MLB Draft – Picks No. 1-8

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Nationals selected RHP Stephen Strasburg with the first overall pick in Tuesday’s draft.
We’ve known it was coming for months, so now it’s just a matter of
getting him signed. The Nationals probably won’t rush to get a deal
done, since he’s been worked hard this year and doesn’t really need to
throw any additional innings. Ideally, they’d just get him ready for
2010, when he could be in the rotation right from the start of the
year. Of course, it’d make more sense to delay his arrival to postpone
free agency, but it might save them money in negotiations if they
promise him a rotation spot right away. With his high-90s fastball and
top-notch slider, he is ready now, and he could soon be a major league

Mariners chose North Carolina first baseman-outfielder Dustin Ackley with the second pick in the draft.
Ackley, a 6-foot-1, 184-pound left-handed hitter, has been a first
baseman since undergoing Tommy John surgery, but the Mariners are
drafting him as an outfielder and will stick him in center. He has the
speed to last there, and he should be able to hit for average. He may
not develop into more than a 12- or 15-homer guy, but he could
contribute as soon as 2011.

Padres selected high school outfielder Donovan Tate with the third pick in the draft.
Tate has a scholarship waiting for him to play cornerback at North
Carolina, but the Padres should be able to get him signed. Tate is a
fantastic athlete, but he’s a raw product who figures to take a long
time to develop. The assumption is that he’ll hit for power and turn
into an excellent defensive center fielder. Still, drafting him this
early is a risky move.

Pirates drafted Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez fourth overall.
A polished product, Sanchez is a fine catch-and-throw guy with an iffy
bat. If he turns into a .250 hitter with 15-homer power, the Pirates
should be pleased. He’s advanced enough to potentially debut next year.
The Pirates would prefer not to need him then, but Ryan Doumit is so
injury prone that the quality alternative is a necessity.

Orioles selected high school RHP Matt Hobgood with the fifth overall pick in the draft.
Hobgood, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound righty, bares a little too much of a
resemblance to Sidney Ponson for comfort. He’s not as hard of a thrower
as his build suggests, as he tops out at 92 mph, but he does have an
excellent curveball. He’ll have to come up with a changeup over the
next few years.

Giants selected high school RHP Zack Wheeler with the sixth pick in the draft.
It’s no surprise to see the Giants go with another high school pitcher.
They’ve done well with that strategy recently, and Wheeler looks like
another pretty good pick. He already throws 90-93 mph, and he could add
velocity as he fills out. His curve is a quality second pitch. A future
as a No. 2 starter is a possibility.

Braves selected Vanderbilt LHP Mike Minor with the seventh pick in the draft.
The Braves usually prefer upside, but they’re going for a polished
lefty here. Minor throws 88-91 mph with a pretty good slider and
changeup. He went 6-6 with a 3.90 ERA, 109 H and 114/37 K/BB in 110 2/3
IP for Vandy this year. A future as a No. 3 starter is a possibility,
and he’s far enough along that he could begin next year in Double-A.

Reds selected Arizona State RHP Mike Leake with the eighth pick in the draft.
A bit of a surprise, but a good one. Leake doesn’t possess more than an
average fastball, but both his slider and changeup are major league
quality right now and he has a curve that he’ll use occasionally. With
his command, he should move quickly.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.