In a season where nothing has been normal the Major League Baseball amateur draft is no exception. The draft is considerably shorter going from 40 rounds to 5.
This week’s five-round draft will be split into two days, with the first round and Competitive Balance Round A starting at 7 p.m. on June 10 — broadcast simultaneously on MLB Network and ESPN — and the second through fifth rounds beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 11 (MLBN and ESPN2).
This will be the first time the MLB Draft is held over the course of two days since 2008. It was a three-day event from 2009-19. This year’s event will mark the first time that multiple networks will provide live primetime coverage of the MLB June Draft.
Rays senior vice president, baseball operations/general manager Erik Neander, Senior Vice President will be one of the 30 baseball-operations officials featured remotely during the TV broadcast of the draft.
There is chatter that some teams are going to be very limited in what they will be afforded to spend even in this shortened draft. I hope the Tampa Bay Rays aren’t in this position, as it would mean when they traded picks in the pick swap with the St. Louis Cardinals as part of the Matthew Liberatore for Randy Arozarena and Jose Martinez trade, the return was far less valuable.
There is a hard cap on spending in the draft, but the Rays have been one of the most aggressive teams in acquiring extra draft picks where they can, so hopefully this continues. They have $7,474,600 to spend on their picks.
Losing rounds 6-10 isn’t all that meaningful, as somewhere around the seventh or eighth round in the normal format, teams start taking college seniors that’ll sign for almost nothing in order to move money to pay an early draft pick more or get somebody in the 11th round that might demand far more than the $125,000 a team could give without it counting against their pool.
The bigger loss is the ability to get this players in the 11th to 15th round, as any player that isn’t drafted this year can’t sign for more than $20,000. High school players that are in that fifth-to-eighth round talent range are going to be more difficult to sign as college becomes much more attractive for players not drafted in the five rounds.
The Rays have the following draft picks:
24 (Round 1)
37 (Competitive Balance Round A) (via Cardinals)
57 (Round 2)
96 (Round 3)
125 (Round 4)
155 (Round 5)
The draft will conclude Night 1 with the 37th overall pick, making the Rays the caboose of the televised event.
In baseball, you can’t afford to draft for need, as any player is realistically three-to-five years away, even if you foresee a future need. Teams need to take the best player and just figure it out down the line. The one exception is you to be cognizant of a split of position players and pitchers overall.
The Rays’ farm system is stacked, but the pitching side is slightly less so than the position-player side. Fortunately, the 2020 draft is loaded with college pitchers, so this should be an excellent opportunity for the Rays to pick up a couple arms to add to their stockpile of prospects.
Over the past month, the staff previewed a number of potential selections in a series of mock drafts: