Image credit: (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images)
The dates and times for what will be the most unusual MLB draft of all time have been set.
The five rounds of the 2020 MLB draft will be held over two days, June 10 and June 11. Both days will be televised by MLB Network.
On June 10, the first 37 picks (the first round and the first competitive balance picks) will be announced, beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
On June 11, the remaining 123 picks (the second through fifth rounds) will be announced, beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
This will be the shortest June draft in MLB history. It has been 40 rounds in recent years, was 50 rounds before that and used to be unlimited, stopping only when the last team decided to stop picking.
In a memo sent out to MLB teams, MLB also pushed back the deadline for draftees to sign. It was set to be July 10, but instead it will be Aug. 1. The additional time was added in part to help with potential issues with post-draft physicals. Players and teams can agree to deals contingent on a physical. But with the novel coronavirus pandemic, players and teams may be less comfortable having draftees travel across to the country to be examined by a team doctor. The additional time has been added in hopes of alleviating some of those issues. MLB says it is also working on potential local options for physicals.
In the case a player refuses to take a physical and the team is unwilling to complete the deal without one, teams will receive a compensatory pick in the 2021 draft if the player was taken in the top three rounds. There will be no compensation for fourth- and fifth-round picks.
Teams will be allowed to sign an unlimited number of nondrafted eligible players for up to $20,000, but there will be strict restrictions on talking to nondrafted players about signing during, or in the days immediately following, the draft. MLB went into detail to attempt to limit the possibilities of teams offering any sort of special inducement to convince a nondrafted player to sign.
According to MLB, teams will be prohibited from talking to nondrafted players until 9 a.m. ET on June 14. From the conclusion of the draft until that time, no team official or scout can talk to any undrafted players, their family members or any other representative of the player. While teams are allowed to talk to the player before or during the draft about the possibility of drafting that player, they are also not allowed to discuss the possibility of signing the player after the draft if he goes unpicked.
These undrafted players cannot be offered any special inducements beyond the standard player contract, modest contingency bonuses and scholarships through the continuing education program.
Because of the coronavirus, teams are expected to prepare to do all draft preparation and in-draft discussions remotely. Teams will not be allowed to have draft rooms, where scouts and front office officials normally gather for the draft, unless MLB determines before the draft that it is safe for all 30 teams to gather. In MLB’s opinion, if even one team cannot legally or safely gather in its draft room, then all 30 teams will need to conduct the draft remotely to ensure competitive balance.
While the wording of the memo does not explicitly say so, it also strongly implies that teams will not be allowed to do any in-person scouting in the leadup to the draft. Players are now allowed to submit videos of bullpens or batting practices to MLB’s Prospect Link system of workouts that took place after March 27 (something that had previously been prohibited). But MLB will only post those videos to the system for the 30 MLB clubs if the video clearly is following local public health guidance and the players are socially distancing. Teams are still not allowed to otherwise acquire videos of activities conducted by draft-eligible players after March 27.