The draft for future professional baseball players can be a complicated affair.  Dozens of rounds, compensatory rounds, high school players, eligible college players…

This year when the annual amateur draft by Major League Baseball begins on June 10 and is being reduced to only two days instead of the normal three; it will be reduced from 40 rounds to just five.  That means that only 160 future players will be drafted in the 2020 draft.  That is the fewest number of players drafted since it began in 1965.

The move is estimated to save the teams $30 million dollars.

The teams have earned the right to reduce the number of rounds after the player’s association signed a new agreement on March 26.

The decision to shorten this year’s draft came in the wake of the Covid-19 virus and the delay in the start of the 2020 MLB season.

Not everyone is happy with the decision; agent Jeff Berry called it, “grossly shortsighted”.  He added, “to drastically reduce opportunity and talent and talent pools, it stunts growth and diversity at all levels and is really a self-inflicted sabotage of the long-term health and popularity of the game.”

Signing bonuses will be limited to 2019 levels with the bonus amount limited to no more than $20,000 for non-drafted players.  The move may lead to more high school players entering college and junior college.  Agent Scott Boras noted that a minor league player could not live on $20,000; adding that such a move may entice high school players to enter college where they could develop…maybe even into first round players; which Boras said “is the category we’re looking for.”

Boras noted, “on every major league team, development and scouting departments are extremely upset about this.  This is strictly about minimal short-term economic benefit that could cost millions of dollars, with the loss of a number one pick being injured or a number one pick not developing to the full stature of his potential.”

According to statistics released by the Commissioner’s office, of the 1,082 players who played last year – only 180 were first round draft picks with a total of 589 drafted in the first five rounds.  A total of 204 players were drafted from rounds six to 10, 102 in rounds 11 to 15, 63 in rounds 16 to 20, 74 from round 21 to 30, and only 50 from rounds 31 to 50.

At one time the number of draft rounds was unlimited but they were limited to 50 rounds in 1998 and reduced further to just 40 rounds in 2012.

Also included in the new agreement, the 2021 draft can be reduced to just 20 rounds.

MLB previously announced that beginning with the 2021 season, the minor leagues will drop from 160 affiliations to 120 – essentially eliminating one farm team per organization.