Blue Jays: The added risk when it comes to drafting this year
The Toronto Blue Jays used their first pick in the MLB Draft yesterday on RHP Gunnar Hoglund out of the University of Mississippi, a starting pitcher who is going to be missing some significant time after undergoing Tommy John surgery back in May.
The organization will not have a pick until the third round at 91st overall after surrendering their second-round pick because of the George Springer signing earlier this off-season. With the second pick now gone, the Blue Jays will have to use their next few picks wisely as they try and build and add to the farm system.
The MLB Draft is always a crapshoot, in that teams can shake up the draft by going off the board and players falling and rising throughout the entire process (hence Austin Martin falling to the Jays at #5 in 2020). This year features a good mix of both high school and college athletes, with the Blue Jays having a plethora of options when they step up to the podium today for rounds 2-11.
The Toronto Blue Jays and teams across the major leagues have the added risk when it comes to drafting this year as college athletes in multiple states can make money off their name, image, and likeness (NIL) as of July 1st.
Arguements can be made to either select a high school or college player during the draft but this season there is an added risk when it comes to which player teams look to select.
College athletes have not been allowed to use their name, image, or likeness (NIL) in exchange for financial compensation, a battle that has been ongoing for years between programs using talented young players to generate millions in revenue across different sports throughout the NCAA.
Earlier this month, the NCAA along with numerous states across the United States have passed legislation/policy that will allow athletes across Division I sports to use their NIL in exchange for financial compensation through endorsement deals. The NCAA was very broad in that they have temporarily changed the rules to allow Division I athletes across the country to use their NIL for financial gain (as long as it does not interfere with recruitment), basically waiting until a federal law with specific guidelines/standards is put in place.
Players attending schools in Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas can now accept endorsement deals as of July 1st due to state legislation changes, with numerous states following in the near future. Schools that are not in these states will have to adopt their own NIL policies as per the NCAA policy/rule change until a state or federal law has been passed.
This presents another wrinkle when it comes to drafting both high school players and college players. Before college athletes could utilize their NIL for endorsements, major league teams held a slight advantage in that they could offer above-slot value to entice players to forego college or return to school because they risked losing money if they perform poorly while at post-secondary.
Now that college players can make money from endorsements, major league teams now have to contend with added pressure from talented high school players who believe college ball can not only improve their draft stock for a later draft but also make money from endorsement deals.
While this may not be such an issue for the first-round draft picks considering those players are slated to make millions when it comes to slot value, the 2-11 rounds can be a bit concerning. A high-school or college player who is offered $100-$400K may not be enticed by that dollar value anymore if they can make endorsement money in college as well as attempt to increase their draft stock. It is a risk for both sides but when it comes to possibly make millions, and quite a few players are willing to take this risk like Tyler Beede or Phil Bickford, both former Blue Jays first-round picks who did not sign as high schoolers and went on to play college ball.
Teams can also now stagger signing bonuses as part of the agreement between the MLB and the union in regards to the 2021 draft after the financial hit teams took because of COVID-19. While the money is guaranteed over time, major league teams can spread out the signing bonuses over the course of the next two years. Another wrinkle that teams will have to consider when drafting this year.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing that college athletes can make money off their NIL considering college programs make millions off of their talents (a debate for another day) but it does present another risk for teams drafting this year.
In the end, money talks, and the Blue Jays do not have a lot of draft money to work with this year (third lowest in the league) and will need to use their picks wisely. Ross Atkins has had some pretty good success when it comes to drafting since taking over in late 2015 and hopefully that streak continues this year.