DJ Svihlik and the Miami Marlins have their draft board set up and a general game plan ready for next week's shortened 2020 MLB Draft.
Miami has six selections in the two-day, five-round, 160-pick draft that takes place on June 10 and 11. It was condensed from its usual 40-round format due to the coronavirus pandemic that has kept the MLB season from beginning.
And while Svihlik, the Marlins' director of amateur scouting, knows the value of hitting on all six of their picks -- Nos. 3, 40, 61, 75, 104 and 134 -- he also stressed the importance of what will come immediately after the draft concludes, when all 30 teams will be contending for the leftover pool of players.
With more than 1,000 fewer picks than a normal draft year, hundreds of high-end players who under normal circumstances would be selected in the middle rounds will not hear their names called. That leaves players and teams alike preparing for an undrafted free agent process will unfold similar to the NFL Draft, where teams will be making a sales pitch to the same set of players in a short amount of time.
What's more is that teams are only allowed to offer undrafted prospects a maximum signing bonus of, $20,000, down considerably from the $125,000 maximum offer from previous years.
The challenge: Figuring out which players will be most likely to sign, part of what Svihlik called "this unknown that faces every single team."
Considering that the top-tier high school players who aren't drafted are almost assuredly heading to college, that points to the Marlins prioritizing college juniors and seniors in this process.
"These players are faced with a very, very tough choice as they get older," Svihlik said. "A lot of these guys are 21 years old, and they're going to be 22. The clock is ticking on their careers. So we focused on a group of players that we feel fits the profile that gives us the best opportunity to sign them."
There's also the uncertainty of what the minor-league landscape will look like after the draft -- the 2020 minor-league baseball season is not expected to be played and there's no guarantee it will stay in its current format when it does resume. That will push teams, the Marlins include, to go for quality over quantity when it comes to signing undrafted players.
"We don't want to sign a bunch of $20,000 players," Svihlik said. "We want to sign good players for $20,000. Our scouts are spending a lot of time getting to know these players and trying to figure out which ones are real possibilities and which players are just going to go back to school."
While the monetary incentive is capped, Svihlik pointed to other factors that he thinks will help the Marlins stand out in the process to lure potential undrafted free agents into singing deals. Chief among them: the opportunity to make an instant impact.
"When you sit down with other organizations, everybody has a director of player development. Everybody has a hitting coach. Everybody has all these bells and whistles and technologies. The idea here is to sit and talk to players about what separates the Marlins from other organizations, and it's the word that just keeps coming up is opportunity," Svihlik said. "It's care level in the player. I can't speak to every organization, but I can certainly see what happens inside our organization, and how deeply our player development staff, from the very very top all the way down through our coordinators and our trainers, how deeply they care about our players. ... Trying to provide some perspective to them, and then demonstrate to them what opportunities they have ahead of them with the Marlins is all we can do to help move the needle a little bit more."
It won't always be an easy sell, though. Svihlik understands that. But it's part of the challenge ahead.
"There are some very very good players that are on the bubble," Svihlik said. "If you step in front of our draft board and we looked at the back of Board Number 1, and a top of Board Number 2, razor thin razor thin differences in players. And there are some really good players that will get boxed out. They're gonna be irritated. They're gonna be pissed. They're gonna be disappointed. They put their whole careers into this. It's our job to understand who they are, what their situation is and why we can offer them what we can offer, how we can offer them what we can offer them and then for our scouts to demonstrate that to the player."
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