The Amateur Draft: Why Not Have Two?

There has been a lot of discussion over the past year about the logistics of turning the June amateur draft into an international affair, which would include players from around the world and would eliminate international free agency. The idea is valid, but the best route to take is to create two separate drafts; this would leave the June draft as is, and create another draft solely for the world prospects.

This draft would be held during either the otherwise-boring General Managers Meeting in November, or the increasingly boring Winter Meetings. At one point, the amateur draft actually featured three separate drafts in one year and, as recently had 1986, had two drafts (January and June) – so this is not an entirely out-of-left-field idea. By having the draft in November or December, it would allow teams the opportunity to disperse scouting staffs from college and high school stadiums, to parks in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Australia, Europe, etc.

Major League Baseball would have to take a huge lead in this venture, obviously, which could include the creation of an MLB International Scouting Bureau. Each year, players would have to submit applications to be eligible for drafting considerations. It would be done early enough for Major League Baseball to run background checks on players to prove their identities and ages. To help teams scout players, showcases and tournaments would be held in various locations so scouts and executives can see the players perform against similarly skilled talent. Teams could certainly do their own scouting, as well.

As for draft order, the flawed and archaic Elias Rankings (or perhaps something a little more accurate) could continue to be used for the June draft. For the world draft, teams would be awarded a pre-determined value for each of their free agents, such as 4 WAR for a Type-A free agent, 2 WAR for a Type-A and 0.5 WAR for a Type-C. If the St. Louis Cardinals, for example, had four free agents, including one A, two B and one C, then their accumulated value would be 8.5 WAR. The team with the highest total would draft first, and so on.

If two or more teams were to end up with the same total, the order would be decided amongst those teams based on the accumulated service time that each free agent had for their team. So a player obtained at the July trade deadline would have much less value than a player with 10 years of service time with the same club. This system would allow a much different draft order for the world draft. If you wanted to change it up a bit, the draft ranking could instead be based on the previous year’s free agent crop, to take into consideration the players that actually left via free agency, rather than the current year where some players may actually be re-signed by their respective clubs.

Another option to the standard draft order process would be to have it as an auction-style draft, where everyone has a legitimate shot at signing each player, assuming they’re willing to pay the big bucks. This would also, theoretically, help control the bonuses handed out.

To be honest, I can’t really think of any negatives that would be associated with having two separate drafts, aside from the increase in costs for teams (scouting staffs, travel) and Major League Baseball (administration, etc.). From a logistics standpoint, creating a separate draft would be much easier than trying to re-vamp the current amateur draft, which seems to work fairly well (bonus demands aside).

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Kevin S.
Kevin S.

To be honest, I can’t really think of any negatives that would be associated with having two separate drafts,

The ghost of Puerto Rican baseball says hi.

Mr. Sanchez
Mr. Sanchez

Ed Zachary

JD Sussman

Yup! That is the first thing I thought of. Sadly, this idea would kill international baseball (even though it is very well intended).

Also, the service time idea is a bad one, imho. If you are pooling both WAR and service time there is no way to distinguish between a utility player who has been with a team forever and a guy like Todd Helton.