Many rules have changed in the Major League Baseball Draft due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the new television agreement with ESPN. Here's your quick cheat sheet as you watch the draft, the first one to be shown on television:
When: June 7-8. Only the first round will be televised.
How is this different?: Not much; the draft has usually spread over two days in recent years.
Where: Orlando, FL, on the Disney's Wild World of Sports campus
How is this different?: Until this year, it was done by conference call. You'd be surprised how poorly that translates on television. (Or maybe not.)
Watch: ESPN2 - 6/7 - 2-6ish p.m. ET (first round); BaseballChannel.tv for all else
How is this different?: It's never been televised before. Also, this is the largest digital blitz ever by MLB Advanced Media, the online arm of MLB. Certainly, this will be no NFL Draft extravaganza; it's still on a Thursday afternoon and still only on the Deuce.
Why: The draft divvies up players in the United States and Canada roughly evenly between teams, much like all the other drafts. The worst teams draft first and the best draft last, attempting to create more competition.
How is this different?: It's not. There was talk about making it a true international draft during the CBA negotiations, but it went nowhere.
How: Teams draft on a five-minute clock, keeping roughly the same order between rounds. Exception - certain picks can be lost or gained due to compensation for free-agent signings last winter. This explains the "sandwich" picks between the first and second round that have extended the length of the first round by approximately 35 picks. It also explains why the selection order in the first five rounds does not exactly match the 2006 win-loss records.
The draft runs up to 50 rounds, though a team can "pass" at any time, pulling itself out of the draft entirely. Most teams are expected to bail 35-40 rounds in, though some inevitably stick it out. (Don't worry; you won't have to watch them all. It's unlikely anyone outside the first half-dozen rounds will get the major league per diem.)
How is this different?: The supplemental first round has doubled in size due to compensation changes in the CBA.
Who: High school seniors and college junior and seniors are eligible to be drafted. They don't have to apply to be eligible for drafting, like the NBA. If a player doesn't want to be on that team, they just don't sign; they go back to school or wait until 8/15. No skin off the team's teeth; they get another pick in next year's draft.
How is this different?: The team used to hold rights until shortly before the next year's draft. Now teams and players must negotiate a bit more quickly. Also, teams now get compensated for not signing a player.