How Moving The Draft Would Impact College Baseball
Editor's Note: This story initially reported that MLB had proposed moving the draft back to August. Further reporting has found that while the proposal would move the draft later (after the College World Series), it would not be proposed to move it to August.
Major League Baseball’s sweeping proposal to dramatically reshape the minor leagues, as reported by Baseball America, is mostly focused on professional baseball. But included in the proposal is a plan to move the draft back to July—a move made possible if short-season minor league baseball was reduced to just the Rookie-level complex leagues.
Moving the draft into early July (after the College World Series ends) would have significant consequences for college baseball. The draft’s current timing—at the end of the first weekend in June—is the source of consternation, as it annually conflicts with the final day of regionals and leads to players getting drafted while they are playing elimination games.
Moving the draft to July would eliminate any overlap with the college baseball season, and that’s a win for the players who would not have to split their attention between a win-or-go-home game and a chance to become a professional, something they have spent years working for.
But it’s not all rosy. A July draft date would leave most players with less time to decide whether to sign a professional contract before college classes start. For coaches, it would also make the already complicated math of distributing 11.7 scholarships among 27 players even harder.
Draft-day surprises are unavoidable. Some players will be drafted earlier or later than expected, leaving coaches scrambling to fill roster spots. But in the current system, they have all summer to find a replacement if a recruit or underclassman unexpectedly signs. With an August draft, finding a replacement would be much more difficult. Some junior college players would still be available—especially rising sophomores—but getting a player via the transfer portal or a high school player released from his National Letter of Intent would be unlikely.
MLB’s proposal would also slash 15-20 rounds off the draft, which currently runs 40 rounds. Fewer rounds would likely mean more players end up in college because teams wouldn’t be able to sign as many players to six-figure deals on the third day of the draft (rounds 11-40). And because the plan also limits MLB teams to 150 players under minor league contracts on minor league rosters (among their U.S.-based affiliates), teams may also become less willing to load up on high school players who have upside but need a lot of developmental time.
All of that is especially good news for teams outside the upper echelon of college baseball. Teams such as Florida, North Carolina, Texas Christian, UCLA and Vanderbilt typically aren’t losing recruits for a signing bonus of less than $1 million. But other schools do, and getting more of those players to campus would raise the level of play across the country.
A later draft would also have broad-reaching effects on college summer leagues and USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. Currently, the CNT is composed of the best rising juniors in the country. But if players could play all summer for Team USA before the draft was held, some would likely be willing to suit up for the national team.
Similarly, high-end draft-eligible players rarely play in the Cape Cod League. Some players, especially those who were building momentum at the end of the college season or had disappointing junior years, would surely want to play on the Cape for a couple of months to further boost their stock. That could have a trickle-down effect, raising the level of play in the Northwoods League, Coastal Plains League, California Collegiate League, New England Collegiate League and beyond.
A later draft would provide a significant shakeup to amateur baseball around the country. If it comes to pass, college baseball will adjust. Everyone will have to deal with the same challenges. But there definitely will be new challenges for coaches and players to contend with.