The results of the second stage of the annual Hall of Fame voting process will be announced Tuesday evening with the Baseball Writers’ Association selections, and we can safely say not to expect any stunning news along the lines of what happened in December with the Today’s Game Era committee.
In other words, we’re not going to see a reunion of the 2005 White Sox with the elections of Jon Garland and Freddy Garcia.
The committee’s election of Harold Baines, however, does raise an interesting question: How much does the BBWAA vote even matter if a 16-person committee is simply going to override those results in the future?
Take Fred McGriff. He’s on the BBWAA ballot for the final time. He’s not going to get in. Not to worry; in a few years he seems like a surefire committee choice. He’s like Baines — a one-dimensional slugger, highly respected, played a long time — except even better at that one dimension. McGriff hit .284 with 493 home runs and an OPS+ of 134. Baines hit .289 with 384 home runs and an OPS+ of 121. McGriff’s 52.6 WAR dwarfs Baines’ 38.7. He’s fared much better in BBWAA voting than Baines ever did.
The same can be said of some of the other borderline candidates on the ballot, such as Larry Walker, Scott Rolen and Jeff Kent. Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte are on for the first time. They aren’t strong candidates based on traditional BBWAA standards, but compared to Baines, Lee Smith and Jack Morris — elected the past two years by the special committees — they look pretty good. We can debate their merits, but in the long run they’re probably all getting in. The BBWAA vote only (potentially) expedites the process.
That isn’t to suggest that everyone better than Jack Morris or Harold Baines should get in. Heck, there are 21 players on this ballot with a higher career WAR than those two. What remains to be seen is how the soft selections of Morris, Baines and Smith might start influencing the BBWAA vote.
Anyway, here are some key things to look for with Tuesday’s results. All references to voting totals are courtesy of the great work Ryan Thibodaux does with his Hall of Fame vote tracker.
Will Mariano Rivera become the first player elected unanimously?
Among those who obsess about Hall of Fame balloting, there is a small subset who obsess over this twist of history: No Hall of Famer has received 100 percent of the vote. Somehow, 23 people didn’t vote for Willie Mays. Nine people didn’t vote for Hank Aaron. Imagine having a Hall of Fame ballot and not voting for Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. Twenty didn’t vote for Ted Williams, but, hey, a lot of writers despised the man. In the first election in 1936, 11 writers didn’t vote for Babe Ruth. The rules might not have been entirely clear: Ruth had just retired the previous year. Still, Ruth received just 215 votes out of 226 ballots.
So, as Joe Posnanski related in a recent column, the issue of unanimity became a thing right from the beginning.
Tom Seaver came close. He was named on 425 of 430 ballots in 1992. Three writers sent in a blank ballot, protesting that Pete Rose was not on the ballot. One writer had just gotten out of open-heart surgery and simply missed checking off Seaver’s name. The final non-vote, as Posnanski writes, came from a retired writer named Deane McGowan, who apparently refused to vote for any player on his first ballot. And you think Baseball Twitter is cranky.
Ken Griffey Jr. set the record with 99.3 percent of the vote in 2016. Three writers didn’t vote for him. We don’t know who they were since voters don’t have to reveal their ballots. Maybe somebody sent in a blank ballot. Maybe somebody refused to vote for anybody who played in the steroid era. Maybe somebody decided, “If Babe Ruth wasn’t no unanimous, nobody should be unanimous.”
So it goes. As did Griffey, Rivera has received 100 percent of the publicly revealed ballots. He’s 180-for-180 so far. My guess: He won’t get 100 percent. Somebody will enforce the Ruth rule. Maybe somebody feels no reliever deserves to be enshrined. Maybe somebody, knowing Rivera will get elected, will use his or her 10 spots on the ballot for other candidates. But Rivera has a chance to end the silly 100 percent stigma.
Does Edgar Martinez get in on his final ballot?
It would be a little awkward if Baines is giving a speech in July and Martinez isn’t. After all, the Designated Hitter of the Year award isn’t named after Baines. Fortunately, it looks like Martinez will get elected. He’s received 90.8 percent of the public ballots, compared to 76.3 percent last year, when he finished at 70.4 percent. So even with an expected decline in the percentage he receives from the private ballots, he looks in good shape. Book those hotel rooms now, Mariners fans.
Does Roy Halladay get in on his first ballot?
Halladay is polling at a surprising 94.1 percent — not that he’s undeserving, but he’s not a slam dunk by career WAR (64.3) or wins (203), standards that BBWAA voters have employed in the past. Compare him to Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling:
Halladay: 64.3 WAR, 203-105, 3.38 ERA, 131 ERA+
Mussina: 83.0 WAR, 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+
Schilling: 79.6 WAR, 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+
Mussina is on the ballot for the sixth time and received just 20.3 percent of the vote on his first ballot. Schilling is on for the seventh time and received 38.8 percent of the vote his first time. There are reasons to like Halladay over Mussina and Schilling — he won two Cy Young Awards and finished second two other times, and his seven-year peak is highest of the three (50.4 WAR, 48.7 for Schilling, 44.6 for Mussina) — but it seems Halladay is being viewed much differently than those two. Perhaps his unfortunate death in a plane crash is helping his vote total.
Anyway, like Martinez, his total will surely drop in the private ballot, but he needs just 59.5 percent on the remaining ballots to clear 75 percent.
Speaking of Mussina and Schilling, how will they do?
Mussina is inching closer, but it looks like he’ll fall just short. He’s at 82.2 percent of the public vote and would need 69.2 percent of the remaining ballots. He received just 46.7 percent of the private ballots last year, so he will need a significant increase in that area. Still, he’s trending in the right direction and looks primed for 2019. If Halladay gets in, that helps Mussina since it clears a strong candidate off the ballot and there aren’t any strong starting pitchers hitting the ballot in upcoming years. (Tim Hudson and Mark Buehrle are the best.)
Schilling, meanwhile, continues to fall behind Mussina — even though as recently as 2016 he was well ahead (52.3 percent to 43.0 percent). Schilling is polling at 74.1 percent, which is better than the 60 percent he received on public ballots a year ago, so it’s difficult to know how much his various contentious statements on Twitter and elsewhere have hurt his vote total.
Will Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens get any closer?
We know the Hall of Fame’s stance on these two. Joe Morgan’s letter in November 2017 — he’s the Hall’s vice chairman and on the board of directors — made that clear. Issued from a Hall of Fame email address, Morgan implored voters not to vote for known steroid users. “We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here,” he wrote.
Of course, there’s the almost certain likelihood that there are steroid users already in the Hall of Fame, and recent elections have voted in players strongly suspected of steroid use. The Hall doesn’t want Bonds or Clemens in, and it could simply remove the pair from the ballot (not to mention Manny Ramirez, who actually failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs), but hasn’t had the audacity to do that.
Anyway, Bonds and Clemens won’t get in, at least not this year. They’re both polling at 73 percent, which is an increase from last year’s public ballots, when they were at 64 percent. Like Schilling, this is their seventh year on the ballot and time is running out, with just three years remaining after this vote and likely not enough momentum in the private ballots (which tend to be more anti-steroids).
What happens after that if they don’t get elected? Who knows. The Hall of Fame could simply choose not to put Bonds and Clemens on the committee ballot. Or it could put them on with the implicit knowledge they won’t get elected. We certainly know one board member who won’t vote for them.
Will Andy Pettitte stay on the ballot?
A player needs 5 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot the following year. Pettitte is at 6.5 percent. Like Jorge Posada a couple of years ago, he’s in danger of getting the boot after one year. (Even Bernie Williams lasted two years.) Pettitte has a stronger case than those two former teammates, however, and a similar — but much stronger — case than Morris. The strongest part of Pettitte’s case might be his postseason record: He went 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA over 44 starts, including 23 starts in which he allowed two runs or fewer.
Still, he’s not one of the 10 best players on this ballot, and his 3.85 career ERA is a tough hill to climb to get in. He also admitted to a one-time use of PEDs, although I haven’t seen anybody reference that as a reason they didn’t vote for him.
How close will Larry Walker get?
Walker is polling at 67 percent of the public ballots compared to 37.5 percent last year. That’s good! Except this is Walker’s ninth year on the ballot. That’s bad! It feels too late to make a run. Tim Raines, for example, was up to 69.8 percent in his ninth year and Martinez was even closer last year. Even if Walker becomes the guy everyone pushes next year, he’s probably going to have to finish with at least 65 percent of the vote this year, and it seems unlikely his private support will keep him at that level.
Even if he falls short next year, there’s always the Today’s Game Era committee. After all, Baines, who lasted only five years on the ballot, topped out at just 6.1 percent on the BBWAA vote.
Mets simulation broadcast throws shade at Astros
During a time with no baseball games, even team broadcasters are looking for some way to fill the gap in normalcy that comes with the annual baseball schedule.
While calling the simulation, Cohen dropped a joke about the Astros sign-stealing scandal, giving us a taste of what a broadcast likely would have sounded like any time a team faced the Astros during the 2020 season.
“You can hear very little from the crowd tonight, it almost feels like you’re playing in a library,” Cohen said on the broadcast of the simulation. “Which would mean that any sound that might be emanating from the dugout, say, the sound of a trash can being banged, would be quite formidable.”
How video games are bringing MLB players and fans together
ON THE LAST Monday night in March, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell ate a Fruit Roll-Up, performed an occasional karaoke number — including “Wonderwall” by Oasis and a mix of Drake tunes — and played MLB The Show 20 on PlayStation Network.
“Bro,” Snell announced to the more than 500 fans tuned in on Twitch to watch him do all of this, “I have not been around another human being in forever.”
Snell, the 2018 American League Cy Young Award winner, is among the most prominent baseball players on Twitch, the popular video game livestreaming service. Snell had already streamed every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night during the offseason to his more than 17,000 followers — complete with cameos from his dog, June, informal tours of his game room and live chat Q&As — but since the coronavirus outbreak began, those streams on his channel, classiclyfamous, have become almost nightly.
With the routine of baseball broken by a global pandemic, MLB stars have turned to their video game doppelgangers for the closest thing to real action — and their fans have followed them. In a time with no games, baseball fans are getting uniquely intimate experiences with their favorite athletes, who have webcams pointed at them, uncut, for hours on end.
“Hopefully I was able to bring some smiles to people’s faces. We’re in the same boat, and we’re all just trying to help each other.”
Reds reliever Amir Garrett, winner of March’s MLB The Show Players Tournament
“It keeps us connected with fans because right now there’s no sports,” says Chicago White Sox lefty Carlos Rodon, whose growing following on Twitch is now up to nearly 1,000 and who has streamed regularly since the 2020 season was delayed indefinitely. “People have to stay inside. Hell, you’re on lockdown, you’re not talking to anybody, I think it’s therapeutic for people. When you’re in the situation we’re in, you can be staring at a wall by yourself, and there’s only so many TV shows you can watch or so many books you can read. Same thing with video games, but now you get to talk to a professional baseball player.”
As many Americans started to self-quarantine by mid-March, online video game usage in the U.S. during peak hours rose 75%, according to a Verizon study published by The Hollywood Reporter. In just a single week, activity on Twitch increased by 10%, according to The Verge. Major League Baseball noticed. The league organized an official MLB The Show Players Tournament on Twitch late last month, a battle between Snell, Minnesota Twins reliever Trevor May, Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett and San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence. Garrett was named “King of the sticks!”, winning it all while wearing a nearly full uniform — hat, jersey, pants, jewelry and socks. Everything but his cleats.
“I did not have cleats on because I would have gotten in trouble [with my fiancee], but hopefully I was able to bring some smiles to people’s faces,” Garrett says. “We’re in the same boat, and we’re all just trying to help each other.”
Twins pitcher Trevor May displays a wide array of humorous reactions to the video games he’s been playing.
ON TREVOR MAY’S stream, beneath his webcam view, these nine words often appear in big, bold letters: “We have no idea when the season will start.”
While looking for an apartment in Minnesota before the 2020 season, May says, finding a building with fiber internet was one of his main priorities, in order to minimize lag while playing and streaming online. May became one of the first baseball players to stream on Twitch seriously when he had Tommy John surgery before the 2016 season. He now boasts a following of more than 160,000, is a member of the esports organization Luminosity and regularly plays Fortnite with esports stars such as Ninja.
Now back in the Twin Cities for self-quarantine, May has been on Twitch nearly every day playing games like The Show, Animal Crossing and Call of Duty.
Thing of beauty. Let’s game. pic.twitter.com/i9kiBEdr6e
— Trevor “IamTrevorMay” May (@IamTrevorMay) March 25, 2020
“I’ve always been the showman, wanted to perform for people and interact with them,” May says. “In high school, I would do all of our lip syncs in our class competitions. All of that kind of stuff was always interesting to me. And then I tried to be as interactive as possible on social media. If you asked my wife, that’s what I do with things. When I get a hobby, I want to be as good at it as I can and make adjustments. That’s the fun of it for me.”
As for Snell, he joined Twitch in October of 2018, investing heavily into a studio setup featuring foam-treated walls, a high-quality webcam and microphone, three monitors, bright video production lights and a wide array of decorative RGB lights that are popular in the gaming community. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Derek Holland joined after watching his teammate Pence livestream, and is now affiliated with the Alpha North esports group. Rodon, meanwhile, began streaming when his wife bought him all of the equipment to make his own Twitch channel after watching him play games every night. For the players, live-streaming video games is a lot of fun, but it also provides an opportunity to share a different side of their personality that doesn’t come through in locker room media scrums and formal news conferences.
“I remember a lot of fans saying stuff on social media but they never knew me. They saw me in a baseball dugout at work, and I’m always serious and I don’t talk,” Snell says. “I’m always locked in, and I really just got to the point where I was like, I really want you to understand who I am. Like, that’s not me. That’s just me at work. They see me when I’m working, so when I’m working, of course I’m going to be serious and not having fun. Like, it’s my job. So I started it up and I started talking to people.”
By design, Twitch creates communities in chat rooms. For regular streamers like May and Snell, those communities began developing around their channels. Snell regularly gives shout-outs to viewers in the chat, particularly if he hasn’t seen them in a while, and answers their questions about baseball (a recent one on the toughest hitter to face in real life got this answer: “Mookie Betts.”) Snell isn’t afraid to be a little controversial, too. In a not-so-thinly veiled reference to the Astros’ cheating scandal, Snell called one of his trash cans “a bang-free trash bin” during one stream, and made headlines when he criticized a Rays trade for netting his team “a slapd— prospect” — a comment for which he later personally apologized to the prospect, Xavier Edwards.
Tune into one of May’s streams and you’ll often see him going back and forth with fans, discussing everything from the ethics of a Pete Rose reinstatement to why he doesn’t follow the hype around top prospects. Tune in to Holland’s stream and you might find the lefty playing Grand Theft Auto, The Show or Super Mario 64 while doing his best impersonations of Kermit the Frog, Cleveland from “The Cleveland Show” and legendary broadcaster Harry Caray. What used to be confined to clubhouse antics is now being broadcast live on the internet.
For Twitch streamers like Brian Sawyer, who goes by JugsySiegel on the platform, discovering this community was a jackpot for fans like him. “I didn’t realize like, wait, there’s people here playing baseball, talking baseball,” Sawyer says. “If you’re a baseball nerd like me, you don’t really have many people to talk about this stuff with because it’s nerdy stats and numbers. I found this community of people where we were all like-minded and we all love baseball. We hang out and talk about baseball all day.”
Sawyer and other notable streamers in the Twitch community who play The Show began developing relationships with big leaguers like Snell, May and Holland. What started out as friendly banter in the chat room slowly turned into private messages and, eventually, joint live streams.
“It’s really bridged this gap of the players being untouchable. The player is approachable. It’s unbelievable,” Sawyer says. “These guys are coming in and they’re interacting with us. You can almost touch them as a fan, and you see them in a different light. You see them on TV and they’re stoic and they’re quiet and they’re almost like superheroes. Then you see them streaming, and they’re just normal people.”
When Tyler Jedrzejak, who goes by DaddyDimmuTV on Twitch, started playing Holland online, he once tried to throw a complete game against the Pittsburgh lefty using Holland’s own video game counterpart. It worked.
“I play the game a little bit too much since it’s my job, but you’re not trying to destroy them,” says Jedrzejak, who makes enough money off subscriptions and ads that he became a full-time Twitcher in December. “It was fun playing Derek Holland because when I was pitching, right before I throw the pitch, he would call exactly what I was throwing. He knew exactly what I was doing because, I mean, he’s a pitcher.”
Since the spread of COVID-19, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger and infielder Gavin Lux, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen and White Sox starter Lucas Giolito have been among the players without Twitch accounts to join the online competition — a natural extension of the sport’s larger video game culture, which has existed for some time now, according to multiple players. Whereas in generations past, players routinely went out for a classy dinner and a drink, younger players who grew up with gaming are turning to their controllers to bond with their teammates during their many nights spent on the road.
“When I was younger, if you really wanted to hang out with your teammates outside of the field, a lot of guys would end up going out or to the hotel bar and have a couple of drinks. You always felt like you needed to get together somewhere,” McCutchen says. “No one hung out in their room together because there was nothing to do besides watch a movie or something. With video games, we got guys coming over, we’re putting rooms together and have all the doors open. It’s kind of like a big icebreaker. I was on teams where we would get our Nintendo Switches and we’d all play together in a room.”
“It’s unbelievable. These guys are coming in and they’re interacting with us. You can almost touch them as a fan, and you see them in a different light. You see them on TV and they’re stoic and they’re quiet and they’re almost like superheroes. Then you see them streaming, and they’re just normal people.”
Baseball fan and Twitch streamer Brian Sawyer
When Rodon came up with the White Sox, the team would organize FIFA tournaments or play 2-on-2 co-op games, often huddling in then-Chicago ace Chris Sale‘s hotel room.
“Some guys wouldn’t even be playing,” Rodon says. “Some guys would just be hanging out, watching and just talking. Some of the guys didn’t even play video games, [they were] just there to hang with the guys. It’s a different way of team bonding because it’s competing still, right? It’s competing for fun, but there’s not really any stakes.”
Video games have become one of the main methods of communication for teammates during the offseason. Setting up a mic and playing a round of, say, Rocket League is now more commonplace than simply picking up the phone. Conversations online can range from industry gossip to workout regimens to pitch grips.
“Me personally, I wouldn’t FaceTime a good buddy of mine for two and a half hours. I’d probably just text him or if not, then a quick FaceTime for 10 to 15 minutes,” Giolito says. “If you’re gaming with a good friend, you’ll sit there and talk for two and a half hours. You’re not always talking about the game.”
McCutchen, an 11-year veteran who’s played with four organizations, says video games have kept him in touch with former teammates like Ryan Church, with whom he played for less than a full season with the Pirates in 2010.
“A lot of times, what you find out is when you’re not teammates with guys or maybe you’re not as close with guys as much as we would like to be, once the season’s over, you kind of lose contact,” McCutchen says. “You might have a few guys you keep in contact with, but the team itself, you lose contact. You go from one team to another, you find yourself not even talking to any of those guys ever again, so I think with video games and that community, that kind of holds guys together.”
Now, that communication takes on even more significance as players wait for any sign of baseball’s return.
Says Snell: “When something like this happens, all the players bond because they all feel the same pain and they’re all going through the same emotions of not being able to do what they love. It brings out the best, and it makes players get closer. They realize they’re both in the same situation. That’s the hardest thing, when you lose something you love and there’s nothing you can do about it. They’re going to get bored, they’re going to reach out, they’re going to talk to the guys because they miss competing.”
For Garrett, self-expression is equally important. “It’s just a different time, a different era,” the 27-year-old pitcher says. “Baseball is not going to be here forever. I just try to market myself as much as I can and brand myself. Social media is a great way for people to get to know the real you, and I would tell other athletes to not be shy or scared to use social media. Nobody wants to be that guy, but it’s OK to be you. You don’t have to be a robot.”
Twitch is a much-needed distraction for fans like Sawyer, and, until recently, a second income for him. Sawyer lost his job in the catering industry when the Las Vegas Strip shut down due to the coronavirus. Streaming online has given him some backup financial support during a difficult period in his life when he would normally be turning to baseball as an outlet.
“Twitch and this platform has definitely saved baseball for me. I don’t think I would even be thinking about it,” Sawyer says. “If it’s not on, how many old reruns of a Ken Burns baseball documentary can you watch?”
WITH THE SEASON on hold, and his interest in Twitch rising, Garrett began to search for the right equipment, but he kept running into roadblocks.
“I was trying to get one of the best cameras, but they’re all sold out because everyone is a gamer now. I had to adapt really quick and get a PS4 camera; it wasn’t bad, but my Twitch, I’m going to start pursuing it a little bit more during this time and see where it goes from here.”
“It’s not like, oh you buy a camera and you’re good. … You’re going to have to be there for people who are not yourself. You’re going to be there for them. Then you’ve got to find the beauty in that, and that should make you happy.”
Rays lefty Blake Snell
Garrett won’t be the last to give it a go. Boston Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes, for one, opened his own account in recent weeks, and his teammates Eduardo Rodriguez and Xander Bogaerts — along with Bogaerts’ twin brother, Jair — have been streaming Fortnite almost daily. But making the most of Twitch, especially these days, is about a lot more than just fancy hardware. The biggest challenge facing newcomers is the gradual building of a community, according to Snell, something that takes time and effort. On the night he won his Cy Young Award, Snell broadcast live, celebrating with his fans and giving away a signed jersey.
“It’s not like, oh, you buy a camera and you’re good,” Snell says. “You’re going to spend a lot of money to stream, and you’re not going to make a lot and you’re going to have to be there for people who are not yourself. You’re going to be there for them. Then you’ve got to find the beauty in that, and that should make you happy.”
May has started multiple careers in Road to the Show, an MLB The Show feature that allows gamers to simulate a career in professional baseball. May also created a second version of himself — as a hitter. These days, May’s wife often finds him yelling phrases like “Sit in the truck” and “Get your doors blown off” when he’s striking out virtual batters. With more than 3,000 concurrent viewers and a million total views at times during the pandemic, years of streaming has made a difference for May.
“I realized really quickly that being a professional athlete didn’t have as much play in that world, but it had a little bit. I just was really active,” May says. “Being really active in the community, you don’t just pop in and say, ‘Hey, you want to play?’ That’s not how it works. You’ve got to make friendships and meet people that also enjoy playing video games. That doesn’t change for anybody, no matter what walk of life. If it feels like you’re a fake member of the community, it’s just not that fun to watch.”
It can require a thick skin, too. Holland often gets roasted by people in the chatroom. Sometimes fans bring up the real-life walk-off grand slam he served up to Bryce Harper last August as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
“I’ll give up a homer in The Show and people will joke around like, ‘Ooh, that one’s almost like the Harper one,'” Holland says. “I’m like, ‘Ah, it’s kind of close, but not quite.'”
Like many of his peers, Holland only started playing The Show after the suspension of the baseball season, but he’s been enjoying a small taste of baseball at a time when fields across the country are empty. For now, he knows this is the closest to the real thing he and his fans are going to get.
“You’re not going to get too many complaints out of me,” Holland says. “Sometimes the umpires squeeze me a little bit, but that’s kind of like real life.”
MLB draft rankings — The top 100-plus players available in 2020 and beyond
The rankings below may look like those from any other draft year at this juncture, but most of the conversations I have with scouts are about the logistics and strategic adjustments to this year’s Major League Baseball Rule 4 draft due to COVID-19, rather than about which player is better than another. We talked about that, too, and those thoughts are contained below in the comments under the rankings, but this introduction will focus more on the meta elements hovering above the player evaluations.
Right now, the draft is set to start on June 10th and to go five rounds. It can move to as late as July 20th and to as many as 40 rounds, but no one expects it to be bigger than 10 rounds. The expectation from those I spoke with is that no amateur competition of any kind will happen between now and draft day, thus no additional in-game data will be collected. So, the draft will occur with significantly less information, along with significantly fewer players picked and signed.
The five-round length is the biggest adjustment, and it obviously remains to be seen how this will affect strategy, but teams already have some suspicions. The fact that there is a hard cap on any undrafted player of $20,000 means that a whole draft pool has to be spent on drafted players. In the event a team thinks they have a unique and extreme opinion on a high school prospect, and would normally take that player in the 15th or 20th round and sign him for a $500,000 bonus, that team now has to take that player in the top five rounds. So, teams will be incentivized to “play it straight” and draft players much closer to how they like them, rather than moving bonus money around based on the perception of players.
Taking a college senior who is a seventh-round talent in the fourth round for a below-slot $50,000 bonus will save some money, but that has to go to one of a handful of picks, which doesn’t allow for much creativity in terms of where and how to use those savings. It’s expected that college juniors that hope to go in the fifth round and turn pro will be squeezed, as the draft pool gets very homogeneous at that point. The slot for the last pick of the fifth round is $321,100, with all leftover players stuck with $20,000 or returning/going to school with reduced leverage. Most teams will just find a half dozen players that they like for their last pick and offer them half of slot, if not less, and see who takes it.
Redshirt juniors or seniors who are legitimate top-five-round talents (Duke RHP Bryce Jarvis or East Tennessee State RHP Landon Knack) will get moved up the board for under-slot bonuses so clubs can get a strong value for their pick and lock in savings that will give them the hammer at later picks, when other clubs will be trying to cut under-slot deals to pay for earlier picks.
There’s also the ugly rumor that some clubs may not have the cash flow to actually spend all of the draft pool money that they’re allotted. There’s currently a transaction freeze, but it would likely be lifted before draft day to allow for moves. What if a team has an above-average $10 million draft pool due to a (tradable) competitive pick and their owner tells the GM he can only spend $7 million on this year’s draft class?
With the two-year bonus deferment, a high school prospect who will be an eligible sophomore in 2022 now has extra leverage to get a higher bonus in 2022 (with a strong college performance) and collect it all at the same time than if they signed in the 2020 draft. This applies to RF Austin Hendrick, RHP Nate Wohlgemuth, LF Sterlin Thompson, and RHP Ben Hernandez in the Top 102. I chose 102 because that’s the amount of picks in the top three rounds; I’ll expand this to the full five rounds (161 picks) by the next update.
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