The collegiate baseball season was shut down due to the growing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This forced Major League Baseball to alter its annual amateur draft’s original scheduled start date of June 10th, consisting of 40 rounds in three days. Because of the heath threatening crisis, MLB made changes to the 2020 draft.
With no games being played, and no revenue being generated, the MLB was forced to make cuts to the draft to ease their anticipated cash flow problems. The draft can be held this coming June 10th, or pushed to July 20th. MLB cut the draft from 40 rounds to five with the possibility of going further. Because of the cancellation of the college season, no one expects the draft to go beyond 10 rounds with significantly fewer players picked and signed.
The five-round short draft length leaves very little hope for HBCU baseball prospects.
Normally players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) get drafted in the mid to late rounds. Former Bethune Cookman standout, Anthony Maldonado was a 11th round draft pick by the Miami Marlins, the first HBCU player taken in 2019.
It’s expected that college juniors will get moved up in the draft along with high schoolers which leaves the full five rounds of 161 total draft picks for the 2020 class.
According to Alabama State head baseball coach Jose’ Vazquez, this was the most talented team Vazquez had under his current tenure. ASU was ranked the No. 1 team in HBCU baseball large school division and was forecast as having a chance to reach the NCAA Super Regionals and possibly beyond.
They had six players projected to go in the Major League Baseball (MLB) draft this year, including pitcher Jacknell Guzman, who was the overwhelming favorite to be the first HBCU pick in June. Now with the college baseball season shut down in midst of the pandemic, this is hurting all of his draft-eligible players.
The Hornets started the season’s first 18 games going 14-4, with the belief this could be their year. Because of the Coronavirus, classrooms have been shut down, limiting students to online courses.
HBCU seniors will be hurt the most, especially the ones that made a four-year impact on their programs and had been on MLB scouts radar.
The good news… the NCAA and NAIA both restored players eligibility for next year. So a senior in 2020 can return to their respective programs for the 2021 season. But that is a tight window leaving limited opportunity for the draft as a 24 year old is an elder statesmen by MLB scouting standards.
Obviously, cutting off 80 percent of the draft rounds would lead to a vast number of undrafted high schoolers, junior college and four-year students alike, leaving HBCUs the hardest hit which on average four to five players taken in the current 40 rounds on the draft board each year.
The MLB was in discussions to eliminate the full 40 rounds. If they are sticking to their plan of 5 (or possibly up tp 10) rounds as soon as this July, we would end up seeing a great minor league purge of players as soon as the draft rolls around for the 2021 season.
What is the point of all this. For some time MLB has wanted to limit the number of minor league teams and turn over all the expenses of paying those players to colleges. This will end up being permanent with just 10 rounds in the draft. Remember earlier in this post I stated “HBCUs get drafted in the mid to late rounds and later.”
What would that mean for draft eligible HBCU players?
Typically, they would get drafted, sign their first pro contracts, and then be assigned to minor league teams. If there is no draft beyond 10th round, then where would they be able to continue to play?
Because of the changes to this year’s draft. This will have massive long-term ramifications for HBCU players and everyone else involved.
HBCU mid-range and bottom-tier draft prospects will be hurt the most. For the most part, the draft prospects will be scouted. They will be good enough to get looked at but not good enough to be selected near the top of the draft if MLB sticks with its rule changes beyond 2021.