How Does The MLB Draft Work?
Like most professional sports, Major League Baseball uses a yearly draft to allow its teams to select new players. For top college and amateur players, the MLB Draft is the best way to get picked up by a professional team. Keep reading to learn all about how the MLB Draft helps get new players onto teams.
The MLB Draft is the main way of selecting unsigned baseball players for teams. Every year, teams take turns picking players for their roster that have not yet been signed by other teams. Unlike in other sports, the MLB has two drafts:
- The First-Year Player Draft
- The Rule 5 Draft
First-Year Player Draft
The MLB First-Year Player Draft is the bigger of the two drafts and the more typical. Held mid-June, in the middle of the season, the First-Year Player Draft is for amateur players in their first year of eligibility who have never signed to a minor or major league team. The technical name for the First-Year Player Draft is the Rule 4 Draft.
First-Year Player Draft Eligibility
An amateur player is eligible for the First-Year Draft in the following situations:
- Immediately after high school, if they do not enroll in college
- After their junior baseball season or turning 21 if attending a four-year college, whichever occurs first
- At any time if attending a two-year or community college
MLB Draft Lottery
Like in other sports, a draft lottery is used to determine the top draft picks in the First-Year Player Draft. This discourages teams from deliberately tanking in an effort to secure the first pick. In the MLB First-Year Player Draft, the top six picks are randomly selected by a lottery system.
The 18 teams that did not make the playoffs are entered into the lottery. The three teams with the worst record have their odds set at 16.5%, with odds decreasing as records improve. Following the lottery, the remaining teams are slotted into draft order based on the previous season’s record, with teams with worse records picking first.
MLB Draft Format
The MLB First-Year Draft is held between June 1 and July 20 and takes place over 20 rounds. Each team gets one pick per round until a team passes on their right to make a pick. At that point, that team will not be included in further draft rounds.
Draft Bonus Pool Rules
Each team gets a set amount of money to spend for this purpose during the first 10 rounds, known as the bonus pool. Each of the picks in the first 10 rounds of the MLB First-Year Player Draft have an assigned dollar value, which is given to that player as a signing bonus. If a player picked in the first 10 rounds doesn’t sign, their bonus value is still subtracted from that team’s bonus pool. The team that drafts first gets the biggest bonus pool, with pool size decreasing for later draft slots. If a team exceeds their bonus pool in the first 10 rounds, they face monetary penalties.
Rule 5 Draft
The Rule 5 Draft is for players that have been signed to a minor or major league team but have not made it to a major league 40-man roster. Held in December, it is the smaller and lesser-known of the two drafts. Players must play at least five seasons if they signed before age 18 or at least four seasons if they signed after age 18 to be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
In the Rule 5 Draft, teams pick in reverse order of the last season’s standings, with the team with the worst record picking first. Not every team must make a selection. If a team picks a player, they must pay that player’s home club $100,000 and keep them on their 26-man roster for the remainder of the season or place them on waivers. There is no limit to the number of rounds, and the draft will continue until there are no longer any teams that wish to draft players.
MLB Draft Summary
- The MLB has two drafts, the First-Year Player Draft and the Rule 5 Draft.
- The First-Year Player Draft is bigger and for players in their first year of eligibility who have never signed to a pro team.
- The Rule 5 Draft is for players on minor or major league teams who haven’t made it to a major league 40-man roster.
- Both drafts are conducted in reverse order of the previous season’s record, but the First-Year Player Draft uses a lottery to randomize the first six picks.
- Players drafted in the first 10 rounds of the First-Year Player Draft get signing bonuses, which are counted against the signing team’s bonus pool.
- The First-Year Player Draft takes place over 20 rounds.
- The Rule 5 Draft takes as many rounds as necessary for all teams to make their desired picks.
What is the format of the MLB Draft?
The MLB First-Year Draft is a 20-round draft with teams picking in reverse order of the previous season’s records, with the weakest teams picking first. The first six picks are randomized with a lottery. Teams pick until a team passes on their pick, at which point they are excluded from future rounds.
What are the two drafts in the MLB?
The two types of draft in the MLB are the First-Year Draft and the Rule 5 Draft. The First-Year Draft is bigger and more traditional. It is for amateur players in their first year of eligibility. The Rule 5 Draft is for players on a professional team that have not made it to a major league 40-man roster.
Can a freshman in college get drafted in the MLB?
A freshman at a four-year college cannot get drafted in the MLB. Per the eligibility requirements for the First-Year Draft, students at four-year colleges must complete their junior year or turn 21 to qualify. However, students at two-year, junior, or community colleges are eligible at any time, as are high school graduates not enrolled in college.