The Blue Jays hold the 21st pick in the 2016 MLB Draft
Drafting is one of the most important parts of an organization’s success. At the end of the day, you just can’t afford to mess it up. The MLB Draft is very different from other sports, and I will explain key differences.
Time for a little bit of history on one of the most unique aspects of the game. In 1922, in a landmark case, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., ruled that professional baseball was exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act.
This essentially allowed Major League Baseball to monopolize the industry.
If you have ever wondered how baseball managed to have seven levels of affiliated baseball while other sports have significantly fewer, this is your answer.
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The reason I bring up this interesting piece of history is to bring the concept of “control” forward. In other sports, such as the NBA, you can max out at four years of team control. In baseball, players need to accumulate six years of MLB service time (days spent on the 25 man roster), and that is typically after a 3-to-4 year stint living off of your signing bonus in the minor leagues. This makes successful draft picks extremely worthwhile, especially due to the rookie salary in the MLB being the same as a the minimum salary. Once you make it to your sophomore season, don’t get too excited as you will likely be making a similar salary as the MLB club can renew your contract on their terms.
To sum it all up – pick a couple of studs in the draft and it can grossly improve the franchise.
Best player available
In another sport you might draft based on current team needs. This is pretty rare in baseball, due to the proximity to playing for the big club. It is extremely rare that a draft pick moves straight the the MLB, so it’s pretty hard drafting for needs when the player won’t be up for at the minimum a few years. Also with the burnout rate, if you draft a third baseman in the first round, he isn’t a lock to be productive at the MLB level. This further complicates the picking for “team needs” strategy.
If you ever are wondering why they didn’t take the best player available, it is usually due to signability. Some guys swear up and down they will never sign with a specific team (or in some cases at all). Why would you draft someone who said they wouldn’t sign? Although picks in the upper rounds are protected, not signing a player is a pretty big blow. A pick in next year’s draft might not be as valuable due to a stronger draft class or the risk of not signing the player on the second try (you can’t continually fail to sign players). This means your second attempt to sign a player with the pick had better be successful. This also means a smaller basket of players are available (College players typically sign easier).
Don’t forget about the later rounds. Although the quality might be perceived as being lower, there are a lot of diamonds in the rough. Between having multiple picks to take chances with, maximum signing bonuses of 100K and increased leverage in negotiations, there is a lot of upside in the later rounds.
If you don’t believe me, please look below at some players on the current Blue Jays roster.
Edwin Encarnacion a 9th round pick
Michael Saunders was a 11th round pick
Russell Martin was a 17th round pick.
Jose Bautista was a 20th round pick
Kevin Pillar was a 32nd round pick
You will notice most of the players drafted are from positions such as CF, 2B, SS, and C. These happen to be premium positions, which is why. Up the middle positions have a premium because not only are they hard to fill but also convertible. If you can play CF, you can likely play the corner slots as well. If you can play SS, you can usually stick on in infield.
Just for a word on statistics when it comes to amateur scouting, they mean nothing. Evaluating comparables in the same league, I agree they are important. But would you rather the guy hitting .750 off of 75 MPH FB’s in some less-than-desirable HS league or the guy who commonly faces 90+ in tournaments and squares it up. Flip that around, which pitcher would you rather? This is the one area is baseball where scouts really need to be relied upon. Advancing through the seven levels will test a lot of skills.
In terms of college statistics one could make an argument that they have some bearing, but keep in mind metal bats play differently. From a pitchers perspective, how frustrating would it be to have a guy hit it on the hands or off the end and get a double. Jam shot HR’s are not exactly uncommon. Great pitches constantly get punished. Some players rely on metal to be successful, due to missing the hitting area of the bat consistently. Also, colleges sometimes have extremely different levels of play, despite being labelled in divisions. It’s not uncommon for some D2 schools to be better than D1 and D3 better than D2. Kevin Pillar actually came out of a Division 2 school.
In conclusion, there is a lot riding on the upcoming draft, as there is every year. Scouts and organizations will be put to the test, and it’ll be interesting to see the strategy under new management.