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Looking to the NFL, NBA, and NHL for ways to improve the MLB Draft

The MLB Draft could be so much better with a little help from its friends.

MLB: World Series-Atlanta Braves at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

On Sunday, July 17th, the 2022 MLB Draft begins. This year, more than any other, it’s a bit of event, taking place over All-Star weekend. Not all that long ago, this event wasn’t televised, and it took a bit of sleuthing to figure out a) who was drafted and b) by whom.

But it’s 2022 now! Of course it will be on TV. What channel? you ask. Well, uh, let me look tha—

Ah, we’ve encountered the first problem with the MLB Draft: if you’re a casual fan, or even a big fan of the sport or certain team but not a diehard fan, you’ll need to do some digging for that answer. That’s a problem that casual fans of the NFL and NBA don’t recognize. Major League Baseball should fix that.

Speaking of fixes, or improvements, I’ve looked to the other three professional sports in North America (sorry, MLS—is the SuperDraft even still around?) for ways to better the MLB Draft. Yes, I’m even looking to the NHL as those hockey people have some good ideas when it comes to the draft.

Here are eight ways for the MLB Draft to improve courtesy of the NFL, NBA, and NHL.

Lesson One: Let the Fans Know the Players

It’s easy for NFL fans to know players for the upcoming draft because college football dominates Saturdays during the fall. Every big station out there carries multiple games every single Saturday from Labor Day weekend through the end of the year. Of course, NBA fans can watch the future of the league pretty easily, especially when March rolls around.

Baseball can’t compete with that, but what baseball could do is work some magic with one of the alphabet companies (probably Disney-owned ABC) to air a Game of the Week between two top-ranked college programs. Instead, you might be lucky to watch a game on even ESPN as most are on a conference-run channel. Change that.

And put the Men’s College World Series on such a station, too, instead of hiding it on the ESPN networks—at least with a few early games and the best-of-three championship.

Lesson Two: Tradeable Draft Picks

Sure, teams can now trade “competitive balance draft picks,” but those picks can only be traded one time, and they can’t be traded for cash. I agree the latter, but the former restriction should be removed.

All three of the NFL, NBA, and NHL allow trades of any of their draft picks. The NBA does have the Stepien Rule, which the MLB could adopt to somewhat slow the trading of draft picks, if it even comes to that.

Still, how much more exciting would this year’s MLB Draft be if teams were allowed to trade any draft pick it possessed?

Think about the buzz that could be going on in Kansas City right now with the Royals owning pick Nos. 9, 35, and 49. Three picks in the top 50 is quite the haul! A team in any other sport could move up and down the board, collect more picks or move up to grab a player the team believes in more than who’s falling down the board.

That can’t happen right now. But it could. And that would be great.

Lesson Three: Retain Draft Pick Rights

With this one, I’m thinking about high-school players, so I’m looking at the NHL, as high-school players remain ineligible to be drafted by the NFL and NBA.

In the NHL, if a team drafts a player bound for college, that team owns that player’s rights for the duration of their college eligibility. It gets more complicated than that for the NHL and all of its various Canadian Hockey League members, so dig into that if you desire.

This would be great for MLB, though: a player gets drafted out of high school, can go to college if that’s what he wants to do, and then negotiate with the team that drafted him after his senior season. And if he doesn’t sign, he goes back into the draft.

Organizations wouldn’t like this as much as the team wouldn’t have the ability to control and direct the player’s development the next four years, but the team would also have an out as it wouldn’t have to negotiate with the player if he stagnates during college.

Lesson Four: Include International Players

Part of the last yelling match between MLB and MLBPA surrounded international free agency. The owners are pushing for an international draft while the players are against it. If, however, an international draft is agreed upon by a certain upcoming date, then the owners have agreed to eliminate qualifying offers in free agency (more on that in Lesson Seven).

I don’t agree with the owners or the players on this one. Instead, baseball should do what football, basketball, and hockey do, and include international players in the Rule 4 Draft, a/k/a the MLB Draft.

Add a couple of rounds to the draft to make up for the influx of players. If teams don’t want to use those late round picks, allow them to forfeit those selections with no risk of penalty.

Adding international players would add more excitement to the draft, gain more eyes globally, and eliminate international free agency.

Lesson Five: Let the Fans Watch the Draft (and Lottery)

Back to my question at the start: what channel will the MLB Draft be on? Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t find the answer. I’m assuming it’s going to be MLB Network, which aired several hours of the MLB Draft Combine, but again, I cannot find a concrete answer.

Way to go, MLB.

Seriously, the answer to that question is never even asked when it comes to the NFL Draft or NBA Draft. And I just looked up the answer pretty easily when it comes to the NHL Draft (July 7 on ESPN and NHL Network, which is a thing, evidently).

Make it easier, MLB!

Why is that such a weird concept? Make it easy for your finds to not only find what channel the draft is on, but make it easy for them to watch the draft. And the lottery, when that happens.

Speaking of the stupid lottery...

Lesson Six: Adopt the “Gold Plan”

My favorite hockey writer is Sean McIndoe, formerly of Grantland (RIP) and other sites, and currently with The Athletic. He’s often written about “the Gold Plan” as a way to determine draft picks in the NHL. Turns out, the Gold Plan is named after its creator, Adam Gold. Read more about it here.

The idea is that once a team is eliminated, it starts playing for its draft position. With the NHL, that’s based on the point system—two for a win, one for losing in overtime. With MLB, that would just be based on wins.

Now, some argue that this starts the clock on tanking earlier in the season, but how I see it is that even when a team is eliminated, it has something to fight for: improving its draft position.

And it also keeps teams in the middle of the fight in the fight. Say, I don’t know, the Detroit Tigers are in the hunt other teams are already eliminated. The Tigers are closer to contention than to getting that draft pick, so it would keep Detroit invested in fighting for more wins instead of losing then winning.

One switch on the Gold Plan could be that the team with the most wins after being eliminated doesn’t automatically get the No. 1 overall pick, but instead (sigh) gets the best odds in the lottery.

Lesson Seven: Save & Kill Free Agency Compensation Picks

Like in the NFL, teams that lose players in free agency should get a compensation pick for losing that player.

But MLB needs to kill the idea of the qualifying offer and penalizing owners who actually open up their wallets to bring in a new face. It’s always been a dumb idea, it’s dumb now, and it will be dumb tomorrow.

Plus this would get a few more owners into free agency bidding wars.

Right, John Sherman? Right???

Lesson Eight: Eliminate Draft Bonus Pools

As much as I loathe the lottery, I loathe draft bonus pools. Bonus pools enable front offices to pass on the best player available for the player the front office knows the team can sign to a lesser deal so the team can then draft and sign another player later in the draft to an over-the-slot deal.

I am not a fan.

Instead, adopt what the NFL and NBA, but, of course, it would be signing bonuses as opposed to actual salary. In those sports, with draft salary slots, it’s already been determined what the No. 1 pick will make, and it isn’t as much as the No. 2 pick. Same thing the rest of the way: No. 2 makes more than No. 3, No. 3 makes more than No. 4, yadda yadda yadda.

Teams can’t go over that slot, teams can’t go under that slot—oh, no! Teams have to go through that slot*!

*I’ve been reading a lot of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt recently.

None of this cutting a deal with a player so the team can add another guy one round later. With Lesson Three on the books, there wouldn’t be much of a need for that, anyway.


Alright, so I’ve fixed the MLB Draft.

You’re welcome.