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Plans for 2020 MLB Draft and how the future of MiLB uniquely and negatively impacts the Rockies

Drew Creasman Avatar
May 15, 2020

Forget everything you think you know about the Colorado Rockies history in the MLB draft.

You will need that space in your mind for this exercise and we can get back to what you know later on but for now having it all clanging around up there won’t be helpful.

Done?

You are about to be asked to hold some seemingly contradictory thoughts in your head together in harmony. This is going to get messy. You have been warned.

The grapemill through the rumorvine suggests that the return of baseball could be right around the corner and whatever it looks like, it will be very strange.

Details regarding the upcoming draft have emerged and DNVR will be providing extensive coverage of this special event set to take place on June 10.

This year the MLB First Year Player Draft will contain just five rounds, considerably less than normal 40 rounds seen since 2012. (Prior to that, the draft was 50 rounds in 1998.)

But let’s get a few more facts on the table before fully unpacking the avalanche of ridiculousness with which baseball fans, and particularly Rockies fans, will have to contend.

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports reports that, “draftees would be forced to defer 90% of their bonuses. They’d get 10% up front, with 45% paid in July of 2021 and the remaining 45% paid in July 2022. It’s not clear from this evening’s report if that deferral scenario has been agreed to in the new arrangement. Beyond that, the new draft rules will allow teams to sign an unlimited number of un-drafted players for $20,000. For comparison, last year, sixth-round bonus slots ranged from a high of $301,600 to a low of $237,000. ”

Ok. Far fewer rounds. Significantly less money. What else?

Well, at the very least you now have a near guarantee that there will be no true MiLB season this year and that MLB is likely to get its way when it comes to slashing 42 minor league clubs from existence now that there simply won’t be enough players to field those short-season teams such as the Grand Junction Rockies and the Boise Hawks.

Suffice to say, this decision was a back-alley way to accomplish something they had planned to do anyway.

All of these changes amount to a sea of bad news for most small-to-mid market teams, but they perhaps have the most uniquely negative impact on the Rockies.

You may be asking yourself, “is that because the Rockies have done especially well in the later rounds of the draft that will not take place this year?”

The answer to that is no. Not recently anyway.

Calcaterra notes in his piece that players drafted in rounds 6-10 recently include Jacob deGrom, Dallas Keuchel, Paul Goldschmidt, Marcus Semien, Miles Mikolas, Whit Merrifield, Kyle Hendricks, Brian Dozier, Trey Mancini, Kendall Graveman, and Emilio Pagán.

But Colorado has just three players who suited up for the big league club last season who they took in the sixth round or later: Scott Oberg, Dom Nunez and Sam Hilliard.

While both of the latter players have plenty of promise, it is a bit early to tell what the Rockies would really be missing out on, in terms of on-field value, without them.

Oberg has clearly emerged as a key piece, though it would be a bit much to put him on the level of some of the names mentioned above. At least not yet, anyway.

It is also difficult to draw a one-to-one conclusion about players being taken in later rounds necessarily failing to make it to MLB. Under a new system – heck, under the current system – there are plenty of ways for ballplayers to prove themselves and allow talent to shine through and make a roster without going through the draft. Josh Fuentes could tell you a little something about that.

Regardless of how well the Rockies have done in the past though, it remains true that Colorado has more specific needs when it comes to home growing their players. Just because they haven’t always executed the best doesn’t mean this isn’t the right strategy to take.

First of all, it has been well documented that all five postseason teams in franchise history have relied heavily on homegrown players.

Whether it is about getting used to the effects of altitude on the body, or on how pitches move, the extreme splits over the years have made it clear that the Rockies nned to be prepared and equipped for this dynamic.

This is why Colorado has made a concerted effort to house their Rookie and Triple-A affiliates in the state.

Without the ability to train for the environment these athletes will eventually be expected to excel in, guys taken in every round and from every part of the globe will be negatively impacted by coming into the organization.

In addition, any player moving from the minors to the majors will now have an increased amount of travel which only exacerbates the health concerns. The Rockies already have the toughest travel in baseball, leaving their time zone every single time they go on the road while some coast teams can go entire half-season without doing so. Under this new system, that will be made even worse as any call-up will need to fly from California or New York rather than taking the quick trip up I-25.

And once they get there, they better be ready to carry the load because all those players who otherwise could have been drafted by the Rockies will now have their choice of a team they want to go to.

Guess how many pitchers from that class will choose Colorado?

But that’s OK because the Rockies will be able to outspend the other teams? Yeah…

While it hasn’t always come from the exact spot that looks to be most impacted by the changes to the draft, and eventually to MiLB, the Rockies recent (relative) success was buoyed by a quantity approach.

Altitude, and the travel to and from, uniquely effect players health and ability to stay consistent on the diamond. Attacking that problem with numbers has largely paid off. And now the Rockies will have far fewer troops to call into battle.

Much of this may be mitigated for a year if this season doesn’t end up including the Margin of Air with every team playing in a few isolated locations. But the long-term effects will be irreversible.

There will be plenty more to discuss about what this does for the love of the game in the state, or the middle of the country in general, and about the nefarious reasons behind why MLB is doing all of this in the first place. For now, there is no other way than to take this new draft, and likely new MiLB system, as a massive gut punch to the Colorado Rockies.

At least they’ll get the DH.

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