Tuesday, June 09, 2009

 

How would you make baseball's draft more relevant?

Major League Baseball’s annual amateur draft is this evening. The game’s best amateur pitcher in years is guaranteed to be picked first by the Washington Nationals. Several top draft picks could be playing for your major-league team in just a year or two.

Yes, despite other sports that receive weeks of hype and hours of TV coverage for their drafts, many baseball fans likely don’t even know that today is draft day.

Why the difference for baseball? For a game that has deeper roots than any other major sport, experiencing a surge in popularity and ticket sales in recent years, the draft is still not a very big deal.

Traditionally, this likely had more to do with the draft’s near-term impact on major-league clubs than anything else. In football and basketball, top picks are all but expected not just to make the team, but to contribute in their first year. Therefore, NFL and NBA drafts have a direct impact on the following year’s season.

Baseball draft picks, by comparison, have traditionally taken years of seasoning in the minor leagues to be ready for The Show.

But that’s starting to change, thanks to Moneyball and the way most big-league clubs are picking their amateur talent. With more and more college players chosen in early rounds (instead of high schoolers), draft picks are better seasoned and can be faster to rise to the major league level. Tim Lincecum was a top draft pick in 2006 out of the University of Washington, and won the Cy Young in 2008. That same year, Brandon Morrow was drafted by the Seattle Mariners from Cal and was throwing 100+ MPH heat in the Seattle bullpen the next year.

So let’s look at this from a marketing perspective. The relevancy of baseball’s draft on a big league team’s near-term roster has improved significantly. If you’re a marketer for MLB, how do you increase the draft’s fan impact? How do you use draft day to promote the game in general? How do you help market draft picks as the stars of tomorrow - both for the game overall as well as each major-league club?

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