Major League Baseball has settled on a 20-round draft for the 2021 season, J.J. Cooper of Baseball America reports. That outcome has long seemed likely, as it is the minimum number of rounds required in the 2020 agreement between MLB and the MLBPA. While it’s obviously a step up from last year’s five-round event, the 20-round length still clocks in at half the length of the standard 40-round draft.
This year’s draft was already set to look quite a bit different. For starters, it’s been known for months that the event will be moved back to July. Major League Baseball also announced back in November the formation of the MLB Draft League — a six-team showcase league that will offer some of the country’s top amateurs the opportunity to compete against one another in the weeks leading up to the draft. There’s also been talk of an NFL-style combine of sorts, which would give clubs more up-to-date medical information on potential draftees. Pushing the draft back until after the College World Series and state high school tournament completions also avoids injury risk for top talent after the draft.
Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo, meanwhile, has a full breakdown of each team’s league-allotted bonus pool for this year’s draft. The Pirates, picking first overall, lead the way at $14.394M. The Tigers check in with the second-largest pool at $14.253M and stand as the only other team north of $13M. The Astros, who had their first- and second-round picks stripped as part of the organization’s punishment stemming from the 2017 sign-stealing scandal, have just a $2.94M bonus pool. As Collazo observes, the individual slot values of the first 22 picks in the draft are all greater than Houston’s entire bonus pool. The Astros do not have a selection until the 87th overall pick.
On that note, it’s worth reminding that the assigned slot values for selections in the top-10 rounds have not progressed from 2020 — another element to which the union agreed in last year’s negotiations with ownership. That means the top slot will again be valued at $8,415,300, and values will gradually descend from there. There are no slot values after the tenth round, as usual. Teams can spend up to $125K per pick in Rounds 11 through 20 without any money counting against their pool. Any dollars over that mark will count against a team’s pool. Undrafted players can again become free agents who are free to sign with any club, but those bonuses are capped at $20K apiece.