2020 MLB Amateur Draft Primer: Order, Rule Changes, & Yankee Roster Implications

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Wednesday is the first day of the 2020 MLB Amateur Draft. Not counting the Winter Meetings/free agency, this is the first real baseball event since Game 7 of the World Series last October. Pretty exciting!

I am definitely looking forward to having something to cover again, truthfully. Baseball is a huge part of my life and I miss it a lot, so it will be nice to talk about something other than a labor fight. To that end, Derek is working up a thorough overview of mock drafts and players to whom the Yankees are connected. Keep an eye out for that before Wednesday, as that will get you up to speed.

Before that, though, I wanted to put together a brief overview with some top-line reminders about this draft, the COVID-19 related changes, and its potential long-term ramifications. Let’s get to it.

The Basics

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This will be the most bizarre draft in MLB history. To begin with, obviously, it will be an all-virtual affair – no in-person scouting, no draft rooms, and no physical gathering for the draft. That’s all because of a pandemic that you may or may not have heard about.

The virtual set-up will take place over two days:

  • The first round, as well as the competitive balance round, will be televised beginning at 7 pm on MLB Network on Wednesday. That will total 37 picks.
  • The remaining 123 picks (more on that in a minute) will be be shown on Thursday, beginning at 5 pm. This will also be broadcast on MLB Network.

The Yankees will make a total of 3 picks in 2020. The will make selections in the 1st round (28th selection), 3rd round (99th selection), and 4th round (129th selection). The Yankees lost their 2nd and 5th round draft picks as a penalty for signing Gerrit Cole, which is a thing that they did, as easy as it may be to forget. Like I said, Derek will get you up-to-speed on the relevant players, but this is where they’re slotted right now.

2020 Rule Changes

If you couldn’t tell, there were some pretty drastic changes made to the draft this season. Remember the end of March? It feels like 10 years ago, honestly, but that’s when the MLB and MLBPA agreed to their original framework for a 2020 season. Buried in the agreement was the changes to the Amateur Draft. They’re drastic. Here are all of the relevant changes:

  • It is only five rounds. (For context: it was 40 rounds last year, was 50 not too long ago, and historically went until teams decided they didn’t want to pick any longer.)
  • The deadline for players to sign is August 1, not July 10.
  • Signed players can receive a maximum of $100,000 in 2020, with the remainder of their bonus to be paid out over 2 years.
  • Undrafted players can earn a maximum of $20,000 (previously $125,000) in 2020.
  • A team can sign an unlimited number of such players, but cannot talk to them until 9 am on June 14.

Those are the basics, anyway. It’s a dramatically different situation than it was a year ago. These changes will have long-term impacts. It will weaken the depth of MiLB, threaten the very existence of lower minors teams, and potentially drive top-tier athletes to other sports. It’s especially worrying given the fact that MLB and MiLB are fighting over the structure of the Minor Leagues – many of these changes feels like tools to accomplish those goals – but potentially unavoidable given, well, everything.

It bums me out, but there’s nothing we can do about it. The changes are the changes, and no amount of whining by me will make them any different.

Yankees Selected After Round 5

Finally, and as a bit of a tangent, I felt like doing a bit of quick digging into the Yankees’ current 40-man roster to see how many players were selected in the 5th round or later. It turns out that it applies to a full 20% of the 40-man – and a higher percentage of drafted players generally.

Here is the full list, in alphabetical order:

  • Chad Green: 11th round, 2013 (by the Detroit Tigers)
  • Ben Heller: 22nd round, 2013 (by Cleveland)
  • Kyle Higashioka: 7th round, 2008, (by the New York Yankees)
  • Jonathan Holder: 6th round, 2014 (by the New York Yankees)
  • Mike King: 12th round, 2016 (by the Miami Marlins)
  • Brooks Kriske: 6th round 2016 (by the New York Yankees)
  • Mike Tauchman: 10th round, 2013 (by the Colorado Rockies)
  • Luke Voit: 22nd round, 2013 (by the St. Louis Cardinals)

Interesting mix! Conservatively, half of these players figure to be a major part of the 2020 roster. Green is a pivotal part of the bullpen. Voit is the starting first baseman and a middle-of-the-order bat. Higashioka will be the backup catcher. Tauchman will be a key part of the outfield rotation. Less conservatively, Heller, King, and Holder will be a part of the Scranton Shuffle if nothing else. (Honestly, given the potential for a 50-man roster, they may even be in the Bronx full-time.)

The point is that players selected after round 5 play a big role even on good teams. You could argue that the Yankees have the best roster in MLB and even they have a ton of players from the later rounds. Now, they do also have a #1 overall selection in Gerrit Cole, plus a ton of early round selections, but still. Potentially driving players like these out of the game is bad news for everyone. Let’s just hope that this is a one-year blip on the radar and nothing more.

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1 Comment

  1. Bob

    Signing non-drafted players should be pretty wild this year. Hopefully the Yanks can combine their scouting strengths with their reputation (at least in recent years) for developing minor leaguers to attract some quality talent from that pool.

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