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Top Players, Draft Order & How To Watch

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Top Players, Draft Order & How To Watch



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(Photo by Mary DeCicco/Getty Images)

The MLB draft has become quite complicated and, at times, inaccessible to the casual fan. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a handy rundown of players to know, draft picks, and answers frequently asked questions about bonus pools, slot values and more to help you to better understand some of the more esoteric elements of the process.

When Is The MLB Draft? 

This year’s draft takes place from July 14-16. Day one starts at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 14 and will include the first two rounds, as well as the first two supplemental rounds. The second day of the draft will be rounds 3-10, and the third day of the draft will be rounds 11-20. Days two and three both start at 12 p.m. ET. 

How Can I Watch The MLB Draft Live?

Day one of the MLB Draft will be broadcast by MLB Network and ESPN. The feed can also be streamed live on MLB.com.

Baseball America’s own Carlos Collazo will be featured on night one of MLB Network’s draft coverage. Days two and three of the draft will be streamed on MLB.com. 

Who Are The Best Players In This Year’s Draft? 

While scouts don’t believe this year’s draft class is as talented as the loaded 2023 draft was a year ago, there is still a solid top tier of players led by Georgia outfielder/third baseman Charlie Condon and Oregon State second baseman Travis Bazzana. 

Condon and Bazzana are viewed by most scouts as the top players in the class. Here are the top 10 players on our draft board: 

  1. Charlie Condon, OF, Georgia (BA’s College Player of the Year)
  2. Travis Bazzana, 2B, Oregon State
  3. JJ Wetherholt, SS, West Virginia
  4. Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest
  5. Jac Caglianone, 1B/LHP, Florida
  6. Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas
  7. Braden Montgomery, OF, Texas A&M
  8. Nick Kurtz, 1B, Wake Forest
  9. Konnor Griffin, OF/SS, Jackson Prep, Flowood, Miss. (BA’s High School Player of the Year)
  10. Bryce Rainer, SS/RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.

You can read full scouting reports for these players and the other top 500 players in the class in our full rankings here

What Is The MLB Draft Order?

Here is the first round order for the draft:

  1. Cleveland Guardians
  2. Cincinnati Reds
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Oakland A’s
  5. Chicago White Sox
  6. Kansas City Royals
  7. St. Louis Cardinals
  8. Los Angeles Angels
  9. Pittsburgh Pirates
  10. Washington Nationals
  11. Detroit Tigers
  12. Boston Red Sox
  13. San Francisco Giants
  14. Chicago Cubs
  15. Seattle Mariners
  16. Miami Marlins
  17. Milwaukee Brewers
  18. Tampa Bay Rays
  19. New York Mets
  20. Toronto Blue Jays
  21. Minnesota Twins
  22. Baltimore Orioles
  23. Los Angeles Dodgers
  24. Atlanta Braves
  25. San Diego Padres
  26. New York Yankees
  27. Philadelphia Phillies
  28. Houston Astros
  29. Arizona Diamondbacks
  30. Texas Rangers

How Is The MLB Draft Order Determined? 

This is the second year the first round of the MLB draft has been determined by a new draft lottery. Each of the top six picks are considered lottery picks, and all 18 non-playoff teams are entered in the lottery with odds that correlate with their records in the previous season (with a few caveats). You can read more about how the draft lottery works here

Playoff teams are ordered by a combination of elimination date and revenue sharing status. Rounds following the first round revert to the inverse of regular season standings for non-playoff teams.

How Many Rounds Are There? 

The draft consists of 20 rounds. 

That’s a relatively new feature of the draft and a function of a restructured minor league system that has fewer teams. Before the pandemic, the draft consisted of 40 rounds, and in the earliest years of the draft, teams could simply keep picking players until they passed. In the inaugural MLB draft back in 1965 draft, there were 72 rounds and 824 players picked. 

The 2024 draft will feature over 600 players selected, and teams will sign also undrafted free agents after the draft is over.

What is an Undrafted Free Agent? 

Any eligible player who isn’t drafted will be eligible to sign with any team as an undrafted free agent (UDFA). Most teams will sign at least a few UDFA players, though some teams will sign nearly a dozen. The Angels signed 11 UDFA players after the 2023 draft. 

Players who sign as undrafted free agents can do so for up to $150,000 without the bonus value counting towards a team’s bonus pool.

What Is A Bonus Pool? What Are Slot Values? 

Unlike the NBA and NFL drafts, which use hard-slotting systems where a player’s signing bonus is largely determined by the overall pick with which a player was selected, MLB uses a soft-slotting system. 

Each pick inside the first 10 rounds is assigned a “slot value,” which is the recommended signing bonus for that selection. A team’s “bonus pool” is determined by adding up the slot values of each of their picks in the first 10 round. That figure then determines how much money a club has available to sign its total pool of players without incurring penalties. 

Picks from rounds 11-20 do not come with slot values, and each player selected in those rounds can sign for up to $150,000 without that money counting towards the bonus pool. Any additional dollars beyond that first $150,000 must come out of a team’s total bonus pool, however.

There are penalties for exceeding your total bonus pool:

  • Teams that overspend by 0-5 percent must pay a 75% tax on the overage.
  • Teams that overspend by more than 5% and up to 10% will lose a future first round draft pick and also must pay a 75% tax on the overage.
  • Teams that overspend by more than 10% and up to 15% will lose a future first round pick, a second round pick and must pay a 100% tax on the overage.
  • Teams who overspend by more than 15% lose two first rounders and pay a 100% tax on the overage.

In the bonus pool era, many teams have been willing to pay a 75% tax and have gone up to the 5% overage limit, but no team as of yet has crossed that line and gotten into pick penalty range.

How Does The Bonus Pool System Affect Draft Strategy?

As one might expect, this system has led to teams being creative and strategic with how they use their pools. In any give year, you’ll see teams sign players to underslot deals, overslot deals and deals exactly at slot value. An underslot deal is a signing bonus that is less than the slot value of where a player was picked. An overslot deal is a signing bonus that is more than the slot value of where a player was picked.

Some teams like to save money with picks via underslot deals so that they can spread bonus pool money to later picks in the draft. Other teams implement top-heavy drafts that do the opposite. Realistically, most teams will sign players to both under and over slot deals. 

Last year, we examined how each team spent their money in the 2023 draft to highlight the most popular draft strategies. That piece provides more detail on how exactly the slotting system works in practice. 

Are Teams Just Being Cheap With Underslot Deals? 

It is common for teams to be criticized by fans and media for simply being cheap when they sign players to underslot deals. The thinking is that teams won’t sign players to the full slot value and will simply pocket the money. 

However, that’s almost never what actually happens. The “savings” from underslot deals are typically moved on to other players in the draft. It’s simply a strategic decision on how to allocate the entire bonus pool throughout an entire draft.

The 2021 Pirates are an excellent example for this. That year, the team had the first overall pick and a total bonus pool of $14.4 million. The team selected Henry Davis No. 1 and signed him to an underslot deal worth $6.5 million, a figure just over $1.9 million less than the $8.4 million assigned slot value for that pick. 

Instead of just pocketing that extra money, the Pirates then signed their next four players to overslot deals, including a $3 million bonus for third-rounder Bubba Chandler that was more than $2 million more than the assigned slot value for the 72nd overall pick. 

Davis ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the 2021 class while Chandler ranked as the No. 20 prospect. The strategy essentially allowed the Pirates to sign a pair of first round talents despite just one first round pick.

The Pirates wound up going to the full 5% overage and spent just over $15 million dollars in total signing bonus money that counted towards their draft pool. Had they not saved that money on Davis with the first pick, it would have been unlikely they could afford Chandler later.

Why Do College Seniors Sign For Such Small Bonuses?

Since the bonus pool era began in 2012, it has become common practice for teams to draft college seniors and sign those players to deals that are well below slot value. These picks typically happen on day two between rounds five and 10.

Many college seniors will agree to these underslot deals because it gives them their best chance at pro ball. If they don’t sign such a deal, they could wind up playing in an Independent League or potentially ending their playing careers entirely.

The smaller bonuses are not a surprise these college seniors. Players almost always understand what sort of bonus they will be signing for before the fact, as locking in bonus pool savings is a crucial piece of the selection for teams, and if they don’t sign a player, the team loses the slot value assigned to the pick.



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