Amateur Draft

With the failure of the bonus rule and the first year player draft to reduce the cost of procuring talent, the Major Leagues instituted an amateur draft beginning in June, 1965. Originally, drafts were held at three times during the year. In January, early high school graduates were eligible. In June, other high school graduates as well as college players who had completed their sophomore year could be chosen. An additional draft was held in September for American Legion and other sandlot players. This latter round was eliminated after two years; sandlot players were included in the June draft but couldn't be signed until after their season ended. Beginning in 1967, college students were not eligible until they turned 21 or graduated. In 1976, this was amended so that they could be drafted after their junior year.

The January and June drafts consisted of two phases, primary and secondary. The primary phase, for which  players were eligible as indicated above,  was most important in June, and the secondary, for previously drafted players, was preeminent in January. Selections in the primary phase are made in reverse order of the standings in the previous season, with the two leagues alternating picks, as in the Rule 5 draft.  In 1965, selections in round 7 and later were made by Class A teams, with the effect that Major League clubs had differing numbers of picks in these later rounds depending on how many Class A affiliates they had.   Starting 1966, the rules recognized that the Major League teams were doing the selecting, so each ML club was limited to one pick in each round, with the parent announcing which Class A affiliate it was choosing for.

Draft positions for the secondary phase were originally chosen by lot within each league, with the two leagues alternating picks. Teams are not allowed to trade draft positions, although from 1976 on, they have been used as free-agent compensation. They have 15 days in which to begin negotiating with the draftee (including a written contract offer since the 1990's) and have to sign him at least 15 days before the next draft (7 days starting 1984) or before he starts fall classes if selected in June. Unsigned players went into the secondary phase, where a team other than the one that had failed to sign him could draft the rights to sign him. College juniors who didn't sign were not eligible for the January secondary phase after 1976. Starting in 1972, the order of picks in the secondary phase was revised. Those with picks in the first half in 1972 would pick in the second half in 1973, alternating in subsequent years. Within those groups, the order was determined by lot. In 1987, the secondary phase and the January draft were eliminated. Teams had nearly a full year to sign their picks. If they failed to sign their first round selection, they were awarded an extra choice at the end of the first round in the next draft.

Originally, only residents of the United States of America, excluding overseas territories, were eligible for the draft. In 1985, others attending school in the USA were also subject. Beginning in 1989, residents of Puerto Rico (and other territories) were made eligible for the draft as well. At that time, Puerto Ricans had to be at least seventeen to be drafted; in 1991, this was changed so that they were not eligible until their high school class had graduated, while Canadians were now also subject to the draft.  In 1999, college students became eligible when they turned 21 even if they hadn't completed their junior year.

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