The MLB Draft League is poised to start its inaugural season on May 24th with games hosted by West Virginia, Trenton, and State College. The Draft League was formed to fill a gap in amateur baseball created when the MLB Draft was pushed back and to ensure successful Minor League organizations, like the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, retained their ability to field a team and provide a venue for quality baseball for their communities. Beyond that brief overview, there is not much information out there on the MLB Draft League. With that in mind, I scheduled a meeting with the Scrappers General Manager, Jordan Taylor, and picked his brain about the league. Taylor has been with the Scrappers for several years now and while this transition from being a Cleveland Indians affiliate to an MLB affiliate is new to him, the position and the organization are not.
The league was made possible by a partnership between Major League Baseball and Prep Baseball Report. The rosters for the six teams will be filled jointly by MLB and PBR. In fact, the Scrappers have already seen two drafts of their Opening Day roster, and expect changes up until the final day. The rosters will likely be fairly fluid, especially at the beginning of the season and after the draft. Blue-chip draft-eligible players are expected to play but may arrive a couple of weeks into the season. Prior to their arrival, several players will essentially be trying out for the opportunity to stay with the team throughout the season. Of note, the players will be unpaid which protects their amateur status. This is important because the league will not solely consist of college graduates. It’s expected that we will primarily see college players but there will be some recent high school graduates as well. The rosters will be pitching heavy as the goal is to showcase arms. As another step to ensure player safety, the MLB Draft League has opted to follow Pitch Smart pitch count limits.
The 2021 MLB Draft will take place during the Draft League’s season. No games are scheduled during the draft and once it is completed players in the league may be assigned to a minor league team or the organization can keep them in the league. It will be interesting to see whether anyone chooses to keep them there. With the absence of short-season leagues, the decision could make sense, but I imagine some teams will be too protective of their players to allow them to continue outside their own organization.
Beyond the framework of the league, there is not yet much to report. All six managers have been announced with Coco Crisp manning the helm for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Jedd Gyorko leading the West Virginia Black Bears, Jeff Manto managing the Trenton Thunder, Derrick May and Delwyn Young have the Frederick Keys and State College Spikes respectively, while Billy Horton (the only guy without MLB playing experience) has the Williamsport Crosscutters. The Scrappers have filled the rest of their coaching staff, but have yet to announce the names. The same is likely true for the other organizations.
Prospects1500 will bring you MLB Draft League Coverage throughout the season. Roster announcements will come out just before the season kicks off, which will be a pivotal moment. Without participation from elite college players, the Draft League will likely fade into obscurity. But, with the right guys on the field, it will be a great preview of talent entering the MLB Pipeline.
Eric Killian is an Army Officer who covers the San Diego Padres for Prospects1500. He is a longtime baseball fan and collector whose collecting inspired him to learn all he can about up-and-coming players. He recently relocated from Sierra Vista, AZ., to El Paso, TX. Follow him on Twitter @USKillian