The MLB draft is over. Five rounds have come and gone, quicker than teams would have liked. What comes next is really anybody’s guess.
After the draft, eligible players have a 48-hour window to opt out of being pursued by teams. Beginning Sunday morning, June 14, teams will be able to sign undrafted free agents, with a catch: No team is allowed to offer more than $20,000.
Without any financial advantages, trying to convince players to leave college — particularly in a year filled with so much uncertainty — becomes the next challenge for Major League Baseball organizations.
“Everyone’s curious about how it’s going to shake out,” Minnesota Twins amateur scouting director Sean Johnson said. “The answer is we don’t really know.”
Johnson said the Twins expect some teams won’t sign any players. Others, he said, will sign a few and others will be “super aggressive” in their push to add to their draft haul, clipped from 40 to five rounds as a result the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Twins, he said, hope to sign some of the players they had left on their draft board. They’re hopeful that their area scouts, who have built relationships with players through the course of the scouting and draft process, can help lead players toward them.
“We’re going to try to put our best foot forward and we feel like we have the best player development staff in the industry now. We’ve come so far in the last few years,” Johnson said. “We have great coaches, we have great tools for these players to tap into that can help optimize them as a player.
“And so our goal is to hopefully show those players … that’s the case and that this is a great opportunity.”
Some of it, no matter what the Twins present to a player, will be organizational fit, Johnson said. For example, a shortstop may shy away from the Twins seeing that they have top-prospect Royce Lewis and others waiting in the wings. Or, a player might be more inclined to sign with his hometown team rather than the Twins.
While college juniors and even some sophomores were eligible to be drafted, the sense is that many of those players will wind up going back to school. College seniors may be easier to pry away from school, even though they have been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.
Gophers coach John Anderson said this week that he doesn’t think many college players will wind up taking the deal. The Gophers had as many as six players they thought would be drafted in a traditional 40-round draft. Instead, only pitcher Max Meyer, who went No. 3 overall to the Miami Marlins, was selected, leaving the rest with a potential decision.
Most college players pay for 60 to 70 percent of their tuition and expenses.
“Do they want to come back and see what’s going to happen and play again and pay to go to school not knowing what the season is going to look like, or sign for $20,000?” Anderson said. “I don’t think there’s going to be many of those because there’s been no Minor League Baseball, they didn’t cut anybody after spring training and there’s international signings, so I just don’t see many free-agent signings this year.”
There’s no telling what the Minor League Baseball season will look like at this point; with MLB still trying to get its season off the ground, many believe that the MILB season — reliant on ticket and concessions revenue — will be canceled. So, Johnson said, many college players might be inclined to go back to school because they don’t feel they’d miss much, anyway.
“If there’s no summer and no instructional league, they may be basically just missing spring training next year, so that’s kind of the viewpoint of a few players we’ve talked to,” Johnson said. “It just depends on the situation, background, what school you’re at, what’s there to go back for, so many things to consider, which is why we’re completely unsure who is going to want to sign.”