The Major League Baseball Entry Draft kicks off today in Secaucus, New Jersey, beginning the process ofturning hundreds upon hundreds of baseball prospects into future big leaguers and legends. For many, it's the culmination ofa journey that began playing ball out back in a back yard, street, driveway, or field. For others, it's merely the next stage or the beginning of a long road to immortality.
The MLB Draft is unlike any of the other three major North American sports in both numbers and eligibility. More people will be picked this weekend than in the NFL, NBA, and NHL combined. Last year, 1,215 players were picked over 42 rounds. Not all of those players elected to sign contracts (though only one first round pick didn't sign), and signing a contract doesn't guarantee a spot for a player to advance any higher than the low minor leagues.
You may remember what I wrote above there from previous years. In fact, it's pretty much the exact same thing I wrote last year. That's because the MLB Draft is still the most unknown and least publicized draft of the four major leagues, and with good reason - it's nothing more than an assembly line of names to many different people.
As I did last year, let's begin with eligibility.
In order to be eligible for the MLB Draft, a player must be a resident of either the United States, Canada, or a US-controlled territory such as Puerto Rico. Anyone from foreign countries are not eligible but are considered free agents. They can sign at any time.
The lone exception to this is if a foreign player competes for an NCAA team. Players from four-year colleges are eligible for the draft after completing their junior year or their 21st birthday. Junior college athletes can be drafted at any time.
The draft order is determined by the reverse order of last year's previous standings, with supplemental picks and compensatory picks thrown in for good measure. There are 23 official first round picks in this year's draft, with 11 additional compensatory picks and seven picks listed in a Competitive Balance round.
A franchise receives compensatory or supplemental picks based on free agency. If a team offered a contract to a player at least the equal of the average of the 125 richest contracts in baseball, they are eligible for a compensatory pick if the player signs elsewhere, unless a team traded a player in the last year of his contract or the receiving team let the player walk at the end of a contract year.
When a player is selected, he is automatically under the control of the franchise until a determined date in the summer (usually middle of July). If a player chooses to not sign by the middle of July, the franchise forfeits his rights.
Each team is allocated a bonus pool from which they can use to sign draft picks. That pool is based on draft position and the team's number of picks. Exceeding the bonus pool for signees can result in luxury tax penalties, including forfeiting draft picks. This is designed to keep bonuses down and promote minor league development since richer contracts usually mean minor leaguers are rushed faster to the pros in order to start "earning their checks." In fact, MLB franchises can no longer offer major league contracts to draft picks unless that player has a scholarship in a sport other than baseball.
If a player chooses not to sign, he can become a free agent, but this rarely happens because signing bonuses have benchmarks based on draft position. If he is a free agent, that benchmark goes away. Once a player sets foot on a college campus again, however, he can no longer be signed until he is redrafted, if he is redrafted.
Teams that don't sign the player can't reselect him unless the player consents to re-selection. Players who don't return to college can be signed up until any time before the draft. The last week before the draft is considered the "closed period" where clubs can't sign new players.
There's a whole lot going on there, and with the MLB Draft, it can be confusing because it's incredibly nuanced. For your sake, we'll look more individually at the different names Boston College could see go today or tomorrow as the day goes on to make things as easy as possible!