Draft moves to MLB Network, prime time
Studio 42 hosts first round; MLB.com's live coverage follows
The First-Year Player Draft, likely to begin with the selection of San Diego State junior pitcher Stephen Strasburg by the Washington Nationals, will have a completely new look on June 9, with a prime-time move to the new MLB Network and its dazzling Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J.
Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday the new location and broadcaster for the annual event, which continues to evolve from a longtime closed-door conference call into a live, multi-platform studio show that showcases the game's future.
The Draft begins at 6 p.m. ET on that Tuesday in June in the scale-ballpark studio named after Jackie Robinson, and it will be expanded, from two days to three days, with the final two days being conducted via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York.
The first day will consist of the first 111 picks, including Round 1, Compensation Round A, Round 2, Round 3 and Compensation Round B. On Wednesday, June 10, the Draft will resume with the fourth round at noon and is tentatively scheduled to go through the 30th round. The Draft will conclude on Thursday, June 11, with the 31st to 50th rounds.
After MLB Network broadcasts the live selections of the first round, MLB.com will air a live video stream from Studio 42 for the remainder of the day's selections starting with the first compensation round, which begins with the 33rd overall pick. "MLB Tonight" will also provide coverage and analysis as the Draft continues to unfold.
The following day, MLB.com will offer comprehensive live coverage of the Draft's final two days, including a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and the exclusive Draft Tracker, a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player featuring statistics, scouting reports and video highlights. The Draft Tracker historically contributes to one of the largest traffic-volume days of the calendar year on MLB.com, as people in communities everywhere look to see if and when their favorite sons are being drafted -- and that includes players themselves and their families, for whom this event is the stuff of dreams.
"Major League Baseball is very pleased that MLB Network will host our First-Year Player Draft at Studio 42," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "As the Draft has gained more prominence in recent years, fans have embraced it with great enthusiasm. With the continued support of MLB.com and now the advent of the MLB Network, we are enthusiastic about the possibilities to continue to grow this event."
"When we started plotting out our programming schedule, the First-Year Player Draft was definitely one of the dates we circled on the baseball calendar," said Tony Petitti, president and chief executive officer of MLB Network.
"We're looking forward to Studio 42 being the backdrop for the beginning of many promising baseball careers."
It is widely expected to be the starting point in the professional career of Strasburg, who has consistently wowed scouts from his performance at the Summer Olympics in Beijing to his dominant outings this year for Tony Gwynn's San Diego State club. Strasburg has a fastball topping in the 100- to 103-mph range and a razor-sharp slider that wreaks havoc on hitters.
Strasburg's signability figures to be a hot topic on MLB Network. He is represented by agent Scott Boras, who reportedly has a $50 million, long-term contract figure in mind. The ceiling for Draft picks has been at about $10 million, and though the Nationals have placed a moratorium on discussions about the No. 1 pick, it is believed that the only way Washington doesn't pick Strasburg is if it believes it cannot sign him. Boras will seek to demonstrate that Strasburg is a once-in-a-blue-moon talent who could be in a Major League rotation right away.
Other likely high picks include first baseman-outfielder Dustin Ackley of the University of North Carolina and left-hander Matthew Purke of Klein (Texas) High School.
The Rays had the top overall pick each of the past two years, choosing pitcher David Price in 2007 and shortstop Tim Beckham in 2008, and both of those picks were made in front of Tampa Bay's home fans, as the Draft was conducted at the Milk House at Disney World's Wide World of Sports complex.
The Draft has existed since 1965, and Washington will be the first club to have two of the first 10 picks. It also has the No. 10 selection, due to its inability to sign first-rounder Aaron Crow last year. That is the result of a new rule.
The selection order of the First-Year Player Draft is determined by the reverse order of finish at the close of the previous season. Compensation picks have been assigned to clubs whose Type A or Type B free agents signed with other clubs and/or to clubs that were unable to sign a player who was chosen in the first three rounds of the 2008 Draft. Washington is one of five clubs that will have a pair of first-round choices. The Mariners will choose second and 27th, the Rockies will choose 11th and 32nd, the Diamondbacks will choose 16th and 17th, and the Angels will pick 24th and 25th.
The Draft will have 50 rounds and will conclude after all 30 teams have passed on a selection or after the final selection of the 50th round, whichever comes first.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.