The MLB Draft is an incredibly unique event, and there’s a lot that goes into the whole process. The draft has undergone significant changes over the past few years as the league continues to react to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of players drafted and eventually finding their way to an MLB roster might be a whole lot different moving forward depending how the league adjusts in the coming years.
Through 2019, the MLB went several years with a 40-round draft, significantly more than the drafts in any of the other major sports leagues. However, that number dropped to just five rounds in 2020 in a cost-saving maneuver due to the coronavirus. The league announced the 2021 version will feature 20 rounds.
The MLB Draft is unique in that players may be drafted right out of high school and then they decide whether to start their professional career or attend college. Below is the player pool available to professional baseball teams:
- High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college
- College players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old
- Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed
Even when players are drafted and join the professional organization right away, it could take years for them to develop into professional-caliber players that can make a difference in the MLB, if at all.
Baseball America ran a study looking at the draft results from 1981-2010 and determined 17.6% of drafted players reached the MLB at some point in their careers, so less than one in five players drafted reached their major league dreams.
As you might imagine, the players selected in the earlier rounds have a higher shot at reaching the MLB. In that 1981-2010 span, 73% of first round picks played Major League Baseball.
More recently, USA Today reported 1,082 drafted players appeared in an MLB game during the 2019 season. More than half of those players were selected within the first five rounds of 598 total players. Additionally, 204 players were picked in the 6-10 rounds, 102 came from rounds 11-15 with 63 from rounds 16-20. 74 players were selected in rounds 21-30 and only 50 from rounds 31-50.
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