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Elephant Rumblings: A quick refresher on the MLB Draft

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2020 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It’s Draft weekend, Athletics Nation!

The A’s have the 19th pick of the draft on Sunday, and grover has done a great job detailing who the Athletics will be targeting for the first few picks — check out profiles of Dylan Beavers and Brock Jones, Drew Gilbert and Jacob Melton, and Zach Neto and Payton Graham. Grover also provided a guide to the draft from the A’s perspective. ESPN’s David Schoenfield has also written an elaborate FAQ about nearly everything draft-related you could think of. But in case you need a brief and general overview of the draft basics, here we go!

The quick info

  • The draft is held in-person in Los Angeles as part of the All-Star festivities. This is a recent change, as the draft used to be held each June and was first paired with the ASG last year.
  • The draft goes for 20 rounds. It used to be 40 rounds but with the reduction of the minor leagues to 120 teams, the draft got cut in half. (There’s also some bonus in-between-round rounds, but more on those soon)
  • The draft does not snake. Last season’s worst team first, and best team last (there are some weird exceptions we will touch on later). More or less the same every round, no back-to-back picks on the edges of rounds like in your fantasy league.
  • Rounds 1 and 2, and the comp rounds happen on the Sunday night starting at 7pm EST. Then the draft continues with rounds 3-10 on Monday, and 11-20 on Tuesday, wrapping up before the All-Star Game.
  • Compensation picks: If a team offers a player a qualifying offer, but the player rejects the offer and signs with another team, then the original team gets a bonus draft pick. If the player’s contract is above $50M then the draft pick is after round 1, if it’s below $50M then the pick is after round 2.
  • Competitive Balance picks: Similar name, different process. These are extra picks for the teams in the 10 smallest markets, or the 10 lowest revenue pools. Which group gets the pick after round 1 and which after round 2? It swaps every year. This time around it’s the smaller-market teams after round 1 and the low revenue teams after round 2.

Clarifying questions

  • Who can get drafted again? - People who have graduated high school but have not enrolled in a college or university; University/College students in their Junior year, or who are 21 years old; and anyone enrolled at a junior college. All of these groups are limited to Americans, Canadians, and those from U.S. Territories.
  • Could I get drafted? - Theoretically, yes. If you fit the above criteria. But, uhhh... probably not. Keep working on that knuckleball, kid.
  • Are all the high-profile draftees going to be playing in MLB in a couple years? - Some will, but it’s not a guarantee. Some of the highest profile picks can make it to the bigs in an accelerated fashion, but most will be grinding away in the minors for a while.
  • What’s all this I hear about a draft lottery? - That’s something that was agreed to in the CBA earlier this year. It goes into effect next year in the 2023 draft, and having the lowest record no longer guarantees the first pick in the draft. The bottom 6 teams all have an equal shot at pick #1 in 2023. This year it’s just the standard tank-to-rank system.
  • Why do the Mets have 2 picks in the first round? - The Mets didn’t sign their first round draft pick due to a late-disclosed injury. So, as compensation they get an extra pick in round one this year.
  • Why don’t the Dodgers have a first round pick? - They spent too much money! They exceeded the competitive balance tax enough that pick #30 gets dropped down to pick #40. This is something A’s fans will never need to worry about.
  • Why are the Braves in the small market Competitive Balance group? Why do the Rays have 2 Competitive Balance picks back-to-back? - These picks can get traded, and some teams have been busier with this than others.
  • What’s a bonus pool, or a slot value? - Every pick in the first 10 rounds has a designated amount set by MLB to use as the signing bonus for that player, that’s a slot value. If the team doesn’t spend the max of their slot value on a player, the remaining balance can be used to push another player over their slot value, this comes from the team’s bonus pool. Spend over the pool, and your team gets taxed by the league.
  • Can I watch the draft? - Yep! Round 1 is broadcast on ESPN, and the whole first night is on MLB Network. The rest of the draft is covered on


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