Draft dilemma

Baseball America writer's idea of moving MLB draft
to All-Star break would hurt short-season minor leagues

Grand Junction’s Jeff Bohling watches the flight of his home run Thursday night in the Rockies’ loss to Idaho Falls at Suplizio Field. Bohling was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 17th round of the 2017 draft last week and has been in the lineup with the Rookie Rockies for the past two games. If the draft were to be moved any later, an idea that has been proposed, players like Bohling and teams like the GJ Rockies would be affected.

If the Major League Baseball draft were moved back one month, drafted players like Grand Junction Rockies shortstop Alan Trejo would miss out on valuable playing time in short-season minor leagues.

Draft day is a big deal for prospective pro athletes, and with most professional leagues, drafts are conducted during the offseason. They’ve become must-see television, with draft parties planned by fans and teams.

Major League Baseball, though, has its draft smack-dab in the middle of not only its season, but that of college baseball season as well. Every few years, it’s a topic of discussion, whether the draft needs to be moved, including during the winter meetings this year.

With the College World Series in full swing, some are again questioning the timing of the draft, which occurred during the NCAA Division I Super Regional playoffs. Several players in the CWS are now balancing trying to win a national championship as they contemplate their professional careers.

A report in Baseball American published Thursday floated the idea of moving the MLB draft to coincide with the All-Star Game in July. The article, by John Manuel, the publication’s editor in chief, said it would be the best option for all involved.

Other than the lower levels of Minor League Baseball, that is.

“Oh, wow,” Grand Junction Rockies manager Frank Gonzales said Thursday when told of the report. “It’d be a short short-season at that point for those guys. … We’ve got pitchers who haven’t thrown in a game since the 25th of May, so if they finished the 25th of May and now you’re looking at the All-Star Game in mid-July, a kid will have two, two-and-a-half months off.

“I’m not sure we could get them back in time to pitch during the season. I think that defeats the purpose. It’s an interesting concept but I’m not sure how it would work.”

With the draft taking place June 12-14 this year, the short-season clubs were short-handed when the season began. The Rockies had only 18 players one week ago, with all of them coming out of extended spring training or free agent signings. As Colorado signed draft picks, rosters in Grand Junction and Boise were bolstered, but several players arrived the day before the season began and watched the first couple of games.

Gonzales started working draft picks into the lineup Wednesday after they got a few rounds of batting practice in and learned the signs.

“I know these leagues are set with scheduling and last year I think it worked out a little easier,” Gonzales said on opening day after spending the morning checking in players and having meetings. “We had guys three, four days before the season started. That for me would be the bare minimum, three or four days before we started on the field so we could go through a bunt defense, understand what our pickoff plays are and maybe run some cuts and relays, do some fundamental things to put a ball team out there.”

Manuel’s article mentioned the ability to make the MLB draft more like the NFL and NBA draft, a spectacle, referencing an article in Sports Business Journal that reported baseball wanting to improve the visibility of the draft, possibly moving it to July at the site of the All-Star Game.

Although moving the draft away from the NCAA tournament would take that distraction away from the handful of teams still playing and wouldn’t affect big-league clubs, it would seriously affect Rookie and Short-season A ball.

It could force Rookie leagues in Arizona and Florida to become de facto instructional leagues after the draft, with the majority of drafted players reporting to those clubs. Without the influx of draftees, the short-season Rookie Advanced Pioneer and Appalachian leagues and Short-season A leagues, would likely build their rosters from extended spring training and the previous year’s draft, the Dominican Summer League and possibly a few drafted position players for the final weeks.

Speculation that players at the College World Series are fearing injury that could cost them in contract negotiations was dismissed by Gonzales.

“I think if you’re a guy playing the game you should play it at any level for the sake of playing the game that day,” he said. “I think the draft and those types of things, paydays, are secondary. Hopefully it doesn’t come into play that way.”


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