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Breaking down the changes to the MLB Draft in the CBA

With a new CBA now locked in, here is a look at all the changes we have seen to the MLB Draft.

MLB: JUN 08 First-Year Player Draft Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Major League Baseball is finally back, so now we begin the arduous task of seeing what a post-CBA world looks like not only for the Braves, but for baseball as a whole. While there are a lot of changes that are going to take some getting used to, some of the more fascinating changes happened to the MLB Draft. As more details are being shared about the CBA that has been agreed upon by the union and the players, one of the biggest changes to the draft is that it is now officially capped at 20 rounds.

This follows the route that Major League Baseball took last year (20 rounds), after the draft was previously shortened to five rounds during the COVID shortened 2020 campaign - which, coincidentally, ended up being a very strong draft for the team. With the contraction of the minor leagues in 2021 and the league wanting last year’s draft to only be 20 rounds, the writing has been on the wall for this change for a while. It is kind of a bummer to not have those ultra late round stories to talk about, but this felt inevitable. For those wondering at home, the Braves will be drafting 20th in the draft this year.

Another significant announcement has been that the top six picks will now be a draft lottery - a very big change from before. All non-playoff teams will have a chance at a top six pick and the drawings for those picks will be very similar to what we see in the NBA. Will definitely be interesting to see how this plays out this year with several teams clearly tanking. In theory, this is in place to reduce the chance of tanking as you aren’t promised one of those generational type talents go in the top 3 picks.

That being said, as many teams have shown over time it’s possible to find stars throughout the draft process - but this should hopefully curb tanking to the degree teams like the Pirates are doing (sub-$40M in payroll, etc). Baseball isn’t like the NBA or NFL where teams tank to target a specific player(s) because of the length of player development, but they most certainly have been tanking to increase their bonus pools and hopefully this makes that practice just a bit less desirable. Below is a quick guide to the teams eligible for the lottery and the odds of getting those picks from Jim Callis.

Another change that is a bit more arcane but that scouts seem to be really happy about is the return of draft and follows. We don’t have the exact details on how they are being implemented just yet, but the way draft and follows work is that teams can “pick” a player and if that player doesn’t sign immediately and goes to a junior college, that team can still sign that player right up until the next MLB Draft and only amounts over $225K of any signing bonus on such players count against a team’s draft bonus pool.

We also had some rules changes aimed at trying to protect against “funny business” from teams or at least incentivize them towards good practices. For example, any top 300 players picked in the draft is guaranteed 75% of his pick slot value IF he submits a pre-draft physical. The new CBA also has a draft pick incentive for teams that put top prospects on their Opening Day rosters and let them accrue a year of service time while getting end of year awards consideration.

There is also the potential that the qualifying offer goes away which will impact draft pick compensation (and therefore who is gaining or losing draft picks), but we don’t have a resolution to that just yet. MLB and the players’ union have until the end of July to decide on whether or not to implement an international draft. If they ultimately do so, the qualifying offer system goes away. If not, the old IFA system stays and so does the QO system.

It will be fun to see how the changes impact the 2022 MLB Draft. With the Braves drafting 20th, they are not going to be in the running for the lottery but there is still going to be a lot of fun things happening with the draft that all of us want to see how they shake out.

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