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How should the draft order be determined in 2021?

The Royals may not have a top five pick.

College World Series - Vanderbilt v Michigan - Game Two Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Royals were officially eliminated from post-season contention last night, which means we can officially start looking towards 2021. A big part of how quickly the Royals will get back to actual contention involves the amateur draft. The 2021 draft is expected to be a highly coveted draft, with Vanderbilt pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter considered the prized prospects available.

However with a shortened 60-game season, it was unclear how exactly the draft order for next year’s class would be determined. No official announcement has been made yet, but according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the order will likely be determined by this year’s standings.

While MLB has yet to announce whether teams’ 2020 records will determine draft order, a source familiar with the league’s thinking said that the clause written into MLB’s March agreement with the players’ association that gave the league the right to determine draft order was a contingency in case the season was canceled well before records were indicative of much. Even though 60 games doesn’t give the full picture of who’s really good and who isn’t, the source said it’s highly likely that the draft order will be determined by this year’s record.

We still have a few games left, which could change things, but here is what the draft order would currently look like if we used only 2020 standings.

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. Washington Nationals
  6. Kansas City Royals
  7. Detroit Tigers
  8. Baltimore Orioles
  9. Los Angeles Angels
  10. Seattle Mariners

But is this the fairest way to determine the draft order? The Washington Nationals are less than one year removed from winning a championship, but got off to a slow start this year and did not have time to recover. Could they actually get the fifth pick in the draft, adding to a franchise already loaded with good young talent?

With a 60-game season and all the weirdness surrounding it, it might seem a bit unfair to base next year’s draft order - in what should be a very good draft class - exclusively on results this year.

Here is what the draft order would look like if we combined 2019 standings with 2020 standings.

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Baltimore Orioles
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates
  5. Miami Marlins
  6. Seattle Mariners
  7. Toronto Blue Jays
  8. Los Angeles Angels
  9. Colorado Rockies
  10. Texas Rangers

It is of course, very similar to the draft order of this year’s draft, but there are some changes, with the Marlins moving down from the third spot due to a successful season this year, and the Texas Rangers moving up a few spots from #14 after a poor season this year.

But even this doesn’t seem that fair, as it bases the draft order largely on what happened in 2019, two years before the 2021 draft occurs. This season happened, even if it was a weird season, and to give it such short weight seems a bit unfair for teams that have legitimately fallen upon hard times.

The pandemic-shortened season has given MLB an opportunity to try ideas that have been on the shelf for years, such as expanded playoffs, a universal DH, seven-inning doubleheaders, and a runner at second base to start all extra innings. Perhaps we should use this as an opportunity to experiment with the MLB draft as well. The NBA instituted a lottery system to dissuade teams from tanking to improve their pick. Baseball has seen a similar kind of tanking, so perhaps this could be a year to try a lottery for their draft as well, with a ping-pong ball show and everything (cue the conspiracy theories on how Rob Manfred rigged it so Boston could land Kumar Rocker).

Or perhaps we could get even more radical and get rid of the draft altogether for a year. Give teams draft bonus pools based on the reverse order of this year’s standings (the Pirates would be allowed to spend the most, followed by the Rangers, etc.). Let teams sign whoever they want, so long as all the combined bonuses of their top ten signees is under the pool. If the Royals want to spend all their pool on Kumar Rocker, so be it. If a draftee wants to take less money to play with a certain team, he would have that right.

How do you think baseball should determine next year’s draft order?


What should determine the draft order of the 2021 draft?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    The 2020 standings
    (137 votes)
  • 54%
    The combined 2019-2020 standings
    (276 votes)
  • 13%
    Draft lottery
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    Abolish the draft, allow signings
    (20 votes)
503 votes total Vote Now