Tourtellotte: Why it’s time to end the MLB amateur draft

From SABR member Shane Tourtellotte at The Hardball Times on December 12, 2019:

Finding new players for your major league team used to be so simple, or at least so straightforward. Some talented kid would be playing for his school, or his hometown, or even his factory. In the stands would be a sharp-eyed scout, like Dick Kinsella or Paul Krichell, who had heard good things about him. Occasionally it would be the manager himself, John McGraw or Connie Mack following up a hot tip while his team had a day off. They would find the kid after the game, make their offer, get his John Hancock, and stash him on a friendly minor league team for seasoning, or even bring him straight to the big show.

Like so much in baseball, and almost everything else, it’s gotten a lot more complex since those hardscrabble days. Many of the changes have come about as teams have tried to restrain their own competition for these new players. The bidding wars that sometimes erupted, the profligate spending on players whose performance in the majors might never justify such figures, prompted a series of new rules and systems. (Certainly there were times when a player would pay back his inflated bonus tenfold in performance, but it is perhaps human nature to feel the pain of failure more keenly than the joy of success.)

The first big change was the “bonus baby” rule—or rules, as the definitions changed a few times. In its strongest form, it required a player signed for more than a specified bonus to stay on his team’s major league roster for two calendar years or be exposed to waivers. This rule not only used up valuable roster spots but left many bonus babies to rot on the bench, not receiving the playing time they needed to develop. (Steve Treder gives a fine look at the bonus baby system here.)

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Originally published: December 12, 2019. Last Updated: December 12, 2019.