The future of college baseball is facing what seems like a perfect storm of oversized rosters. College baseball still faces the complicated situations created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players and coaches looked to the Major League Baseball draft to help even out the pool of players across the country.
In past years, the MLB draft has held 40 rounds, which could result in 1,217 amateur baseball players jumping to professional baseball if they choose to turn pro. However, the pandemic has led to the MLB draft to shortening to just five rounds, which is shortest in the league’s history, and means that only 160 players will be selected. In addition, teams will be less likely to lose players to free agency as the maximum signing is only $20,000.
According to Southern Miss baseball coach Scott Berry, even with a shorted draft for one season, the talent pool will still see a surge, which means that college recruiting is less likely to over sign in order to account for losing players to the MLB draft. Last year, Southern Miss lost three signees from its 2020 signing class to the draft.
“It changes it a lot in different areas from a management standpoint as far as the head coaches managing rosters,” Berry said. “It tells you who is going to be coming to school now versus before when you didn’t know with 40 rounds when somebody might get drafted in the teens or twenties. You still have a chance to lose them there. Five rounds aren’t going to reduce the pool of players that are going to selected in the draft.”
At the same time, the NCAA has yet to decide on expanding rosters and put the vote off until June 17. College baseball rosters are forced to deal with roster size and scholarship limitations annually. Currently, teams are allowed to give out a total of 11.7 scholarships and have a maximum of 27 players on scholarship. The proposal would raise the roster size to 32, but keep the 11.7 scholarship limit to help programs deal with the financial strains.
Around the country, three baseball programs have been cut to save money: Bowling Green, Furman and, most recently, Chicago State.
According to Pearl River Community College baseball coach Michael Avalon, despite the influx of players, in the short-term junior college baseball teams will see an increase of talent. However, if the draft stays shortened, then a new trend of players pursuing four-year colleges over junior colleges could develop.
“When you limit the rounds of the draft, I think in the essence of what you have done is that you create a flooded market in college baseball,” Avalon said. “It’s going to be positive in some ways, but also a negative with an increase of roster size. For junior colleges, I think it will be a benefit as far as the talent level goes.
“If they continue to shorten the draft, then, in my opinion, it would put more emphasis on going to school. I don’t think it could hurt junior college, but I think four-year schools may benefit and get their education with at least three years of school.”
For both Avalon and Berry, both programs, like many across the country, will be forced to place a higher emphasis on successful scouting.
“It kind of makes it our best interest to make sure that we are targeting the right player since there is more out there,” Avalon said. “We have to make sure that we do a little better job during the evaluation process. ”
According to Berry, for at least the next two seasons, college baseball will see some of its most talented players due to the increase in the amount of experience players received from the 2019 season and by retaining a large number of junior classes.
“It should be especially (talented) with all the players that are returning,” Berry said. “Of course, that’s the case across the country.”
The MLB draft will be held on June 10-11.