The Major League Baseball (MLB) draft is an annual event where teams select amateur baseball players to join their organizations.
It serves as a critical mechanism for teams to acquire new talent and build for the future.
Understanding the structure of the MLB draft, including the number of rounds and picks, is essential for both fans and aspiring players.
Rounds & Picks in the MLB Draft
The MLB draft is an annual event where teams select amateur players, with the order determined by the previous season’s standings.
The draft includes 20 rounds, with the first round being the most significant, and additional picks like compensatory and competitive balance picks can influence teams’ strategies.
With 20 rounds, the draft comprises approximately 600 selections. When factoring in competitive balance round picks, the total might be close to 612 picks.
Below we look into the details of the MLB draft, exploring the number of rounds and picks, as well as the significance of each round.
The Structure of the MLB Draft
The MLB draft consists of multiple rounds, with each team having the opportunity to select players in each round.
The draft order is determined based on the previous season’s standings, with the team that finished with the worst record receiving the first overall pick.
This order is reversed in subsequent rounds, allowing teams with better records to have a later pick.
The first round of the MLB draft is undoubtedly the most significant.
It is where teams have the opportunity to select the most highly regarded prospects, often referred to as “first-round talents.”
These players are typically scouted extensively and have the potential to make an immediate impact at the professional level.
Each team in Major League Baseball has one pick in the first round, resulting in a total of 30 picks.
However, there are instances where teams may receive additional picks known as “compensatory picks” or “competitive balance picks.”
These additional picks are awarded to teams that have lost free agents or have been determined to have a lower revenue or market size.
Competitive Balance Rounds
Following the first round, there are two competitive balance rounds in the MLB draft.
These rounds were introduced in 2012 to provide teams with lower revenues or smaller markets an opportunity to acquire additional talent.
The order of these rounds is determined through a lottery system, with the teams selected receiving an extra pick between the second and third rounds.
The competitive balance rounds are designed to promote parity in the league and give smaller-market teams a chance to compete with larger-market franchises.
These additional picks can significantly impact a team’s ability to build a strong farm system and develop young talent.
How Many Competitive Balance Round Picks Per Year?
There are two Competitive Balance Rounds: Competitive Balance Round A and Competitive Balance Round B.
Competitive Balance Round A occurs after the first round of the MLB draft, while Competitive Balance Round B takes place after the second round.
Each of these rounds typically consists of six picks, so there are a total of 12 Competitive Balance picks each year.
However, the exact number can vary slightly based on other factors, such as awarded compensatory picks or penalties imposed on teams.
After the first round and the competitive balance rounds, the MLB draft continues with subsequent rounds until all teams have made their selections.
The number of rounds has varied throughout the years, but as of 2023, the draft consists of 20 rounds.
It is important to note that the number of rounds can change from year to year.
In 2020, for example, the draft was shortened to just five rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the draft returned to its regular format with 20 rounds in 2021 and beyond.
With 20 rounds, there are roughly 600 picks before considering competitive balance round picks, and may be around 612 picks when including them.
Rule 4 vs. Rule 5 MLB Draft
The Rule 4 and Rule 5 drafts in Major League Baseball (MLB) serve different purposes and have distinct regulations.
Here’s a comparison of the two:
Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft or MLB Amateur Draft)
- Purpose: This draft is designed to allocate amateur players, including high school and college players, to MLB teams.
- Eligibility: Players from the US, Canada, and US territories are eligible. High school players are eligible if they have graduated and have not yet attended college or junior college. College players from four-year colleges are eligible after completing their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old. Junior college players are eligible regardless of how many years they’ve attended.
- Frequency: Held annually, usually in July (formerly in June).
- Rounds: Typically consists of 20 rounds, though this can change. It’s been 40 rounds in the past.
- Selection Order: Based on the reverse order of the previous year’s standings, with teams that lost free agents potentially receiving compensatory picks.
- Signing: Teams have until mid-July (specific date varies) to sign their draftees. If a player doesn’t sign, they return to the next year’s draft pool.
Rule 5 Draft
- Purpose: This draft prevents teams from hoarding young talent in their minor league systems. Players not placed on the 40-man roster can be selected by other teams, under certain conditions.
- Eligibility: Players who were signed when they were 18 or younger and have played professional baseball for at least five years, as well as players who were signed at 19 or older and have played professionally for at least four years, are eligible to be selected.
- Frequency: Held annually during the Winter Meetings in December.
- Rounds: Consists of Major League and Minor League phases. Players selected in the Major League phase must remain on the selecting team’s 25-man (active) roster for the entire following season or be offered back to their original team.
- Selection Order: Based on the reverse order of the previous year’s standings.
- Cost: Teams pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase. If the player doesn’t remain on the 25-man roster for the full season, they must be offered back to their original team for $50,000.
- Protection: Teams can protect players from the Rule 5 draft by placing them on the 40-man roster.
In essence, while the Rule 4 Draft is about bringing new amateur talent into the MLB system, the Rule 5 Draft is about ensuring that talented players stuck in the minor leagues get a chance to play in the majors on another team if their original team doesn’t add them to the 40-man roster.
Q&A – How Many Rounds & Picks in the MLB Draft?
1. How many rounds are there in the MLB draft?
The MLB draft consists of 20 rounds.
2. How many picks are there in the first round?
There are 30 picks in the first round of the MLB draft.
3. Are there any additional picks in the first round?
Yes, teams may receive additional picks known as “compensatory picks” or “competitive balance picks” in the first round.
4. How are the competitive balance rounds determined?
The order of the competitive balance rounds is determined through a lottery system.
5. What is the purpose of the competitive balance rounds?
The competitive balance rounds provide teams with lower revenues or smaller markets an opportunity to acquire additional talent and promote parity in the league.
6. How many competitive balance rounds are there?
There are two competitive balance rounds in the MLB draft.
7. How many rounds were there in the 2020 MLB draft?
The 2020 MLB draft was shortened to five rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
8. Will the number of rounds change in future drafts?
The MLB has announced that the draft will return to its regular format with 20 rounds in 2021 and beyond.
9. Can teams trade their draft picks?
Yes, teams have the ability to trade their draft picks, allowing them to acquire additional picks or move up in the draft order.
10. Are there any restrictions on trading draft picks?
While teams can trade their draft picks, there are certain restrictions in place.
For example, compensatory picks awarded to teams cannot be traded.
11. How long do teams have to make their selections?
Teams have a specified amount of time to make their selections in each round of the MLB draft.
The time limit varies depending on the round, with shorter time limits for earlier rounds.
12. Can players refuse to sign with the team that drafted them?
Yes, players have the option to refuse to sign with the team that drafted them.
In such cases, they can choose to attend college or re-enter the draft in a future year.
13. Are there any notable players drafted outside of the first round?
Many successful MLB players have been drafted outside of the first round.
For example, Mike Piazza, a Hall of Fame catcher, was selected in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB draft.
14. How long does it typically take for a drafted player to reach the major leagues?
The time it takes for a drafted player to reach the major leagues can vary significantly.
Some players may make their debut within a year or two, while others may require several years of development in the minor leagues.
15. Can teams draft players from outside the United States?
Yes, teams can draft players from outside the United States.
However, there are specific rules and regulations regarding international signings and drafts.
The MLB draft is a crucial event for teams to acquire new talent and build for the future.
The draft consists of multiple rounds, with each team having the opportunity to select players.
The first round is the most significant, where teams have the chance to select highly regarded prospects.
Additional picks, such as compensatory picks and competitive balance picks, can also impact a team’s draft strategy.
The number of rounds in the MLB draft has varied throughout the years, but as of 2021, it consists of 20 rounds.
Understanding the structure of the MLB draft is essential for both fans and aspiring players, as it provides insights into the process of talent acquisition in professional baseball.