Baseball BeatJune 05, 2008
The Ins and Outs of the MLB Draft
By Rich Lederer

The Major League Baseball Draft will get underway at 2:00 p.m. ET and Baseball Analysts will be here bringing you all the picks as they happen with capsules on every player selected in the first and supplemental rounds. Be sure to refresh your browser or check back throughout the day to stay abreast of the latest news as we live blog the draft.

For those of you at home or with a TV at the office, you can also catch the first round of the draft plus the compensation round on ESPN2. The draft will be conducted live from The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (outside Orlando). Each MLB team will have at least one special guest at its table to announce and welcome that club's newest addition. Representatives will include Hall of Famers Al Kaline (Tigers), Billy Williams (Cubs), and Dave Winfield (Padres). General managers, assistant GMs, scouting directors, national cross checkers, and other front office personnel will operate out of a large conference (or draft) room in each organization's home city. The appropriate area scout will generally contact the drafted player by telephone immediately after the selection.

With a five-minute maximum for each of the top 30 picks, the first round is expected to take about 2 1/2 hours. Following a 15-minute break, the draft will continue with the supplemental round and the picks will move in rapid succession until approximately 9:00 p.m. ET. We would expect that the draft will cover approximately five or six rounds on Thursday. It will resume on Friday morning at 11:30 a.m. ET and end after every team has either passed or made a selection in the 50th round.

Teams must submit a written minor league contract within 15 days of selection and all draft picks must be signed by August 15 or they will go back into the pool for 2009. As such, there are no more draft and follows as was the case prior to the rule change last year. Should a club fail to sign a first or second round draft choice, it will receive a like compensation pick next June. Unsigned third-round picks will result in a supplemental pick between the third and fourth rounds next year.

Eligible players include residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and other territories of the U.S. Categories include high school players who have graduated and not yet attended college or junior college; junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed; and college players from four-year schools who have either finished their junior or senior years or have turned – or will turn within 45 days of the draft date – 21 years of age. A player who is eligible for the draft but not taken becomes a free agent and may sign with any club until one week before the next draft or until the player enters or returns to a junior or four-year college.

The top 200 draft prospects were required to take drug tests for the first time this year. Clubs are notified of players who test positive for performance-enhancing or illegal drugs, although the positive test results in no punishment. Players refusing to take a test will be ruled ineligible for the draft.

According to Baseball America, the commissioner's office has recommended a 10% increase in signing bonuses for first rounders, restoring them to their 2006 levels. Second through fifth rounders have been slotted to receive a 7% increase. Baseball America estimates that "the ceiling for bonuses after the fifth round has risen from $123,300 in 2007 to roughly $150,000" in 2008.

Tampa Bay owns the top pick in the draft. The Rays are the first team in history to have the opening pick in back-to-back years. Prior to a recent rule change, the top draft slot alternated between the team with the worst record in each league.

According to, the Rays are being "tight-lipped" as to who will go No. 1 but have narrowed their choice to Florida State catcher Buster Posey, Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez, Georgia high school shortstop Tim Beckham, San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz and California high school catcher Kyle Skipworth. We profiled and interviewed Skipworth on Tuesday.

In 2007, Tampa Bay used its first pick on Vanderbilt lefthander David Price. Should the Rays opt for Vandy's Alvarez this year, it would be the first time that the same college would have the top pick in consecutive years.

Tampa Bay is on the clock . . .