Astros could be the winners in shorter 2020 draft

The Houston Astros might benefit if proposed changes to the 2020 MLB Draft are affirmed.

In January, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that among other punishments for the sign-stealing scandal the Houston Astros would forfeit their first- and second-round draft picks and associated bonus money for the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Maybe that won’t be so bad after all.

Many people thought the loss of top draft picks would be the biggest punishment absorbed by Houston, because it would cut deeply into their prospect pipeline. Now that cut may not be as deep.

On Thursday, ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel reported a not-yet-finalized plan to move the 2020 MLB Draft back a month to July and shorten it to between five and 10 rounds with a large portion of signing bonuses paid in later years. Adding a little bit more in a tweet thread, McDaniel noted some portion of bonuses would be deterred, with 10 percent payable in 2020, 45 percent in 2021, and 45 percent in 2022. The maximum bonus for undrafted players would be $10,000.

That bonus may be capped at $20,000, as the AP and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal now report.

(Update: Jeff Passan tweets that the deal is final. Players will receive the first $100,000 of their bonus in 2020, with the remaining amount split between 2021 and 2022. The same bonus rules apply to the 2021 draft.)

While MLB and the players union have reached a tentative agreement, per ESPN, owners must still ratify the deal, so details have not yet been announced.

Early returns on this solution have not been favorable, with the prevailing thought that high school players will be more likely to go to college, and college players with the option to do so will be more likely to stay in college. The draft class this year will be down overall, making the loss of the draft picks not as painful.

Ultimately, the young players are the biggest losers in all of this, while the Astros appear to be winners.

Taking a look at MLB’s assigned values for the 2019 draft, the Orioles, with the first pick of the sixth round, were given a $301,600 recommendation. The last pick of the round was given a $237,000 value.

The last pick of the seventh round had a $187,000 value, the last pick of the eighth round $159,700. Even the last pick of the 10th round was valued at about $142,000. Not all, but most players drafted in the first 10 rounds in 2019 signed bonuses greater than $10,000, per SportTrac.

While each player and his family will decide what they view is their best option, it’s hard to see why most would choose to take $10,000 this year rather than the opportunity to earn 15, 20, maybe even more than 30 times that in the future.

Those who don’t have a choice in the matter, like college seniors, will just have to take whatever is available. When that happens, Houston’s on even footing.

Next year the benefit will be bigger. The 2021 draft class should be a deeper one. The Astros will still lose their first two picks and corresponding bonus money in that draft, but they can potentially take advantage of having a much better selections still available to them who may not have been possible otherwise, again blunting the effect of the punishment somewhat.

How big of winners the Astros are remains to be seen. But compared with other teams, they’ll certainly benefit from the plan.