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Stanford Baseball: Uncertain Futures

Junior baseball players now have an even more difficult decision to make regarding the MLB draft

NCAA BASEBALL: MAY 31 Div 1 Championship Stanford Regional - Stanford Cardinal v Sacramento State Hornets Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The junior year for most of the top collegiate baseball players brings with it likely their last year as a college baseball player. It’s the first year they become eligible for the First-Year Player Draft and likely the time any player who is going to go pro, does indeed go pro.

Stanford has seen plenty of players drafted into the majors, including 52 players since the 2012 season. Kyle Stowers and Daniel Bakst were the last two to hear their names called as they were drafted in the 2019 draft.

However, as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down and altered many sports plans this year, the 2020 MLB Draft is no different. Instead of ranging up to 40 rounds, this year’s draft is going to be just five rounds and will likely even halve the 2021 draft to around 20 rounds. The reason for this is to save money for the major league teams, which according to reports, would salvage up to $30 million dollars per team.

Each player drafted in into the sixth round (all but six of them, actually) signed contracts of at least $200,000 and it trickled down from there. Now, all undrafted players will see a cap on their signing bonus of $20,000 or less this year.

So, now that the salaries being signed are lower, where does that leave potential Stanford juniors who likely won’t hear their names called until after the five rounds of the 2020 draft?

Tim Tawa recently spoke with Stanford Athletics.

“Since the situation is so unusual and so unprecedented, I’m just trying to control what I can control,” Tawa said. “That means staying in shape, working hard, hitting when I can, fielding when I can. Just trying to do whatever is possible given the situation and limited resources to stay ready to play whenever the time is called.”

Tawa entered his junior season after a terrific 2019 campaign. He knocked home six RBIs in limited action this season, in just 13 games started but seeing action in 16 total games. He hit just .213 this year compared to .253 a year ago.

Brendan Beck also spoke with Stanford, expressing his interest in returning to Stanford for his senior season if not drafted.

“If I’m not drafted, I’ll definitely be back to school,” said Beck, a 6-foot-2 right-handed pitcher and Stanford’s Friday starter. “The financial distinction alone, being able to be that much closer to a master’s degree from Stanford, I think is worth a lot more than entering as an undrafted free agent. It’s nice that the decision is as black and white as it is.”

It is a great thing that the decision is black and white. Get drafted, go pro. Go undrafted, have your decision to come back to school or go into the minor league system as an undrafted free agent.

Jim Harbaugh recently expressed his desire for the NFL to change their ruling to such after several underclassmen of his went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft at Michigan.

Still, this may mean good things for at least the 2020-21 Stanford season as the Cardinal may not lose as many juniors as they previously would have, had they been drafted in the much later rounds.

It’s also beneficial to the MLB teams AND the players themselves, who will have such an option to return to school.

Have to say, the more I think about the 2020 MLB Draft, the more excited I become.