Competitive balance picks have been part of the MLB draft since 2011; they were designed to give small market/low revenue teams additional access to talent by awarding them additional picks in the early rounds. With eligible teams chosen by lottery, however, the lowest revenue teams were not guaranteed a pick. For example, the Rays previously received second round Competitive Balance picks in the 2014 and 2016 drafts, while missing out completely in the 2015 and watching teams like the Cardinals and World-Series winning Royals walk off with high draft slots. So much for “competitive balance.”
But with the advent of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players and owners has come a re-vamped Competitive Balance draft pick system, and the new system has awarded the Rays the top selection: the 31st overall selection, immediately following the first round.
Tampa Bay’s additional draft choice could climb even higher, should other teams forfeit a draft pick in later weeks as a consequence of free-agent signings.
The new Competitive Balance system allocates fourteen draft selections following the first and second rounds to smaller market teams based on a complex, internally determined system, replacing the lottery system that had previously worked to the Rays disadvantage. The revamped process takes several new factors into consideration, including market size and television contracts, which is why the Rays finally seem to be getting a fair shake after only receiving second round picks in two-out-of-three years.
More details from MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo:
The Competitive Balance Rounds are no longer determined via lottery. Instead, all teams that fall in the bottom 10 in revenue and bottom 10 in market size will get a pick in Round A, after the first round, or Round B, following the second round. Using a formula that takes revenue and winning percentage into account, six teams were awarded Round A picks, with eight teams getting picks in Comp Round B. The groups of teams will switch in 2018 (meaning there will be eight Comp Round A picks, six in Round B), and will alternate as such for the life of this CBA.
This means Tampa Bay is guaranteed an additional mid-70’s pick in 2018, and will return to the high-30’s in 2019.
While the final draft order is not yet set in stone, the Rays are currently slated for the No. 4, No. 31, and No. 40 overall selections in the 2017 draft. In the year 2014, that would have given the Rays opportunities for players like Kyle Schwarber (No. 4), Michael Kopech (No. 33), and A.J. Reed (No. 42), should they have chosen so wisely.
Incidentally, the Rays used their actual 2014 Competitive Balance pick (the No. 72 overall selection) on Brent Honeywell, who is now the top starter in the system and a Top-100 prospect, and who recently dominated the Arizona Fall League against some of the league’s top minor league players.
With their other Competitive Balance pick, the Rays drafted OF Jake Fraley out of LSU at the end of the second round in 2016 (No. 77 overall), and he went on to post a 115 wRC+ last season, with a strong showing in 55 games at Class-A Hudson Valley (including a 10% walk rate, 14% strikeout rate, and 33 stolen bases).
After garnering poor results from draftees in the 2008-2011 drafts, Tampa Bay’s higher selections have begun to show stronger results. These three selections in the Top-40 could have a lasting impact for the Rays.