Late on the evening of Opening Day, Baseball America executive editor J.J. Cooper reported that this summer’s MLB Draft would be condensed to just 20 rounds. While the draft was set at 40 rounds in the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, the league cut the draft to just five rounds last season and eliminated the short-season minor-league level. Obviously, the SF Giants will not be the only team affected by the move.
How does a condensed MLB Draft impact the SF Giants strategy?
Many great MLB players have been selected between rounds 21-40. Giants legends Brian Wilson (28th round) and Sergio Romo (24th round) were two pivotal pieces of the franchise’s dynasty from 2010-2014, and under the new system, neither would have had the opportunity. Granted, teams will still be able to sign undrafted players as non-drafted free agents. Still, with fewer minor-league opportunities, organizations will be hard-pressed to find enough playing time to develop as many players as they once did.
This move continues a long trend by MLB, following the “Luhnow Plan,” named after disgraced Houston Astros’ executive Jeff Luhnow who advocated shrinking the minor leagues to help franchise’s cut costs and increase profits. The Giants never publically proposed an alternative, but their investments in second minor-league teams at the Arizona League and Dominican Summer League suggested they fell on the opposite side of Luhnow, hoping to use their financial might to develop as many players as they could. Nonetheless, MLB’s recent actions have capped the Giants’ ability to make such heavy investments.
The MLB Draft will be condensed to just 20 rounds in 2021. While every team will be impacted, the SF Giants have prioritized improving their organizational depth throughout Farhan Zaidi’s tenure. It will be interesting to see if fewer opportunities to add talent via the draft lead the organization down a different path in other avenues of player acquisition.