Major League Baseball’s annual draft is scheduled for June 10-12. It might take place then, or slide back into July. Based on an agreement between MLB and the Players Association, the draft could go from 40 rounds to as few as five or possibly 10.
Bonuses will be deferred and won’t be completely paid out until 2022.
Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is preparing for the draft during a time when he can’t prepare for much else.
“We’ve launched a big set of meetings with our scouting department,” Elias said on Monday during a Zoom conference call. “We feel like we’re in good shape there.”
Elias said that his front office has been using the downtime well and is getting its infrastructure up to speed.
“The NFL is preparing for the draft right now, and I’ve talked to some front offices in the NFL, and they’re having to do it over Zoom and over conference calls on a much tighter time frame,” Elias said.
“They have the added element of being able to trade picks during the draft, so they have to make a lot of quick decisions. It’s very different for them. We can kind of pull it off nowadays. There’s really good technology platforms. We can share screens. We can look at video together. We can talk. It hasn’t been too bad.
“We’re as well set up for this as any scouting department because we’ve got a staff that prioritizes putting work in over the summer.”
Elias said it’s helpful to have analysts in the front office.
“We’re having to rely on that a little bit more than we’d like to because we’re not seeing live games,” he said. “It’s not like we’re in foreign waters in terms of evaluating players.”
The Orioles have the second overall pick for the first time in team history, and have four picks in the top 75. There are challenges to choosing players in this draft.
“It’s going to be tough for colder-weather players to be noticed this spring if they didn’t make an impression [in] the summer or fall,” Elias said. “With a shorter draft, there might be fewer high school players that sign. When you look at the statistics of the draft, it’s almost like 90 percent of the high school players that sign end up going in the top five rounds.”
Teams will be limited to $20,000 bonuses for signing undrafted players. That will encourage high school players to move on to college and for college juniors to re-enter the draft as seniors. The NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility to spring sport athletes.
‘We’re not thrilled about that,” Elias said of the shortened draft. “Because we’re trying to fill our minor leagues. We feel like we do a pretty good job late in the draft, historically.”
Elias said that his staff is preparing as if it were a full 40-round draft.
“We want to know every player that’s out there,” he said. “If that information is not used in 2020, it’ll still be used in 2021.”
Minor league adjustments: There’s uncertainty about the major league season and the minor league season, which was scheduled to start on April 9.
“If the minor league players miss a substantial or total portion of the season this year, every organization will be impacted equally,” Elias said. “With the way that pitching is handled nowadays, it will present some challenges for when baseball does come back. You’ve got to worry about guys going from a very small number of innings to a normal level of innings.
“Once we know how much baseball we’re going to play, we’ll start figuring it out at that point.”
What if there’s no season?: Elias is preparing for a season, but knows that may be out of MLB’s control.
“It’s a lot bigger than sports,” Elias said. “If that happens, and that’s ultimately the outcome, there are going to be other things to worry about, but we’re trying to stay prepared and keep our players prepared.
“If we end up not playing at all, which none of us want or expect, there’s not much we can do to prepare for that.”
Call for questions: I’ll be answering questions later this week. You can leave them in the comments or e-mail them to: [email protected]