TAMPA, Fla. — Usually, there are 40 rounds in the Major League Baseball draft. This year, there will be five.
MLB will hold the shortened version of the 2020 draft next Wednesday and Thursday. The first round (picks 1-37) will take place on day one, with the remaining picks to follow on day two. The Rays will select 24th and 37th on the draft's first day.
A total of 160 players will be drafted this year, compared to 1,217 in 2019. After the five rounds are complete, teams can sign an unlimited number of undrafted free agents for $20,000 each.
The coronavirus pandemic shortened high school and college baseball seasons across the country, limiting teams' ability to evaluate talent. Rays general manager Erik Neander said they'll have to balance specific needs with the best available player because no team has been in this position before.
"We need to see where we’re at after we get through five rounds," Neander said, via video chat. "And want to make sure that there’s the requisite type of opportunity in place for any player that we want to recruit after those five rounds. We’ll see what that looks like. We don’t know really what to expect, but we're doing out best to prepare."
The draft begins next Wednesday at 7 p.m. Day two starts Thursday at 5 p.m.
ESPN 2 and MLB Network will televise the event.