TERMS AND RULES: FIRST YEAR PLAYER DRAFT

Major League Baseball’s annual First Year Player Draft, also known as the Rule 4 Draft, takes place in June and was started in 1965. Rule 4 refers to the section in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that defines the draft. 

The clubs draft in reverse order of their won-loss records from the previous season, with “sandwich picks” between the first and second rounds as compensation for teams that lost free agents. 

Eligibility: 

  • Never signed a major or minor league contract before
  • Resident of U.S., Canada or U.S. territory
  • High School players who have graduated but not gone to college
  • Four-year college players after completing their junior year or after 21st birthday
  • Junior and community college players 

After the first round, the sandwich picks take place for the clubs that offered their free agents arbitration but were declined. When such free agents sign elsewhere, their previous clubs get compensation based on the level of free agent that was lost. The Elias Sports Bureau classifies free agents as Type A, Type B or, previously, Type C. Here’s the lowdown on that: 

  • Type A – In the top 20% of players at his position. The team that signs a Type A FA surrenders its first-round pick to the previous club and the previous club also gets a sandwich pick. 
  • Type B – Below the top 20% but above the top 40% of players at  his position. A team that loses a Type B free agent receives a sandwich pick. 
  • Type C – No longer exists. It covered “everybody else” or represented no classification, i.e. not a Type A or Type B. This class was eliminated in the most recent CBA. 

Another way to get a compensatory pick is if a club was unable to sign its first- or second- round pick from the previous year’s draft. In this case, the club gets a pick in the same slot, plus one. For example, if a club picks 15th and doesn’t sign the draftee, they receive the 16th pick the following year. That’s why the opening round can have more than 30 picks. 

The deadline for signing a player is August 15th and a player who fails to sign by that date is may be drafted again in future drafts providing he meets the eligibility requirements. He may not be drafted by that same team again unless he has given his consent. 

The first pick ever selected was OF Rick Monday, taken by the Kansas City A’s in the inaugural draft in 1965. The slugger from Arizona St. went on to play with the Cubs and Dodgers as well.

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