Ways the MLB Draft Can Improve to Be More Like the NFL Draft
When is the 2013 MLB draft?
I'll give you the amount of time it takes for your eyes to cross the following ellipsis to figure it out...June 6-8. In those three days, the top amateur baseball players from high schools and colleges around the country will be selected somewhere within the draft's 50 rounds.
You read that right, 50 rounds—and therein lies one of the draft's clearest flaws.
The MLB draft can learn something from its superior NFL counterpart by cutting back. Finding a professional-caliber player in rounds later than the 15th is like finding a needle in a haystack.
However, there are more pressing issues as to why the MLB draft pales in comparison to the media-crazed (and frankly overhyped) NFL draft.
For one, the talent from the high school or college level to professional competition does not translate the same way between the two sports. As we saw last season with Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, for example, a draftee can be ready enough to seamlessly step into the leadership role after just a preseason.
But in baseball, a dominant college starting pitcher like Mark Appel—who was drafted eighth overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012 and offered a $3.8 million initial contract before deciding to return to Stanford for his degree—may not reach a major league mound for one, three or even 10 years. There are no guarantees in the MLB.
Without the instant gratification fans receive from NFL rookies, who can make an immediate impact on one's favorite team, the spectator interest is stunted, leaving a challenging hurdle for the MLB to overcome.
Let's consider a few scenarios that can increase the popularity of the MLB draft.
Create a Televised Scouting Event
We all know when the NFL combine occurs because ESPN refuses to cover any other story in sports, and it feels as if the 40-yard dash is the single most important event of our time.
Why not create a similar scouting camp for baseball prospects? Invite the Top 100 and have them participate in basic pitching, batting, fielding and running skills. Or better yet, have each team select up to five players they'd like to see at the scouting camp.
By collecting the best prospects in baseball and televising an event featuring the hopefuls, it would make the draft considerably more marketable, as fans would actually recognize some players.
Granted, the exposure of college baseball has increased in recent years, but it is nowhere near the obsession that college football has enjoyed for decades or that college basketball has developed with March Madness.
A scouting event over a three-day weekend would introduce interested baseball fans to the players that could be working their way through the farm system over the next few years, thus planting the seed to tune into the draft.
Allow for the Trading of Draft Picks
This change seems to trickle into discussions each year because it has become such a prominent part of the NFL draft. Teams often trade up to snag that much-desired quarterback or necessary defensive piece.
However, trading picks during the MLB draft can become extremely complicated when a drafted player decides not to sign with the major league club, instead opting to return to school for another year. The team that trades up could potentially be left with two lost draft slots.
The trading of picks could be used as a risky luxury for those teams with multiple picks in the first few rounds or as a means of combining a handful of late picks for an early one. The uncertainty of major league talent within a prospect is a risk in and of itself, so why not add some suspense for the enjoyment of the fans?
Using Stanford right-hander Mark Appel again as an example, he was regarded as the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. As the top picks began to unravel and left Appel on the board, a team in need of a strong starting pitcher would have jumped at the opportunity to draft him.
But alas, no picks may be swapped.
Change Up the Crew and the Venue
Honestly, watching the draft of any sport on television becomes dreary quite quickly, and I don't know why people choose to pay for tickets to the event itself.
When the MLB Network rolls out their coverage crew, you'd better hope they have high energy and charisma.
My MLB Network dream team for coverage of the draft would be as follows:
Brian Kenny: A classic face in sports media, Kenny can host a show with the best of them.
Peter Gammons: Gammons is the baseball equivalent to Gandalf; I would trust almost anything he told me.
Kevin Millar: Underneath the flamboyance and offbeat humor, the guy knows baseball. He's your wild card.
Harold Reynolds: An MLB All-Star and Emmy-winning broadcaster with some of the whitest teeth on TV, Reynolds is an easy choice.
Heidi Watney: She began as the sideline reporter for NESN, the Boston Red Sox television network, and could interview the players after being drafted.
In terms of a venue, adding a bit of grandeur to the draft wouldn't be a bad idea. This would mean moving out of Studio 42, MLB Network's playground of a studio. Perhaps holding the draft in the same city as the All-Star Game of that season would be a nice touch.
But with all this said, I don't expect any drastic changes, and I don't expect the MLB draft to attain the insane popularity of its NFL counterpart.
Nonetheless, as avid baseball fans, we deserve an enjoyable and informative viewing experience. That is, only if it's for the first couple rounds.
Will you be tuning in to the MLB draft on June 6? Leave your comments below.
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