In another sign we won’t see a 2020 MiLB season, MLB released details on a five-round amateur draft set for June 10-11, with the signing deadline moved from July 10 to August 1.
All in all, the five rounds of the 2020 MLB Draft will cover 160 total selections.
The draft coverage will take place at MLB Network studios in Secaucus, NJ, as opposed to the original location of Omaha, coinciding with the College World Series. But with the majority of the 2020 NCAA baseball season canceled as well as the College World Series, there obviously was little reason to set up an Omaha location. MLB Network and ESPN will each produce live draft coverage on Wednesday, June 10, marking the first time that multiple networks will provide live primetime coverage of the MLB Draft.
The real story in this announcement isn’t that a perfunctory draft will be held: it’s another clear indication that the 2020 MiLB season will be scrapped, a move we addressed Memorial Day weekend. Back then we admitted the strong possibility that the MiLB season would be scrapped, but didn’t expect word until the status of the 2020 MLB season was finalized. That’s still the expectation.
COVID-19 pandemic mitigation, which not only shut down college baseball but high-school baseball, has made scouting this year’s draft such a challenge. Yes, many teams have shifted resources away from live scouting to video scouting, but for those teams who still rely on both approaches, evaluating talent is more of a crapshoot than before.
And there’s the chance this year could end up being a lost season for this year’s draftees, anyway. The first-rounders will receive their big bonuses while the last player selected–#160 by the Houston Astros–will receive a $324,100 bonus if signed. Everyone else, however, becomes a free agent. And while the assumption that many college players will return to school, that’s not automatic. One scenario for older undrafted players, according to a few agents: head to Japan or Korea or Taiwan and play for a much higher salary than the MiLB salary, develop there, then head back to MLB after a bidding war for their services. We also may see some unsigned free agents head to independent leagues, as well; those leagues still are planning play as of right now.
So in a topsy-turvy world, player development reflects the rest of baseball: uncertainty rules.
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