Tuesday, June 7, 2011

FAQ: The First Year Player Draft

Since there was no Red Sox game last night, I decided to watch the first round of the MLB First Year Player Draft on MLBNetwork until the Bruins played.  My mom, a casual fan, was watching with me, and had a lot of questions about the process.  If she had questions, I'm willing to bet some of YOU have questions as well:

  • How do they decide who picks first?
    • Generally, the teams pick in reverse order of the final standings from the previous year.

  • But they didn''t pick in exact reverse order - what's up with that?
    • Here's where it gets a little more complicated.  When teams sign top-ranked free agents, they have to sacrifice some of their draft picks.  Elias Sports Bureau ranks players by position every year, and the top 20 percent are considered Type A, while the players lower than 20% but in the top 40% are Type B.  Teams signing Type A free agents must surrender their first round draft pick to the team the FA is leaving, and that team will also receive a pick in the supplemental first round.  Teams that lose a Type B free agent only get a supplemental pick.

  • That's a little confusing; can you explain it in terms of the Red Sox?
    • Sure!  This year, the Red Sox had to give up their own first round pick to the Tampa Bay Rays, because they signed Type A free agent Carl Crawford.  However, they received first round picks from the Detroit Tigers for Type A free agent Victor Martinez, and from the Texas Rangers for Type A free agent Adrian Beltre.

  • Who gets drafted?
    • The pool of players for the MLB draft is quite large.  Players must be from the US or Canada, and must be high school graduates.  Any high school graduate who has NOT attended college, players attending a four-year college who have finished their junior or senior years, and any player attending a community or junior college is eligible to be drafted by any team.

  • How many rounds are there?
    • As many as 50.  A club can choose to "pass" it's pick at any point, after which they may make no more selections in that year's draft.

  • Why so many rounds? The NBA only has two!
    • Unlike the other major sports in the US, baseball draft picks are almost never expected to make a major impact at the major league level right away.  There are 4 levels of minor leagues that players can progress through, and each of those levels must be able to field a full team.  Thus, players taken in the later rounds are almost never expected to make it to the majors, but are essentially used to fill the rosters of the minor leagues.  Of course, now and then a pick from the lower rounds will surprise everyone.

  • Do most players take high school players? College players? Junior college players?
    • I'm sure many of you are familiar with the bestselling book Moneyball, which made the argument that college players are nearly always the better investment, since they play against a known level of competition, and so their stats might actually mean something.  However, teams often pick high school phenoms, with the understanding that it will take a large signing bonus to lure them away from the college they might have committed to.
That's all my mom asked me, but I'm happy to answer anything else you guys might want to know.  Leave any further questions in the comments section!

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