LOS ANGELES -- In Billy Gasparino's estimation, the talent pool for Major League Baseball's upcoming draft is the deepest in at least five years. The Los Angeles Dodgers' director of amateur scouting believes the crops of college pitchers and high school hitters are particularly strong. The people in his corner of the world are salivating.
There's just one problem: The draft will be historically short.
MLB reduced the event, scheduled to be held virtually June 10-11, from 40 rounds to five to cut costs as the league pushed forward without generating any revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Undrafted players cannot sign for more than $20,000. That's a fraction of what players drafted after the fifth round could attract in the past -- last year, for example, the first pick in the sixth round had a slot value of $301,600.
As a result, fewer players than ever are expected to join the professional ranks since the draft was implemented in 1965.
"To be honest, it was disappointing to us and, I think, most of the scouting community," Gasparino said in a video conference with reporters Friday.
Undrafted top high school players likely will go to college. Top undrafted college juniors or junior college players likely will stay in school. There will undoubtedly be future major leaguers in those groups. The Dodgers' roster alone provides ample evidence: Justin Turner (seventh round), Joc Pederson (11th round), Blake Treinen (seventh round), and Kike Hernandez (sixth round).
The Dodgers have six picks in this year's abbreviated version -- 29th, 60th, 66th, 100th, 130th, and 159th overall. MLB froze the assigned values of each pick to last year's dollar figures, so the Dodgers' bonus pool will be $5,928,400. Teams aren't allowed to save any of that amount to spend on undrafted players; they can only spend it on players in the five-round draft.
"It's really going to eliminate a lot of the creativity," Gasparino said. "It's going to be a challenge. It's just those six picks. If you don't spend the money, it doesn't get spent."
Teams also will delay signing bonuses. Clubs are allowed pay a maximum of $100,000 within 30 days of a player signing, half of the rest by July 1, 2021, and the remainder by July 1, 2022. The signing deadline was extended to Aug. 1 to give teams more time to conduct physicals.
Where players go once they sign remains uncertain. The chances of any of the affiliated minor leagues staging a 2020 season are slim. For the Dodgers' draft picks, that probably means they will report to the spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz.