The First-Year Player Draft, also known as the Rule 4 Draft, is Major League Baseball's primary mechanism for assigning amateur baseball players, from high schools, colleges, and other amateur baseball clubs, to its teams. The draft order is determined based on the previous season's standings, with the team possessing the worst record receiving the first pick. In addition, teams which lost free agents in the previous off-season may be awarded "compensatory" picks.
The first amateur draft was held in 1965. Unlike most sports drafts, the First-Year Player Draft is held mid-season, in June. Another distinguishing feature of this draft in comparison with those of other North American major professional sports leagues is its sheer size: under the new collective bargaining agreement the draft lasts 40 rounds, plus compensatory picks. In contrast, the NHL Entry Draft lasts seven rounds and roughly 215 picks, the NBA Draft lasts for only two rounds (60 selections) and the NFL Draft for only seven rounds (a maximum of 256 selections if no picks are forfeited).
Prior to the implementation of the First-Year Player Draft, amateurs were free to sign with any Major League team that offered them a contract. As a result, wealthier teams such as the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals were able to stockpile young talent, while poorer clubs were left to sign less desirable prospects.
Originally, three separate drafts were held each year. The June draft, which was by far the largest, involved new high school graduates, as well as college seniors who had just finished their seasons. It started in 1965, and continues to this day.
A second draft was held in January for high school and college players who graduated in the winter. Finally, there was a draft in August for players who participated in amateur summer leagues. The August draft was eliminated after only two years, while the January draft lasted until 1986.
" Seaver , 22, was an outstanding pitcher at Southern California and a first-round choice of the Dodgers in 1965. He elected to stay in school, and when the Dodgers failed to sign him within six months of the draft they lost their rights to him to the Braves. Then, when the Braves violated the rules by signing him before the college baseball season was over, Seaver's name was tossed into a hat and the Mets pulled it out. Seaver has poise and maturity rare in a rookie. Working with a big lead in his second start , he realized he was getting tired and losing his stuff. He alerted the manager and, when he gave up two hits in the eighth, Westrum promptly relieved him and sent in Shaw , who wrapped up the game with five quick outs. 'These two can make a huge difference in this team,' said Westrum . And the free-agent draft can make a huge difference in baseball.'" - Sportswriter William Leggett in Sports Illustrated (May 01, 1967, 'Fresh Breezes From The Free-Agent Draft, Page 38)
The First-Year Player Draft | Rule 4 Draft
Historical Baseball Draft Research
The general draft order is the reverse order of the previous year's standings. If two teams finish with identical records, the previous year's standings of the two teams is the tiebreaker, with the team having a worse record receiving the higher pick. To be drafted a player must fit the following criteria:
1) Be a resident of the United States, Canada, or a U.S. territory such as Puerto Rico. Players from other countries are not subject to the draft, and can be signed by any team (unless they are current members of college teams in the aforementioned countries).
2) Have never signed a major or minor league contract.
3) High school players are eligible only after graduation, and if they have not attended college.
4) Players at four-year colleges are eligible after completing their junior years, or after their 21st birthdays.
5) Junior and community college players are eligible to be drafted at any time.
Did you know that prior to 2007, each Major League Baseball team retained the exclusive rights to sign a drafted player until one week prior to the next draft, or until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college on a full-time basis? Starting in 2012, the deadline for signing a drafted player is July 15. A drafted player who enters a junior college cannot be signed until the conclusion of the school's baseball season. A player who is drafted and does not sign with the club that selected him may be drafted again at a future year's draft, so long as the player is eligible for that year's draft and the club may not select a player again in a subsequent year, unless the player has consented to the re-selection.
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