A completely different playing field

The MLB draft concluded yesterday. While the NFL televises its draft and dozens of ‘experts’ pop out of the woodwork, very few people know the top MLB prospects. The NFL draft is televised and representatives of each franchise are present. MLB does the draft via conference call. They actually had to delay the draft because the Yankees were late.

Teams can’t trade draft picks in MLB, and unlike the NFL, the money a player gets isn’t slotted by position. In the past few years players with big money demands often get passed down to teams that can afford them. Teams that sign big-time free agents forfeit their first-round pick. The pick goes to the team that lost the free agent.

Oh yeah, the draft is 50 rounds long.

The rules on draft eligibility are strange as well. High-schoolers are eligible. Graduates of two-year junior or community colleges are eligible. Major college players, though, must be three years out of high school, just like in the NFL. Just imagine the scouting involved. Every high school, community college, and major college needs to be watched. There’s no wonder that information is scarce.

Besides, drafted players go directly to a team’s minor league system. Most teams have six levels in their minor league system. There are two short-season ‘rookie’ leagues for first-year (sometimes second) players. There are two levels of A ball, then AA and AAA. Top prospects can bypass one or more of these levels, but most major-leaguers have played in them all.

So a high-school draftee could spend a year at every level before getting the major-league call-up and still be only 24 years old. By that time the player could have been traded a couple of times as well. Where and when a player was drafted then becomes irrelevant.

Don’t expect to see dozens of no-thought draft grades to appear in major publications. While the average NFL draft takes about three years to earn a true grade, in baseball it’s more like five years. The names are unknown today and forgotten except for the die-hards until a player makes The Show.

The White Sox are 40-19. This is the first time they’ve been 20 games over .500 since the end of the 2000 season. White Sox fans (and almost nobody else) remember how that turned out. Frank Thomas hit a 440-foot shot, his second of the season. I’ll bet batting practice, or just hitting against Rockies pitching, is a lot of fun at Coors Field.

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