This year, the MLB opened itself up to the biggest undrafted free agent class ever by cutting the draft down to just five rounds in an attempt to bring down costs. While the move might be good for the bottom line, it completely screwed over a lot of Puerto Rican players who just want a chance in the big leagues.
Currently, only athletes from the United States and Canada can be selected in the MLB Draft, but because Puerto Rico is a US territory, they are included as well. All other players are considered international free agents.
As noted in this story, 3 of the 5 high schoolers who’ve signed as undrafted FA so far are from Puerto Rico. I don’t know those 3 players’ stories, but I was expecting something like this. It’s not a coincidence. I’ve been beating this drum for a while and I’m not gonna stop. https://t.co/5ibW7eSH0L
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) June 15, 2020
As Jorge Castillo, a Dodgers beat reporter for the Los Angeles Times, reported in his thread, Puerto Rican athletes regularly end up signing with professional teams for bare-minimum salaries if they aren’t drafted because of socioeconomic disadvantages.
Puerto Rican baseball players are massively less likely to speak fluent English than their US and Canada counterparts, and the territory has a higher poverty rate than any US state, so it’s difficult for players to get noticed by four-year universities in the States and tough out four-year college careers without a paycheck.
Sadly, if these players are forced to sign as undrafted free agents, they have little to no leverage to negotiate a decent salary. If front offices can avoid drafting Puerto Ricans and instead sign them to cheap UDFA deals, that drives a vicious cycle.
Nowhere near enough attention has been given to how MLB’s actions with the draft are going to extremely negatively impact young Puerto Rican ballplayers and baseball in Puerto Rico. Fuck MLB, now and forever. https://t.co/GXpiR6HiJI
— Bill Thompson (@BillCubbieBlue) June 15, 2020
By subjecting Puerto Rico to the draft process, the MLB is taking away opportunities for young, talented athletes who don’t generally have the resources to build up a traditional resume in college. If Puerto Ricans were international free agents like their Caribbean counterparts, they would be watched by scouts from a younger age and have better opportunities to sign.
The MLB know what they’re doing with this, and it’s just plain scummy. Some of the most talented athletes in the history of the league have been Puerto Rican, and those athletes deserve better than a system that works against them.