Major League Baseball Draft
The First-Year Player Draft, also known as the Rule 4 Draft, is Major League Baseball's primary mechanism for assigning amateur baseball players, from high schools, colleges, and other amateur baseball clubs, to its teams. The draft order is determined based on the previous season's standings, with the team possessing the worst record receiving the first pick. In addition, teams which lost free agents in the previous off-season may be awarded "compensatory" picks.
The first amateur draft was held in 1965. Unlike most sports drafts, the First-Year Player Draft is held mid-season, in June. Another distinguishing feature of this draft in comparison with those of other North American major professional sports leagues is its sheer size: under the new collective bargaining agreement the draft lasts 40 rounds, plus compensatory picks. In contrast, the NHL Entry Draft lasts seven rounds and roughly 215 picks, the NBA Draft lasts for only two rounds (60 selections) and the NFL Draft for only seven rounds (256 selections if no picks are forfeited).
The First-Year Player Draft has historically had far less media exposure than its counterparts in the other leagues for three primary reasons:
- High school and college baseball, the primary sources of MLB draftees, are not nearly as popular as college football, college basketball, and, in Canada and certain parts of the U.S., college and junior hockey. Consequently, most prospective top draft picks were unknown to the casual sports observer at the time of their draft. However, this is slowly changing: NCAA baseball has enjoyed a spike in popularity in the 2000s and top collegiate baseball players have enjoyed greater media exposure, though still far below that of their basketball and football counterparts.
- Unlike top draft picks in the NHL, NBA and NFL, all of whom are expected to make immediate impacts, top MLB draftees are nearly always assigned to the minor leagues for several years to hone their skills. The entire 2007 first round (64 players) totaled one inning of major league playing time as of the end of the 2008 season; as of the 2009 season, the vast majority of 2008 first-rounders were still assigned to minor league organizations. In contrast, every first-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft had played in the league by the end of the 2008 season.
- While many NHL, NBA and NFL draftees will eventually reach their respective leagues, the vast majority of players selected in the First-Year Player Draft will never play in a single MLB game, including many first-rounders. For example, only 31 of 53 first-round draft picks in the 1997 draft eventually made a big-league appearance, and only 13 of those 30 appeared in more than 100 games as of 2009. In 1997's sixth round, only five of the 30 players selected eventually made a big league appearance, and only two of those five (Tim Hudson and Matt Wise) played more than 40 innings in the majors. Further illustrating the unpredictability of the draft's middle and later rounds, none of the 30 players selected in the 18th round ever reached the major leagues, but the 19th round eventually produced an all-star and World Series MVP, David Eckstein.
The 2007 Draft was televised live for the first time in the draft's history on Thursday June 17, 2007 from 2:00pm until 6:00pm EDT (1800 - 2200 hrs UTC). The Draft coverage took place at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.
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