Rounding Third: Getting ready for the MLB Draft

Everyone's favorite crapshoot gets underway on Monday, as Major League Baseball's First-year Player Draft begins with the first of a mind-numbing 40 rounds that will take place over three days.

You have to credit MLB for trying to generate some excitement around this event, but really, outside of a select group of baseball nerds, does anyone really care who their team is going to pick in Round 1, let alone Round 40?

And by the way, by the time your team does take someone that late, it's all done over conference call at rapid pace. And trust me, it's someone you never heard of and more likely than not will never hear from again.

For a look at some of those future stars check out The Sports Network's MLB Draft package here

You want a draft overview for your favorite team? Here it goes. They will wind up with about 20 pitchers, 8 outfielders, 8 infielders and 3 catchers with the hope that maybe five of those players selected appear on their big league roster at some point.

Why are the NFL and NBA Drafts so popular? It's simple. For one, those sports have far exceeded baseball in popularity in this country, and two, and the biggest reason, is that even the casual fan knows the players who are being taken.

Most borderline sports fans know who Anthony Davis and Andrew Luck are. If you know who Stanford righty Mark Appel or high school outfielder Byron Buxton are then I suggest you get out of the house more often.

And that's just something that's never going to change. You can televise the draft all you want, but a good majority of the players who will be selected next week will be from high school and the ones who are taken from college are generally unknown to the public.

Not to mention that a good portion of the players drafted will never even don the team's jersey that takes them. Many either go to college, stay in college or don't reach an agreement with the team, putting them back in the draft for another year.

And the ones who do stay the course are still a longshot to reach the big league level.

One beauty of the MLB Draft is that the top players like Appel or Buxton are as likely to succeed as someone taken 20 rounds later.

Don't get me wrong, a good number of first-round picks pan out, and obviously more picks in the first 10 rounds make it than in the second 10 rounds. But, the amount of late-round success present in baseball simply does not translate to other sports.

And the comparison isn't even close.

Of course, the best example of that is Mike Piazza, who was a 62nd-round selection and the last player chosen in the 1988 draft, supposedly as a favor to Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, the godfather to one of the catcher's brothers. You see a lot of instances like that where a manager's son or relative gets taken just because of who he is.

That will probably change this year, as the draft is down 10 rounds, meaning a lot of those nepotism picks will be cut back. Still, clubs last year signed an average of 32 players, so the shortening of the draft should really have little effect in the grand scheme of things.

There were only eight players chosen after the 40th round on the opening day rosters of big-league clubs this year.

Another new wrinkle in this year's draft will be the way teams are allowed to spend with regards to signing bonuses. While there may not be a hard cap on individual draft slots, as owners initially sought, stricter, enforceable measures were implemented that will limit the total amount that teams can now spend on players signed in both the domestic and international markets.

If teams exceed the imposed limits, they will be subject to significant taxes and even the loss of premium draft picks.

For example, the Astros hold the top overall pick on Monday and have been given an allowable limit of $7.2 million for the top pick and can only spend $11.18 million on their 11 picks through the first 10 rounds. Last year, Pittsburgh had the top overall pick and spent a record $8 million to sign No.1 pick Gerrit Cole and subsequently paid a record $17,005,700 to sign all their draft selections, more than $5 million over the previous mark.

While the restrictive measures were put in place to help curb spending, it also may assure that the best prospects end up with the weakest teams, restoring the original premise of the draft.

The deadline for picks to sign this year is July 13, about a month earlier than it's been in previous years.

Speaking of the Astros, they have apparently narrowed their decision down to two players: the aforementioned Appel and Buxton.

While Buxton is generally considered the best pure talent in what is being called an underwhelming draft, Appel is probably the safest bet and closer to being big league ready.

Appel's stock took a bit of a hit early on this season for the Cardinal, but he quickly turned critics around, having posted a 9-1 record with a 2.37 ERA in 14 starts. He's also struck out at least 10 in seven starts this year, with four of those outings against teams in the Top 10.

With a four-seam fastball that touches 100 mph and sits 94-96, a two-seam fastball around 92-94, a sharp slider from 82-84 and a change-up from 81-83 with plenty of depth, many think he has the tools to perform at a high level in the big leagues.

If you want to find a downside, though, he sometimes overthrows his fastball and rushes delivery from time-to-time.

Also, should Appel go No. 1, it would mark the first time the same school has produced the top selection in both the NFL Draft (Andrew Luck) and MLB Draft.

Buxton's bat has been a little slow to develop, most think the potential for power is there, as he has wowed scouts during home run competitions at showcases.

A true five-tool talent, Buxton's speed is his biggest asset at the moment, but he has a plus-arm and is a terrific defender in the field. He's been compared to both Arizona outfielder Justin Upton, as well as former Cincinnati great Eric Davis.

As usual, pitching will dominate the first round with righties Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer, Michael Wacha and Marcus Stroman, as well as lefty Matt Smoral, all expected to go early.

Aside from Buxton, the best bat available early on is Carlos Correa, an infielder from the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy.

An interesting name to watch will be California prep righty Lucas Giolito, who may have been the top pitcher in this year's draft class, but sprained his ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow in early March and ended his season. He has resumed throwing, but is a wild card at best at the moment.

These will be the stars of the future, though. Whether its Appel, Buxton or Correa early on, or Rushton, Spiegel, Sokol or Smith somewhere between rounds 30-40.

It's anyone's guess. And that is why nobody will ever get into the MLB Draft.