A Casual Fan’s Guide to This Year’s M.L.B. Draft

It will be a hectic weekend for Major League Baseball, which once again has packaged its annual first-year player draft with its other All-Star Game festivities. While not quite a made-for-TV event like its N.F.L. or N.B.A. equivalents, baseball’s draft is still vitally important for most clubs. Fans will just have to exercise some patience before getting excited about any of the players their favorite teams select.

How does it work?

The draft consists of 20 rounds and will be held over three days.

It starts on Sunday at 7 p.m. Eastern with rounds 1 and 2, along with some competitive balance and compensation picks. In all, 83 players will be selected on Day 1. Rounds 3 through 10 will begin at 2 p.m. on Monday and rounds 11 through 20 will begin at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Sadly the days of a mysterious process involving a theoretically unlimited number of rounds conducted via conference call are over. The new collective bargaining agreement made last year’s 20-round format permanent, which is terrible news if you’re the nephew of a team’s marketing director (or if you’re Mike Piazza, the 1,390th pick of the 1988 draft, who went on to make the Baseball Hall of Fame).

Who has the first pick this year?

The Baltimore Orioles have been surging in recent weeks — calling up their top prospects and actually trying to win is a good strategy, it seems — but they tied Arizona for the worst record in baseball last year and will pick first in the draft. The Orioles also have three other first-day selections and a monster bonus pool of nearly $17 million.

The Mets and the Tampa Bay Rays also have four picks on the first day.

Like his father, Druw Jones is a terrific defensive player in center field who is expected to hit for power.Credit…John Bazemore/Associated Press

Who is the best player in this draft?

Do you remember Andruw Jones? The teenager who hit two home runs in a World Series game and went on to be one of the two or three greatest defensive center fielders in major league history (while hitting 434 homers)? Well, get ready for Druw Jones, Andruw’s 18-year-old son, who is the top-rated player on most prospect lists and has a decent chance of going to Baltimore with the No. 1 pick.

Unsurprisingly, the younger Jones is a terrific defender with a ton of power. Also unsurprisingly, his plate discipline isn’t quite there yet. If he ends up as a clone of his father that would be a terrific career. The opportunity exists for him to be even better.

Jackson Holliday, right, hung out with his father, Matt, before a division series game in 2007. Jackson could be a first-round pick in this year’s draft. He is taller now.Credit…David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Second-generation players are fun. Are there any others?

Another top prospect on many lists is Cam Collier, a third baseman from Chipola College, who is the son of Lou Collier, an eight-year veteran. Cam is an intriguing player who left high school early to play for a top junior college program — à la Bryce Harper — and won’t turn 18 until November. He has major league tools as a hitter and defender and is likely to go high despite his commitment to Louisville.

Then there’s Jackson Holliday, the son of Matt Holliday, a 15-year major leaguer. A high school shortstop from Oklahoma, Jackson is expected to hit for power, and even if he doesn’t stay at shortstop his speed could help him transition to center field. (Keep an eye on the Hollidays: Jackson’s brother Ethan is a future draft prospect as well.)

Justin Crawford, a high school outfielder from Las Vegas, is the son of Carl Crawford (he’s a fast runner with good bat speed — go figure) and Silas Ardoin, a catcher from the University of Texas who is known for his defense, is the son of a former big league catcher, Danny Ardoin.

Will anyone from this year’s draft be in the majors soon?

Not necessarily. Only one player from the 2021 draft has seen major league action so far — Chase Silseth of the Los Angeles Angels — and with a dearth of quality college pitchers, and a large group of top-rated high school position players, the Class of 2022 might need several years of seasoning before it can be evaluated.

Dearth of quality college pitchers?

There are a few intriguing arms at the collegiate level, like Oklahoma’s Cade Horton and East Carolina’s Carson Whisenhunt, but for the most part this draft is considered to be light on starters with ace potential. As a result, the Angels, who made history by using all 20 picks last year on pitchers — Silseth was their 11th-round selection — look prophetic for restocking their system in a more robust year.

Whatever happened to Kumar Rocker? Isn’t he available?

Rocker, the tenth overall pick in last year’s draft and a former Vanderbilt star, was unsigned by the Mets after the team found something it didn’t like in his post-draft physical. He made a few appearances for the Tri-City ValleyCats, an unaffiliated team in the Frontier League, and while he showed off his big fastball and ability to dominate, he also acknowledged having had what his agent described as “minor” shoulder surgery in September.

Where he ranks among this year’s prospects depends on whether you think there is such a thing as a minor shoulder surgery. But even if Rocker isn’t a top-10 pick, he is still likely to come off the board on Sunday with some team willing to gamble on his ace-level potential.

After failing to come to terms with the Mets last year, Kumar Rocker spent time with the Tri-City ValleyCats, an independent team in Frontier League.Credit…John Kekis/Associated Press

Seems like Rocker will do OK. What do the Mets get?

Remember earlier when we discussed the Mets having four picks on the first day of the draft? One of them — the 11th overall pick — is compensation for not having signed Rocker. The team’s other extra pick — No. 75 overall — came via the Angels who had to surrender their second-rounder after signing Noah Syndergaard away from the Mets.

The Mets will have $13,955,700 to sign their picks from the first ten rounds — the third-largest bonus pool among M.L.B.’s 30 teams.

Cool, do the Yankees have any extra picks?

Nope, but they didn’t have to surrender any either thanks to their decision not to sign any top free agents (that has worked out well so far). They have three picks in the top 100 (25, 61, 100) and will pick 24th in each round thereafter.

Wasn’t the draft going to include international players?

Hold your horses. As part of the league’s new C.B.A., an international draft is on the table, which would dramatically remake how baseball does business in places like the Dominican Republic. The concept has advocates and detractors, and was contentious enough that M.L.B. and the players’ union tabled the discussion, agreeing to make a decision by July 25 to either adopt the international draft going forward or maintain the current system of draft-pick compensation for free agent signings.

Until that decision is finalized, the C.B.A. technically isn’t complete. And with no international draft in place, the only players eligible this year are those playing in the United States or Canada. Keep watching in the later rounds, though, as some players who have come through M.L.B.’s development centers in China have been playing college ball, and there is a chance that baseball could have its first draft pick from that country.

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