To many, the phrase “Draft Day” refers to our paltry fantasy sports drafts, in leagues comprised of our buddies we talk trash to and like to drink beer with. But, today “Draft Day” is phrase that gives hope to thousands of amateur baseball players seeking their first contract with a professional club in Major League Baseball. At 7:00pm EST in Secaucus, NJ, the MLB Rule 4 Draft kicks off on MLB Network with live coverage of rounds 1 and 2, followed by rounds 3-10 beginning Friday morning, and finishing up with rounds 11-40 starting Saturday morning.
Of all the major sports drafts, the MLB Rule 4 Draft has the most complicated rules regarding eligibility, bonus allotment, and compensatory picks. Here’s how it works!
Generally, a player is eligible for selection if the player is a resident of the United States or Canada and the player has never before signed a Major League or Minor League contract. Residents of Puerto Rico and other territories of the United States are eligible for the Draft. Also considered residents are players who enroll in a high school or college in the United States, regardless of where they are from originally. Specifically, the following amateurs are eligible to be drafted by any of the 30 clubs: high school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college; college players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old; and junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed.
Each pick in the top 10 rounds is assigned a recommended bonus value, ranging from a little more than $9M for the 1st overall pick, and decreasing to about $150K for the final pick of the 10th round. Any bonus money in excess of $100K given to an individual player selected in rounds 11-40 also counts against a club’s bonus pool. If a player chosen in the first 10 rounds doesn’t sign, his pick’s value is subtracted from his club’s pool. If a team surpasses its pool allotment it faces tax penalties in the future. The Cubs and Yankees are prime candidates to exceed their pool totals in 2016.
Here are the bonus pools for all 30 clubs:
White Sox: $9,416,600
Red Sox: $6,997,400
Blue Jays: $6,665,900
The 2016 draft order is determined as the reverse of the final standings after the 2015 season. The Philadelphia Phillies hold the first overall pick, with a bonus allotment of $9,015,000. Teams that lost players in free agency can be awarded compensatory picks if the free agent declined a qualifying offer made in the off-season.
Click here for the full 2016 draft order.
Players drafted in later rounds can be tougher to sign if they are not offered a contract up to their value. Players drafted in earlier rounds may be tougher to sign if they are committed to a great school, are not offered sufficient money, or drafted by a team they would rather not play for.
A team may negotiate with a selected player with college eligibility remaining from the time of the selection until July 15th. A selected player with no college eligibility remaining may sign up until the seventh day prior to the start of the First-Year Player Draft (Closed Period) the following year. Eligible players not selected in the MLB Rule 4 Draft essentially enter the market as free agents and are eligible to sign with any club up until the Closed Period.
While some players may be dead set on attending college, some enter the next three days knowing it’s only a matter of time before they’re on the field playing against their idols. Some will fall inevitably in the draft due to signability, off the field issues, or performance inconsistencies. But for most, the dream of becoming a professional baseball player will remain just a dream while they continue the chase to the big leagues.
Information from Jim Callis, Author at BaseballAmerica.com, and MLB.com