funded by MLB but independent of specific franchises. .
While it’s theoretically possible for an undrafted player to join one of these teams to attract MLB interest, getting them out of the draft is a staggering odds for them. Admit it.
“When a player signs a professional contract, you want to give them the chance to one day be a major league player,” said Morgan Sword, executive vice president of baseball operations at MLB. “Players become minor league players because they want to be major league players one day. — is unlikely to reach the major leagues.”
Again, in the words of Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber, there’s a big difference between having little chance and having no chance. A draft pick, any round, proves that major league teams see something in a player, and in many cases, that’s all they want.
“I was really happy to know that they chose me for a reason, and I was able to show it and play my game,” said the Detroit Tigers draftee of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Leading hitter Zach McKinstry said. “I had an opportunity the moment I signed. I spent three days in Arizona and then they sent me to Row A to play on a championship team that year.”
McKinstry, who played for Central Michigan University, was a reserve player until an injury to a teammate gave him the opportunity to move to the Dodgers. He was keenly aware that most minor leaguers, especially when the draft lasted more than 40 rounds, were only needed to ensure a place where the better prospects could play.
“There’s a lot of injustice in the game, real or imagined,” said San Diego Padres announcer Bob Scanlan, who pitched nine seasons in the majors. There will be ideas,” he said. After signing as a 25th-round pick in 1984, “There was a lot of talk like, ‘You know you don’t mean anything to this organization.’ You’re just here as a bridge.” Why are you cutting off your tail?
Scanlan was 17 when he signed with Philadelphia and turned down admission to UCLA, attracted by the quality coaching available in professional baseball. But in recent decades, university programs have become more sophisticated, with advanced facilities and instruction offering an attractive alternative to the dusty outposts that once occupied the minors. .
“Development times are getting shorter and shorter due to caps on player count, so players who pick late will probably end up in college,” said Milwaukee Brewers general manager Matt Arnold. let’s,” he said. “Getting signed up and going to something like Helena would be less attractive than the really great ACC and SEC schools. And even those mediocre programs have a lot to sell.”
Sword said the costs of improving the minor leagues overall (ballparks, travel, nutrition, salaries, etc.) far outweigh the savings from removing so many draft picks. “Probably nine figures a year across the league,” he said. Sword added that more than 200 players have moved from partner leagues to partner minors in 2021.
“There’s always a path for that type of player to go to the big leagues,” he said. “It’s just that the road is different from the old days.”
Still, it’s no surprise that draft pick numbers have halved from just four years ago, and hundreds more players in each class are giving up their baseball dreams in favor of more realistic careers. Arnold, who grew up in Bakersfield, Calif. and has been rooting for the Class A team since leaving, questions the impact of losing so many followers to the sport.
“A lot of those players, even if they came out of nowhere and were ranked 35th, went home and started the academy and are now heroes,” Arnold said. “You’re the guy who played pro ball and took it home. And maybe he wasn’t great, but he took the game on as a steward, so I think we’re going to miss it.” .”
Perhaps successful people need to preach a little more loudly. Mr. Keymeier happily accepts the role.
“Looking back at how everything has evolved for me, I am so grateful for my journey,” he said. “I will never forget that I was the 31st round. I’m proud of that. This number means a lot to me.”