While we’re waiting for further news on when baseball will resume, one of the logistical issues that Major League Baseball faces is its First Year Player Draft. The Novel Coronavirus outbreak has caused baseball to stop at every level: high school, college, minors, and majors. With that freeze in place, that will impact not only the MLB regular season, but also the minors and all avenues for acquiring players, including the draft.
One idea that’s been discussed has cancelling the 2020 draft outright and then having a combined 2020-21 class. I don’t think either option is realistically on the table, as it creates more problems than it solves. The three main parties negatively affected by that solution are the draft-eligible players who now have to wait a year longer to get paid, amateur scouting departments that have to cover twice the number of players in the 2021 draft, and college programs throughout the country who suddenly have a scholarship crunch due to the extra number of freshmen and seniors than anticipated. I believe both MLB and the Players’ Association will try to avoid that issue, especially the latter, as it affects both parties at the table. I believe the best possible solution for preventing such an issue with the draft is to hold the draft on its scheduled date and deal with the consequences of that decision.
The draft was originally scheduled for June 10th-12th although when it will be held is still in doubt while baseball is still suspended. The current recommendation from the Center for Disease Control is that people avoid large gatherings of more than 50 people for seven more weeks. The draft’s original date is after that recommendation, although it can still be held remotely if necessary with the technology available today. With that in mind, I believe we have a potential solution for holding the draft in June. MLB can host a conference call with the 30 MLB clubs, who can announce their selections to the Commissioner’s office. Even if the draft has be conducted remotely in some way, shape, or form, I believe it’s the best decision MLB can make to prevent an avalanche of problems across baseball.
The only issue I see with holding the draft on schedule is simply that baseball may not be ready to resume at full capacity by June 10th. Due to the current freeze on the game MLB has ordered teams to halt all scouting, both domestically and internationally. As I mentioned in the article at the time, the lack of scouting will impact the draft as teams will be operating with somewhat incomplete scouting reports that don’t show how the players progressed in their draft year. Considering teams have been scouting those players since they were at least 16 years old, it’s not too much of an issue although they’ll be relying more on projections based on data from the year before.
I’m not sure how MLB will handle the logistics for a potential on-site event at their headquarters. In recent years, the draft itself has become its own TV event that has former players announcing picks and players from the draft class attending in person. Fortunately that’s the least important part of the draft, as what matters more is who is going where. When the 2020 Draft rolls along, I expect the event to operate somewhat similar to past years. Whether or not MLB hosts their yearly draft in June is anyone’s guess, although I believe having a 2020 Draft as close to the scheduled time has the fewest risks and the least consequential for everyone involved in the draft process.