Selig seeks slotting system, international draft

If commissioner Bud Selig has his way, baseball's amateur draft will have a whole new look next year.

With the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners set to expire after this season, Selig wants to see some changes to the draft implemented in a new labor deal.

For one, he'd like a slotting system that limits bonus money for top picks — they would be paid based on where they are selected.

Also, he wants Major League Baseball to develop an international draft.

"I believe in slotting and I believe in a worldwide draft. I think it's important," Selig said, pointing out that the draft began in 1965 as a way to improve competitive balance. "I think the draft has worked, but I think there are some things that have happened in the last five or six years that are worrisome."

The NBA currently has a rookie pay scale and NFL owners would like to implement one as well. New players entering the NHL are subject to maximum salaries.

Selig said owners and general managers have voted in favor of a slotting system. Now, it's a matter of getting players to agree.

"I think we need it," Selig said. "We have a negotiation ahead of us."

For the third straight year, Selig announced first-round picks from a podium at MLB Network studios. The draft was broadcast live and several Hall of Famers were in attendance as club representatives.

"I really do enjoy it. I always used to look forward to this when I ran the Brewers. This is an exciting night," Selig said, remembering when Milwaukee drafted Hall of Famer Robin Yount third overall in 1973. "It's fascinating to watch them develop."

Years ago, the draft was held by conference call and players sometimes waited hours — or days — to learn where they were headed.

"I think this has worked out great," Selig said. "We've come a long way and this is very helpful. We need to do more of this."


WAITING GAME: Larry Greene sat anxiously at the draft site at MLB Network studios as name after name was called by commissioner Bud Selig.

The wait finally ended with the 39th pick — in the compensatory round — as the Philadelphia Phillies drafted the outfielder out of Berrien County High School in Georgia.

"It was definitely frustrating a little bit," a smiling Greene said. "But, I'm happy now."

Unlike the NFL and NBA drafts, baseball rarely has players show up at the draft to slip on a hat. After all, the draft was long an event conducted exclusively by conference calls. Since Major League Baseball brought it to MLB Network studios three years ago, Greene is just the second player — joining Angels first-rounder Mike Trout in 2009 — to attend.

"My mother told me to come up and be here," said Greene, who was at the draft with his father, Larry Sr. "I listen to her."

Greene, wearing a Phillies cap and holding a white team jersey, got a huge round of applause from the fans and former big leaguers in attendance when he was drafted. Former Reds All-Star Eric Davis shook his hand and hugged him. Greene, who signed to play at the University of Georgia, was a high school All-American with loads of power — like his idol, the Phillies' Ryan Howard. And someday, maybe he'll be in the same lineup.

"It's crazy," Greene said. "It's a dream come true coming from a small town in Nashville, Ga. Words can't describe it."


BASEBALL BLOODLINES: The sons of Dante Bichette and Dwight Smith were among the players selected during the draft's first day.

Dante Bichette Jr., a high school third baseman from Florida, was the New York Yankees' first pick at No. 51. He has committed to the University of Georgia, but the Yankees are surely hoping he develops into an All-Star slugger like his dad.

"Dante is one of the guys in this draft we thought had an impact bat and the potential to hit for big power in the middle of the order," said Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees vice president of amateur scouting. "He's someone with an advanced makeup and work ethic who possesses the desire and drive to be a special major leaguer."

Dwight Smith Jr. was the 53rd overall selection by the Toronto Blue Jays. The speedy Smith is an outfielder, as his father was, and is also committed to the Bulldogs.

California high school right-hander Joe Ross got bragging rights on his brother, Tyson, after being taken 22nd overall by San Diego. Tyson Ross, pitching for Oakland, was a second-round pick of the Athletics in 2008.


FAMILIAR FACES: Joe Torre started his day by ringing the opening bell at NASDAQ. He ended it by announcing the start of the compensation round at the draft.

The former New York Yankees manager is now Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball operations.

"It's a celebration of the past, present and future all coming together," he said before telling the Washington Nationals they were on the clock with the 34th pick.

Each big league team had former stars and front office personnel representing them at MLB Network studios, including Hall of Famers Jim Rice (Boston), Gaylord Perry (San Francisco) and Rod Carew (Minnesota). Roberto Alomar, who will be inducted in July, was there for Toronto.


LONG TRIP: Jose Fernandez's path to a professional baseball career included four boat trips attempting to leave his native Cuba. Now he could be joining the Florida Marlins' organization.

The 18-year-old Fernandez, a high school senior from Tampa, Fla., was taken by the Marlins with the 14th pick.

Fernandez grew up in Santa Clara, Cuba. He and other family members made repeated attempts to leave the country and join his father in Tampa before finally making it in 2008.

Marlins player personnel executive Jim Fleming said Fernandez's background was a factor in the decision to draft him.

"You weigh it a lot," Fleming said. "Going through the minor leagues, there's a lot of adversity that the normal kid hasn't had any experience with. This kid has faced a lot worse things than anything he'll face going through our system."

A 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander, Fernandez has a fastball that has been clocked at 98 mph. He went 30-3 in three years at Alonso High School and helped his team win two state titles.

Fernandez earlier signed to pitch at the University of South Florida.


HAWAIIAN PUNCH: A telephone call to Kolten Wong a handful of picks before it was the St. Louis Cardinals' turn finalized their decision to take the Hawaii second baseman.

Wong eased worries about signability, telling the Cardinals that would not be a problem and that he was eager to begin his pro career. The franchise addressed an organizational need with the 22nd pick, selecting a middle infielder for the third time in four years.

A bonus was a chance to perhaps play with Albert Pujols one day.

"Just hearing that name gives me chills. He's a legend," Wong said.

Wong became just the third native of Hawaii to be a first-round pick, joining Dave Masters (1985) and Justin Wayne (2000). He's also the third player from the University of Hawaii to go in the opening round, joining Mike Campbell (1985) and Mark Johnson (1996).

Wong was a 16th-round pick of Minnesota in 2008 and batted .378 last season with seven home runs and 53 RBIs in 57 games, plus was MVP of the Cape Cod League last summer and played on the U.S. National team in 2008.

Wong's father, Kaha Wong, was a utilityman who played in the minors in 1989 and 1990. A batting cage in the backyard helped Wong hone his skills.


SHORT HOPS: A total of 18 college players were taken in the first round, and the state of California — led by No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole of UCLA — led the way with six players selected. ... Tampa Bay had 10 of the first 60 picks on the draft's first day, mostly because the Rays lost several free agents last offseason, such as Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano. With the first of the bunch, they took South Carolina high school righty Taylor Guerrieri at No. 24 and wrapped up the compensation round with California high school outfielder James Harris at No. 60.


AP Sports Writers Dennis Waszak Jr. in Secaucus, N.J., Steven Wine in Miami and R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.