When the new MLB Draft rules were set into place, the draft was cut down from 50 rounds to 40. The knee-jerk reaction is that 300 potential draft picks just missed out on the thrill of getting drafted. But it could instead have created a system that is better for everyone involved.
The problem with rounds 41-50 (and beyond at one point) was the high school picks. Basically, except for in the rarest of cases, none of them signed. The picks were a complete waste of time. The only players drafted who would consider signing would be college seniors. But why would we rob those college seniors of the chance to get drafted?
In the later rounds, teams are done picking based on organizational philosophy. They’re just looking for any amount of talent at all wherever they can get it. That leads to players who maybe have something to contribute, maybe have a chance to be a surprise, going to teams where their talents are improperly suited. Granted, most picks beyond the 40th round don’t pan out. But there are always those who do- take Brad Ausmus, a 48th round pick by the Yankees in 1987, and Jarrod Dyson, a 50th round pick by the Royals in 2006. What eliminating the final ten rounds of the draft does is allows players to sign with the teams where they fit the best. In the draft, players don’t get to choose to which team they go to except in the most extreme of circumstances. That is often the same with non-drafted free agents because if a player is a 40+ round talent, they’re usually not hot commodities. But even if their choices are limited, the non-drafted free agents do end up in organizations that see their ability and have an idea of what they’re going to do to try to maximize it.
There is going to be multiple American non-drafted free agents who are All-Stars in the next 10-15 years. There almost have to be. Most non-drafted free agents will amount to little in their professional baseball careers. But for the ones that truly slipped through the cracks, they will be put in the best position to succeed, and a few of them will do just that.