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Baseball Insight and Analysis

Can the MLB Draft Equal or Surpass the NFL Draft in Popularity and Excitement

Posted by Rich Stowe on April 29, 2011

With the NFL Draft happening as I write, it makes me wonder if there’s anything Major League Baseball can do to improve the draft in terms of popularity and excitement.

Sadly, there’s not much the league can do. The biggest issue with the baseball draft is the fact that the majority of those players drafted are years away from making “The Show”, so fans feel zero connection to them and thus, zero desire to care.

However, there are a couple of things the league can do to simply improve the draft. Whether it leads to improved popularity or excitement is anyone’s guess.

My first idea is to allow draft picks to be traded. There are two ways to do this. One is to only allow picks to be traded for other picks in a package deal where one team gives another team multiple picks from multiple years to move up higher in one draft. Imagine if say the Yankees really wanted Bryce Harper. They would have offered the Nationals most of their picks for the next five years to get him. This would have allowed the Nationals to really improve their minor leagues by sheer numbers. The more players you have in your system, the better the chance of you having a future Hall of Famer.

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Bryce Harper
Al Bello/Getty Images

The second way is to allow picks to be included in player trades. Imagine how many picks a team like the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Florida Marlins could get when they trade away a young star player. Instead of making a team accept whichever bench warmer or sub-AAA player they can convince the other team to part with, they can instead demand draft picks as well. How many draft picks would the Marlins have gotten from the Tigers for Miguel Cabrera? Getting minor league players is all well and good, but the majority of the players in the minors aren’t going to see any MLB level time. Each draft comes with the chance of finding a player like Ken Griffey Jr. or Alex Rodriguez; one that will spend little to no time in the minors and instead be an instant sensation both on the field and in the ticket booth.

This leads me to my final idea; make the draft international. The goal of the draft is to improve the teams as quickly as possible. As I mentioned before, most of the players selected each year will be in the minors for years or will instead choose not to go to the team drafted and instead go to college, only to enter the draft again in a couple of years so the draft doesn’t mean an instant fix like it does in the NBA or NFL.

How do you fix this? By making the international players enter the draft as well. Right now, international players go to the highest bidder or to a team that manages to find them when they’re 16 years old and lock them into a contract then. So teams with lots of money (the Yankees for instance) or ones that decide to invest heavily in Latin “baseball academies” or scouting benefit more than other teams. Imagine Ichiro or Hideki Matsui going to the worst team in baseball as the number one pick instead of to the highest bidder or to the team owned by a Japanese company.

However, you can’t just make the draft international. You would also have to include a “rookie wage scale” to ensure the teams with the top picks don’t pass on international players simply because they demand more money. This is already an issue with only high school and college kids in the draft, it would become even worse with international players included.

If the draft is international, making sure the picks can be traded would only improve the draft even more. If there’s one or two truly great international players in the draft, teams will be willing to move up to get them. Just like teams in the NFL draft package draft picks over multiple years to get their QB of the future, teams in MLB would do the same. As I’ve mentioned before, the more picks a team has, the more chance of finding that once-in-a-generation player.

So, while there’s no way the MLB draft can ever compete with or even equal the popularity or excitement of the NFL or NBA drafts, there are a couple of things baseball can do to simply make the MLB draft better.

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4 Responses to “Can the MLB Draft Equal or Surpass the NFL Draft in Popularity and Excitement”

  1. Dan Vachalek said

    I think another major reason why the MLB Draft has little popularity is that most people don’t know anybody in the draft. Most college baseball isn’t on TV, well, by me it isn’t. Also, high school baseball players no one knows because of how difficult it is to follow high school baseball due to it being high school. I do like making the draft international as well, which the NBA does and has success doing. Plus, the MLB gets a lot of international players anyway by signing them to massive contracts to avoid the massive contracts on a player that might not pan out, they can spend a little money on them and develop them how each team specially wants.

    • rstowe75 said

      Exactly Dan. The MLB draft will never ever come close to the NFL or NBA drafts in terms of ratings etc, but if they make changes to improve baseball, that’s all what really matters. Thanks for the comment.

  2. David said

    Not sure the draft can ever be made into an “event” on par with the NFL or NBA drafts for all the reasons stated above, but I have seen that the idea of folding international players into the draft is going to most likely be implemented as part of the upcoming CBA that the owners and players are negotiating.

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