The A’s started preparing for a 40-round draft that ended up being an eighth as long. The annual amateur selection process got hacked down due to an ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that forced the sport to hit pause on the 2020 season and remove prosperous revenue streams that kept major-league baseball teams in the black.
That cut the 2020 MLB Draft to just five rounds, with the A’s making a selection in each. A total of 150 players were picked, leaving many talent-rich, draft-worthy prospects without ties to a team.
The A’s, who have drafted exceptionally well in recent seasons, mined Turlock High catcher Tyler Sandstrom with the No. 26 overall pick and four college prospects from the final rounds of an abbreviated process.
A’s scouting director Eric Kubota said that didn’t force organizational need into the equation, a factor that is typically left outside the MLB draft process.
“It was more similar to the normal process we would employ,” Kubota said. “We feel like we took the best prospects available at the time we picked.”
While A’s scouts were in a video conference during the draft, there were a small selection of executives in the room –- maintaining social distance, of course –- where the picks were made.
The A’s were happy with the selections acquired but identified plenty of talent they would’ve liked to add to their system that went unclaimed and now moves to the undrafted free agent market.
“There are lots of guys remaining on our board,” Kubota said. “We started this spring preparing for a 40-round draft, so we’ll see how this all shakes out. There are 30 teams trying to sign a bunch of the same guys. We’ll have to see how that goes.”
Players can commit to teams courting them, albeit with a maximum $20,000 bonus. There are great odds prospects will go back to school -– even college seniors can do that in this special circumstance –- and high schoolers will take scholarships over accepting a relatively paltry sum.
The A’s will enter the free-agent waters, but it’s unknown how many extra players they’ll acquire.
“It’s hard to say,” Kubota said. “We have talked about guys in generalities but, now that we have names to go over, we’ll probably have a better idea. I don’t think it will be scores of them, that’s for sure.”
It’s also uncertain exactly what happens next for the draft picks, or even the physicals they’d take to secure their selection.
“It’s a fluid situation,” Kubota said. “The plan is hopefully to get the kids into Arizona, based on their comfort level with traveling during the pandemic. We would get the medical work done and get the signings done. We’ll just have to see what happens with minor league baseball and baseball in general to see what happens after that.”
While MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has committed to having a shortened season of some length, at this time it seems like the minor-league baseball season is dead and buried.
The situation is fluid with the three pitchers and two hitters set to be A’s after expectedly signing contracts, who surely want to start training for life in professional baseball.