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How The Draft Works
Tuesday, June 7-Wednesday, June 8
Major League Baseball's first-year player draft is held every June--generally the first Tuesday of the month--by conference call among the 30 major league clubs. The clubs take turns selecting players in reverse order of their win-loss records from the previous season, and for the first time this year they will do so without regard to league. The American and National leagues alternated picks in previous drafts.
The draft will last no more than 50 rounds, but it could theoretically be shorter. Each club is allowed to select for 50 rounds, but is not required to do so. In recent years, however, just a few clubs have dropped out before the end of the 50th round.
The Diamondbacks have the first pick this year for the first time in franchise history. Their highest previous pick was fourth overall in 1999, when they selected Arizona high schooler Corey Myers. Myers has not reached the big leagues but remains with the organization at Triple-A Tucson.
The Diamondbacks’ first draft was in 1995, when they took lefthander Nick Bierbrodt 30th overall. But they made a much bigger splash by handing out $10 million to first baseman Travis Lee and $6.075 million to righthander John Patterson. Lee was the second overall pick by the Twins, and Patterson went fifth overall to the Expos, but both became free agents because of a rules technicality—the teams that drafted them did not offer them a formal contract within 15 days of the draft. Since then, Arizona has usually drafted at the back end of the first round. The Diamondbacks gave up their first-round picks to sign free agents in 1998 and 2000.
The draft conference call is conducted from the commissioner's office in New York. The draft will end after 50 rounds, which should take two days, although a third day (June 9) is provided for in the schedule.
The draft begins at 1 p.m. Eastern on June 7 and will conclude around 6 p.m. Usually, teams draft through about 20 rounds on the first day. The second day will begin at noon on June 8, and is scheduled to end at 6 p.m.
Each team has two minutes to select a player, but unlike the glacial NFL draft, teams rarely take that long. For the most part, picks are called out in rapid succession. A team continues drafting players until it passes, finishes making picks or the draft ends.
The scout responsible for a player's selection will generally contact the player by phone immediately after the selection. No team may draft a player unless it has registered the player's name with the commissioner's office.
The team that selects a player has the sole negotiating rights to the player and must submit a written minor league contract within 15 days of selection. Failure to do so no longer makes players free agents, however. The rule was changed after the 1996 free-agent fiasco.
If the player attends a four-year college, the club's negotiating rights are lost as soon as the player enters his first class at the end of the summer. For a player attending junior college, the selecting club retains the negotiating rights for the player until a week before the 2005 draft. This is commonly referred to as the draft-and-follow process.
Major league Rule IV governs which players are eligible for selection in the draft. These rules are detailed, but the basic eligibility criteria can be described as follows:
Generally, a player is eligible for selection if he is a resident of the United States or Canada and has never signed a major league or minor league contract. Residents of Puerto Rico and other territories of the United States are also eligible for the draft. Also considered are players who enroll in a high school or college in the United States, regardless of where they are from originally.
Certain groups of players are ineligible for selection, generally because they are still in school. The basic categories of players eligible to be drafted are:
• 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. 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, regardless of how many years of school they have completed, and
• Anyone who is 21 within 45 days of the draft date.
A club generally retains the rights to sign a junior college player until one week prior to the next draft, or until the player enters a four-year college. A selected player who enters a junior college cannot be signed until the conclusion of the school's 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, whenever he meets the eligibility requirements. A club may not select a player again in a subsequent year unless the player consents to it in writing.
A player who is eligible for the draft and is passed over by every club becomes a free agent and may sign with any club, until one week before the next draft or until the player 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 player who is a fifth-year college senior may sign a minor league
contract as soon as he finishes his last class in college.