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The Ugly Truth: MLB & The Draft
Note: I posted this on my old (and really outdated blog) on June 14, 2015. It got a lot of traffic. I felt it was important to transfer it to my new blog.
First off, I want to say that Matt is SO excited and grateful for the Dodgers’ giving him a chance to chase his dream and continue to play baseball. He could not be happier. And I couldn’t be happier for him and to be a part of this journey.
However, this blog is to give a little insight on how this process works. The draft process is not something most people want to go through. And now, being a “professional baseball player” is not all sunshine and iced tea.
Let’s start with the draft process. Matt started filling out questionnaires and being in contact with scouts as early as the Fall 2014 semester. Things really started to pick up once the 2015 season started. He filled out 25 of the 30 MLB team questionnaires. He started getting calls from scouts in April all the way up until about a week before the draft. The scouts wanting to know if ‘X’ amount of money would satisfy him.
So, let’s talk about how the draft-signing bonus works.
All fifteen teams that Matt talked to on the phone pre-draft told him that he was no doubt a Top 10 round pick. Well, he ended up going in the 12th round. Which is still great but not what he had been thinking since April.
Back to the signing bonus: Major League Baseball sets slot amounts for each pick in the Top 10 rounds.
The amounts are set because teams cannot go over their total signing bonus pool. If teams go over the allotted bonus pool amount, they have to pay a luxury tax depending on how much the team goes over.
The Dodgers total signing bonus pool for 2015 was $7,781,700…meaning they could not over that total amount for their Top 10 selections. After the Top 10 rounds, each draftee can sign for up to $100K, and if a selection in rounds 11-40 are given more than $100K, the overage amount is deducted from the total bonus pool amount for the Top 10 rounds. Sounds easy enough, right?
Wrong. The reality is that college juniors, high schoolers and other draft eligible kids that are not college seniors are offered insane amounts of money. Why? So, they will sign to go play pro ball and not go to college or go back to school. Which is fine. I understand that reasoning.
What I don’t understand is how any high school ball player is worth $6.2 million dollars. Brendan Rodgers, the third pick in the draft this year, just graduated high school and is slotted at that amount of money, meaning he got that if not more trying to get him signed. What has he proved?! That he can play on the USA high school team and compete against other talented high school players. Okay, well you have other college players that have been doing that on the collegiate level for three or four years. And that is why two college juniors were taken over him in the draft. But still does not explain why a majority of the top picks are high school players.
There was a stat that I saw on MLB Opening Day this season that read:
2015 MLB Opening Day Rosters
4-year college: 397
High school: 204
2-year college: 69
That speaks volumes about who the true successful draftees are.
As LeBron James said after Game 3 of the NBA Finals, “Experience is the best teacher.”
What happens is college seniors get the low end. Teams know they can offer seniors basically nothing because seniors have no leverage. Seniors can’t say, “Well, that is not enough money for me, so either give me more money or I’ll go to school.” Seniors are the escape for the clubs to escape going over that total signing bonus pool.
A scout told Matt that he was going to be offered a $1,000 signing bonus. Now, it was never about the money to Matt (he would play for nothing), but CMON! That’s ridiculous. You’re going to offer a .382 BA, 12 HR, 76 RBI, First Team All-OVC, All-American senior that has had four years of collegiate and three summers of wood-bat league experience ONE-THOUSAND DOLLARS to come play in your organization. I HAVE MORE THAN THAT IN MY SAVINGS ACCOUNT. Heck, I could have paid him double than that to not go play and just stay with me. HAHA (He would never do that, and I would never offer that; BUT I think you get my point.)
So, what I am trying to say is that the draft and the MLB is a business. It’s a business game in all reality. Who can teams sign for little to no money, so they can offer another higher prospect more money and not go over the total signing pool. But that’s just like everything else in life I guess.
Another fact: Matt was called three different times during last year’s draft. The same scout telling him that team was about to draft him. They never did. You can’t do that to a kid. It hurts me to think about how many dreams were crushed this year like Matt’s were last year. Now, Matt is in a much better position. And that was a blessing in disguise. And Matt’s signing bonus wise, he got a pretty good deal for a senior.
I just have a feeling Matt was one of the lucky seniors.
Draft Day(s): On day two of the draft, the phone calls started early. Matt was talking to five different teams that were giving him offers and telling him they wanted to take him around rounds 5-10. The scouts said they would be back in touch closer to time. Only one team called back.
Matt didn’t want to turn teams down because what if that came back to bite him in the butt? He didn’t want to over negotiate himself because what if that scared teams away? He had been told that as a senior going in the Top 10 rounds was the best way to be a high prospect in the organizations eyes. But what if going in the Top 10 rounds was not the best deal? (Btw, it wasn’t.)
Matt liked the Dodgers offer the best and made that known to other teams. Everyone was so tense during those days because we just really did not know what the best way to handle the whole situation was. Matt was afraid that a team was just going to draft him without calling and making a offer because that has happened to his teammates in the past. Luckily, we did not have to wait long on day three of the draft to hear Matt’s name. And honestly, we had no idea the Dodgers’ were about to draft him. He had not talked to that scout that day. It just happened to all work out perfectly despite all the toss-ups.
So, what’s next? Well, Matt does not unfortunately go straight to LA to play for the Dodgers…sorry, if you were hoping to tune into SportsCenter tonight to see a highlight of him hitting a dinger. Doesn’t work like that.
Instead, the Dodgers have seven teams in their minor league system.
ASL: Arizona Summer league (Glendale, AZ)
Rookie: Arizona League Dodgers & Ogden Raptors (Utah)
Low A: Great Lake Loons (Michigan)
High A: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (California)
Double A: Tulsa Drillers (Oklahoma)
Triple A: Oklahoma City Dodgers (OKC)
Matt and every other player drafted have to work their way up through the system. How long does it take? Depends. Some can get up to the Bigs fairly quickly. Bryce Harper played just 139 games in the minors. But most players are not Bryce Harper.
It’s tough. Really tough. You have to play well. And be playing well at the perfect time. Sometimes someone even has to get hurt for you to get a chance. In some cases, it does not even matter if you are playing well if the next team up doesn’t have spot for you. Then most players do not stay up on the Major League team. They got called up because someone is hurt then get sent back down when that player is finished with rehab.
I recently finished the book Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in Minor League Baseball by John Feinstein. Great read, but it put the process into a perspective to me. I knew it was hard to get to the Majors, but reading about real life stories about the struggles these players face put it into another light. Example: John Lindsey played 16 seasons and had spent over half of his adult life playing in minor league systems before making his debut. He got 12 at-bats before he broke his hand, was demoted back to Triple-A and released.
I’m not trying to be negative Nancy and say none of these guys’ dreams will ever come true. Because they will. A fair amount of these guys will get their chance in the Majors eventually. And the truth is most guys just want to make it there, even if it is for a few games.
Matt loves playing baseball. Bottom line. Every one of those guys that got drafted last week love to play baseball. They know what it takes and how tough it is, but they want to fight for it.
This blog was not to tear down the MLB, the draft process or guys that want to play baseball for a living. This post was for people who think it is easy. For people that think getting drafted is about how good you are. For people that think playing baseball for a living is easy. It’s far from easy.
But that’s what makes it special. That’s what makes Matt special in my eyes. To see him go through the draft process three times (including coming out of high school) and still just want to get things going and prove himself. To hear about how difficult it is to get to ‘The Show’ but still wants to grab it by the horns and says I’m ready; lets do this.
There may be an ugly truth to the MLB and the draft but that is the beauty in a successful process.
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Matt & Jesica Beaty
Welcome in to dreams and seams! A tell-all blog about our career dreams and path to reaching those dreams with some commentary about sports and life plus some videos too.
"Strive for the impossible because it makes the possible seem effortless." -Matt Beaty