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MLB to Shorten 2020 Draft to 5 Rounds

Limit UDFA bonuses to $20K, as well.

College World Series - Michigan v Vanderbilt - Game Three Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Last night, MLB and the MLBPA agreed on a deal for a shortened 2020 season which has severe implications for current draft eligible players.

According to Baseball America:

As part of the deal, there were also new details about the state of the 2020 draft, with MLB gaining the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds, though that could be “increased at MLB’s discretion” per Rosenthal. MLB has yet to decide on a date for the draft, but Rosenthal writes it will not be later than July.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan adds:

Commissioner Rob Manfred urged teams to pay all employees through at least April, which they agreed to do, but employees across the sport are bracing for layoffs and furloughs come May. Cost-cutting measures are included in the agreement between the league and union.

Manfred has the discretion to shorten the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds, and it will be moved from June to sometime in July, sources said. Manfred also can delay the 2020 international signing period, which was supposed to run from July 2, 2020, through June 15, 2021, to at latest Jan. 1, 2021 through Dec. 15, 2021. MLB also has the right to shorten the 2021 draft to as few as 20 rounds and push back the next international signing period as well — though international free agency might well be gone by then, as the league plans to pursue an international draft at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement, which runs out in December 2021.

The change aligns with the league’s perspective on amateurs and the minor leagues. Owners have suggested a draft with fewer rounds, and in MLB’s negotiations with Minor League Baseball on a new working agreement, it sought a reduction of up to 40 of the 160 affiliates. Owners around minor league baseball are fearful that the economic fallout from canceled games — and perhaps a lost season — could cause numerous franchises to fold, according to sources.

What does this mean for Vanderbilt baseball?

Well... everything about this is terrible for minor league baseball (and for the signing bonuses of the majority of draft eligible players), but with fewer rounds, and even less time for MLB scouts to see high school prospects, there may well be a greater than normal influx of talented players to college baseball rosters.

For top prospects projected to be chosen in the first round, such as Vanderbilt junior CF Austin Martin and class of 2020 commits OF Pete Crow-Armstrong and OF Robert Hassell III, there is likely to be minimal to no change. The top guys will still get multimillion dollar bonuses and will likely sign with the teams who draft them.

Projected top 5 rounders like RHP Mason Hickman, LHP Jake Eder, and RHP Tyler Brown will likely get about what they would have received prior to this horrid pandemic, as well.

Players who have battled injuries, and hence will not be as safe selections, such as LHP Hugh Fisher and OF Cooper Davis, will likely go undrafted, and could return.

As Aarot Fitt reminds us:

Teams are only allowed to give as much as $20K bonuses for all UDFAs this year, and those players will have no assurances on their minor league paychecks and per diems (which were not exactly high to begin with) until the pandemic subsides and the game can begin again.

As such, the bulk of college juniors, draft eligible college sophomores, junior college players, and high school seniors will be left fighting for spots on college rosters, hoping to enter the market in 2021—when, hopefully, things are closer to getting back to normal.

In short, unless the NCAA expands rosters, Tim Corbin is likely to have to have a lot of horrible conversations with players who were formerly confident they would have a roster spot. Further, unless the NCAA relaxes the 11.7 scholarship limit for college baseball, Corbs is likely to have even more terrible conversations with players about the amount of money that will be available to them. No, I cannot even summon a tongue in cheek “Vanderbilt will just have to give 100 scholarships” joke now to anger the necks in Oxford and Starkville.

College baseball is likely to be flush with more talent than usual in 2021, and Vanderbilt may well have an even stronger team because of it—but for the worst possible reasons.

Anchor Down and stay the fuck inside.