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2020 MLB Draft Prep in a COVID-19 world

How will teams prepare for only a few rounds without live games to scout?

Heston Kjerstad of the University of Arkansas
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

This summer, MLB will have a draft. It will be shortened to five or possibly 10 rounds. College players will receive an extra year of eligibility, but with teams only having an 11.7 scholarship limit over 27 players under present rules, the details are a bit fuzzy around the edges. Toss in that baseball information is best gleaned a little bit at a time, and players will be selected with "no actionable data" for the last three months or so, it's a weird science project. However, to the extent we'll be minding the Cubs in six or eight years, the selection process will be as important as any other draft. With that in mind, Draft Prep churns on.

I'm not minding the "slotted value" numbers yet, as they're still subject to change. Again, the number of rounds could be 10, or five, but the draft won't help the glut of talent in college ball, either way. Quality players not given a (for instance) $500,000 bonus figure to try again next season. Except, the bonus pools have been frozen for three years by the MLBPA/owners agreement. Guys who should go pro will stick around. Incoming high school players might be the fifth outfielder, and might have to change schools. Or levels. There's an adage that "markets hate uncertainty," and college baseball in 2021 will look more like quicksand than a mere quagmire. Toss in that future drafts will be stacked against anyone selected outside the top 350 choices or so ($20,000 signing bonus cap), and "We'll have to see" becomes more applicable than it should.

With the numbers being public, it doesn't seem the Red Sox are being punished for their role in potential sign-stealing. That said, another version of censure might be in play, though I have no idea what. The Houston Astros are losing four draft choices over two cycles. The Red Sox? Not so much. Meting out punishment on cheaters pales in comparison to whisking away benefits from current amateur players. While the oily side of the business works its way into my articles too often, I'd be remiss if I failed in my responsibility to touch on it.

The Cubs recently released some of the players who wouldn't have made the Opening Day rosters. While everyone did so, many of the Cubs dispatchees were more experienced hitters (such as Kevonte Mitchell, an outfielder who never seemed to stay healthy for a successful full season) and less-experienced pitchers (like Riley McCauley, a boom-or-bust hard thrower type). I've noted a few times how the Cubs have over-drafted pitchers (from a numbers perspective), and a few of those arms might have promptly signed elsewhere if games were being played. The Cubs still need more pitching quality, but drafted players are rarely Double-A good on campus. Those that become Double-A good become so by being better than A-Ball opposition. Projecting talent is a part of the inexact science of a baseball draft.

To an extent, the Cubs had better start drafting more hitters than pitchers. And now, per JJ Cooper of Baseball America, scouting can now begin. Sort of. At least, virtually.

As for who the Cubs would select? It's a player draft, not a mail-order bride delivery service. Specidic players are required. The Cubs could really use an outfielder with power in the upper minors, since they have so few of those, and might only have five rounds from which to select. Heston Kjerstad of Arkansas should be able to play right field, and looked really good at the plate, at times. Would he have hit SEC pitching this month and decided? We'll never know.