2020 MLB Draft leaves league’s future in jeopardy

Upcoming draft to occur in June or later and will only include five rounds

With the MLB Draft structure being altered due to COVID-19, the future of minor league baseball has been put in doubt. Players like former 13th rounder Albert Pujols may never get their opportunity to play professional baseball.

Baseball has the most advanced developmental system in all of sports — one major league club with a slew of minor league affiliates designed to gradually produce and build talent. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, the MLB has resorted to making changes to the upcoming MLB Draft. 

This is mostly being done in order to mitigate large financial losses faced by teams because there is no consistent form of revenue as a result of the suspension of the 2020 season. 

Changes with the scouting, selection process and the draft itself could have a major impact on the future of the league. 

This could also be said in conjunction with alterations the NCAA has already made by allowing college baseball programs to expand rosters and allow players to retain a year of eligibility. 

The highly sought after players coming out of college and high school won’t be affected all that much by the changes — it’s the middle-to -late round players who will be impacted most. 

That’s because the league is slashing the numbers of rounds in the draft by nearly 88%. 

In the 2020 draft, which is currently slated for June but may shift to a later date, there will only be five rounds. A typical draft has 40 rounds. 

And there won’t be a full draft in 2021 either as the league plans to limit the selection to only 20 rounds. 

In the past, there have been a laundry list of well-known players who could best be described as late bloomers. 

They were good enough to make it to the pros in the first place, but by were no means high on many draft boards. Through the years of development, they emerged as top-notch talent. 

Some of these names include lights-out players such as Nolan Ryan (Round 12), Albert Pujols (Round 13), Ryne Sandberg (Round 20), John Smoltz (Round 22) and Roy Oswalt (Round 23).

One top sports agent, Scott Boras, talked about how detrimental this could all be in a press conference with reporters last month: “When you talk about the 350th or 450th best player in the draft, you’re talking about a darn good baseball player. This guy may not be a big leaguer, but he’s a very skilled minor leaguer who can play well and allow a premium major leaguer to develop earlier and to develop competently because they’re playing against a higher level of talent.”

In this year’s draft, scouts and organizations as a whole will only be able to rely on past film, video and other showcase materials because the college baseball season was only a few weeks in before it was cancelled. 

One scout anonymously told the New York Times, “My first thought is that a lot of kids are going to really lose out, and it’s sad for them. They work their whole lives for the chance to get drafted, and finally when it’s their turn, all this happens.”

There have also been ongoing talks surrounding how the structure of the minor league system will work. 

Talks began as early as October 2019 about the MLB proposing the idea to whittle down the number of minor league teams by about a quarter as early as next season. 

The one upside to these changes is that college baseball has the potential to be uber-competitive with players who may have foregone their junior or senior seasons, opting to stay at their respective schools instead because the draft is truncated to fewer rounds. 

There will also be financial ramifications for the players — a player that could have received hundreds of thousands upon signing may now only receive just a small portion of that as a result of the budget concerns. 

In any case, major sport leagues across the country have frantically been attempting to curate solutions to keep their leagues afloat.