The Major League Baseball Entry Draft gets underway tonight with Day 1, live, on MLB Network. This draft is done substantially differently than the other major sports in America, so it's worth looking into the FAQ's of what is different, what to expect, and who the major players are.
How do teams figure out draft order?
The draft is ordered 1-30 by worst record. That means the Houston Astros have the #1 pick overall in this year's draft, and the St. Louis Cardinals pick last. In the event of a tie in record, MLB will look back one year, giving the team with the worse record two years ago the better pick in the draft.
A team can also have its draft order impacted by free agency. A team is eligible for compensation if it tenders a free agent player at least the equal of the average of the 125 richest contracts in baseball. If a player signs with another team over that, the departing team is eligible for compensation. Teams that trade players in the final year of their contract receive nothing, and teams acquiring those players also receive nothing if the player leaves at the end of the season.
These compensatory picks are tacked onto the back end of a round, the first round of which is the "sandwich round." For example, the Yankees received a compensation pick for Curtis Granderson when he signed with the New York Mets. But they replaced Granderson with Jacoby Ellsbury, meaning they forfeited their compensation for Granderson. The Red Sox, having lost Ellsbury, received a compensatory pick. That means Granderson to the Mets netted the Red Sox a sandwich round pick. Confusing, huh?
With forfeitures and compensatory picks, there will be 27 first round picks and seven compensatory round picks.
How do I know if my guys will be drafted and sign?
Draft eligible players are high school seniors and anyone who had completed their junior collegiate season and/or is over the age of 21. Junior and community college athletes can be drafted regardless of age or year, and draft eligible players are all citizens of Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico. That means you won't see any Dominican or Cuban superstars drafted with the intentions of retaining draft rights.
In a change that was in effect last year, teams have until July 15th to sign their draft picks. Since no BC Eagle was picked, I kind of glossed this over this week. In addition, draft picks can only sign minor league contracts. That means the years of an agent porking a team for a $50 million major league contract are over. This places a premium on player development and takes away the teams' tendencies to rush players along. There's no pressure to rush them through the minors and immediately bring them up to the majors to get money's worth.
That also means players who are drafted are restricted to the same free agency rules as other rookies later in their career.
Each team is allocated a "bonus pool" from which they can use to sign their draft picks. The pool is based on draft position and number of picks. Exceeding that bonus pool can result in luxury tax penalties that can include forfeiture of picks for up to two years. This is designed to keep bonuses down and, again, promote minor league development of players.
So who should I be watching?
Because baseball's draft rolls 40 rounds deep, teams are less inclined to make a huge splash at the top draft pick. That means a player who is the best available player can be picked, but teams are also more inclined to take risks and pick players who have "tremendous upside." For example, NC State's Carlos Rodon has been the consensus #1 overall pick in nearly every mock draft through the early spring. But Brady Aiken, a high school lefty with a 94 mph fastball, is all of a sudden emerging as a candidate for the Astros. Rodon is older, more mature, and physically more developed; he could make the big leagues a lot sooner. But Houston could be enticed by the long-term if they project Aiken at 25 years old to be better than Rodon at 25 years old, even if the Pack Nine starter can make an impact sooner.
Teams use draft philosophy to take guys much more than they do in other sports. The prime example is Oakland - the A's have made a living off of the Moneyball mentality. That means they're going to take guys who aren't rated especially high but are solid for their style of play. There will be some surprises among analysts by the time this day ends.
You'll hear a ton of names that nobody really knows, and draft round only more dictates how much a team will pay in bonus money. Players who are 13th or 14th round draft picks can develop just as well as a second round pick. In other words, just sit back and watch. You probably won't know some of the names dotting MLB rosters in the next few years anyways.
But, Dan, the ACC is one of the best leagues in the nation. What about our guys?
Rodon is going to get picked very high. If Houston doesn't take him, Miami almost certainly will. After all, a hard-throwing pitcher with a Cuban heritage could be a centerpiece for the Marlins until the Yankees pay exorbitant amounts of money for him in free agency when he's in his late-20s.
Outside of that, Trea Turner, another member of NC State's team, is expected to go in the first round.
On a local radar, Tyler Beede, from Auburn, MA, is a prospect for the first round. But Beede played his college ball at Vanderbilt, so you might not even have heard of him - the double whammy of being from Central/Western Mass and playing in the SEC, so the average BC fan definitely hasn't heard of him.
Will BC have anybody drafted?
Tough call. Last year, there wasn't anybody. That's right, folks. 40 rounds, nearly 2,000-something picks or some crazy number, and not a single Eagle was taken. This year almost certainly will be different.
All of the BC draft talk will center on Andrew Chin. The left-handed starter was an NEIBA All Star this year, one of two from the Eagles and the only one who was draft eligible. He is a former fifth round pick who fell because he needed Tommy John surgery, and he's developed into one of the most reliable arms in the ACC. He has a fastball that can touch up into the 80s and threaten for the 90s, and he's a former 3rd team All-American pitcher from BB&N school in Newton.
Perfect Game had him rated as the 338th best prospect entering this draft. That would put him somewhere around the 10th or 11th round in terms of projection. In contrast, BC's had 24 pitchers drafted since 2000 (including reentry candidates), with only eight being picked from the 15th round in. This puts him in elite company for Boston College throwers.
Beyond Chin, the other big name on the block is John Gorman. Gorman was picked in the 50th round out of high school during a time when the MLB Draft went 50 rounds or teams decided to stop picking (this was a thing) and chose to go to BC over Virginia and Vanderbilt. He's one of those guys who should get picked, but we're not sure if he'll get picked high enough to sign. If he gets picked in the 10-20 round range, he's as good as gone. If he gets picked in a round somewhere in the 30s, he could go, and I doubt he gets picked later than that. If he does fall, somebody's getting a steal even if he ends up back in Chestnut Hill.
Tom Bourdon is a name to keep an eye on, but he was picked the 38th round out of high school by the Boston Red Sox. After dealing with a substandard two seasons that included an injury during his junior year, he'll be lucky if his phone rings. Bourdon did not grade out particularly strong defensively to make up for his offensive woes, according to scouts.
A name that's draft eligible that isn't on anyone's radar is Blake Butera. Butera is one of those guys who's a baseball player - a guy who brings intangibles to the table and could be developed in the right scenario. He's been very durable and is slated to go back to the Cape this summer. I wouldn't be shocked is someone picked him up with the intention of having him play a month for Chatham and then evaluating for a contract. He showed flashes last summer and currently ranks seventh in BC baseball history for career walks (90) and times getting beaned (23).
Best of luck to the Eagles in the draft. Even though the years under Mike Gambino haven't been the best, individual performances can and did shine, and we hope to see these guys dotting MLB rosters for years to come!