The draft, formally known as Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, is held every June--generally the first Tuesday of the month--among the 30 major league clubs. The clubs select players in reverse order of their records the previous season, with American and National League clubs alternating.
The draft will last no more than 50 rounds, though clubs can stop drafting at any time. An American League club selects first in odd-numbered years; National League club first in even-numbered years. Tampa Bay has the No. 1 selection this year. The Devil Rays also selected first in 1999 (Josh Hamilton) and had the second overall selection last year (B.J. Upton).
The draft is conducted by conference call from the commissioner's office in New York. The first day (June 3) begins at 1 p.m. Eastern and will conclude by 6 p.m. Usually, the draft will go through about 20 rounds on the first day. The second day will begin at noon and end by 6 p.m.
Each team has two minutes to select a player. Teams remain in the draft until they pass or the draft ends.
The scout responsible for a player's selection usually will contact the player by phone immediately after the selection.
The team that selects a player has the sole negotiating rights to the player and must offer him a written minor league contract within 15 days of selection. Failure to do so ends the club's rights and the player becomes a free agent, eligible to negotiate with any team.
If the player attends a four-year college, the club's negotiating rights are lost as soon as the player attends his first class at the end of the summer. For a player attending junior college, the selecting club retains his rights until one week before the 2004 draft. This is commonly referred to as the draft-and-follow process.
Major league Rule IV governs which players are eligible for the draft. These rules are detailed, but in broadest terms, a player is eligible for selection if he is a resident of the United States or Canada and has never before signed a major league or minor league contract. Residents of Puerto Rico and other territories of the United States are also eligible. Also considered are foreign players who enroll in a high school or college in the United States, regardless of where they are from originally. Among that group:
High school players are eligible if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college;
College players from four-year colleges are eligible if they have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21. College players who have dropped out of school can apply for the draft by writing the commissioner's office no later than March 20;
Junior college players are all eligible, regardless of how many years of school they have completed, and
Anyone who is at least 21 within 45 days of the draft is eligible.
A club retains the rights to sign a junior college player until one week prior to the next draft, or until the player enters or returns to a four-year college. A selected player who enters a junior college can't sign until the conclusion of the school's next baseball season.
A player who is drafted and does not sign with the club that selected him may be drafted again in a future draft as long as he meets the eligibility requirements. A club may not select the same player again unless the player consents in writing.
A player who is eligible but is not drafted becomes a free agent and may sign with any club, until one week before the next draft, or until he enters or returns to a four-year college, or returns to a junior college. In the one-week period before any draft, which is called the "closed period," the general rule is that no club may sign a new player.
A fifth-year college senior may sign a minor league contract as soon as he finishes his last class in college.