SYDNEY, 8 July - The Australian Baseball League is expanding its recruiting efforts for home-grown baseball talent with the announcement that the first-ever ABL Australian Player Draft will be held on 14 August.
The 2014 draft will be open to any Australian baseball player who is not protected by an ABL Team prior to July 11 and is expected to draw from some elite talent including former stars, Australians returning from prominent US college careers and even some previously undiscovered talent.
In an effort to ensure parity across the ABL and an even mix of Australian and international players at each of the league's six clubs, teams with will now be able to add un-signed Australian players that reside in another team's state for the first time through the draft.
ABL General Manager Ben Foster is excited about the potential of the Australian draft and the added dimension it brings to the league.
"This initiative will allow our smaller market teams more flexibility to stay competitive, but more importantly gives more Australian players the opportunity to play at the professional level," he said.
"Like any new initiative, the market for Australian player movement remains largely untested, but based on the feedback from many of the professional scouts around the country, we are expecting to see some inspiring new talent in the ABL this year."
For those familiar with some of the professional draft rules of the ABL's parent organization Major League baseball, the Australian Player Draft will share some similarities with MLB's "Rule 5" draft, a system that allows certain "unprotected" players under contract to switch teams and potentially fast-track their MLB careers.
"What we've tried to ensure is that there is a balance between a team's ability to protect and nurture their home-grown talent while not stifling a player's opportunities due to factors that might be beyond their control," Foster said.
"The classic example is where you have overwhelming depth of players at a specific team, in a specific position; obviously everybody can't play at the same time and that leads to the potential for ABL quality players to miss out."
The fierce competition for ABL roster spots has been highlighted in recent years with the number of current and former Major League players to appear in the ABL now reaching 30 - with more MLB debuts anticipated in the season ahead.
Teams will have the responsibility to "protect" any players they might be at risk of losing by signing them early and ensuring that these protected players are on their Active rosters each and every week. Individual players then have the opportunity to enter the draft if they have not been protected prior to July 11.
In order to enter, players must official register for the draft - a process by which they are agreeing to play for any team that drafts them.
Players looking to register for the draft can do so online via the ABL website in an effort to make the process as open and accessible as possible.
"We have a wealth of resources when it comes to player identification, but we wanted to ensure we left no stone unturned when it came to providing players with opportunities, ' Foster said.
"For some of these players, they have been overseas enrolled in college programs for up to four years and have spent very limited time back in Australia…a lot can change about a player who leaves here at 17 and returns at 21 so we want to be sure the Draft is open to anyone who qualifies."
The order of the draft has been determined by the ABL taking into account several factors including but not limited to; the overall number of Australian players within region, the current number and level of Australian professional players on each Team, and order of the Team's finish from the previous year.
2014 Australian Player Draft Order
|ROUND||ORDER OF PICKS|
|Round 1||1. Canberra Cavalry|
|Round 2||2. Canberra Cavalry|
|3. Adelaide Bite|
|Round 3||4. Canberra Cavalry|
|5. Adelaide Bite|
|Round 4||6. Canberra Cavalry|
|7. Adelaide Bite|
|Round 5||8. Canberra Cavalry|
|9. Adelaide Bite|
|10. Brisbane Bandits|
|Round 6||11. Canberra Cavalry|
|(and order for any||12. Adelaide Bite|
|and all subsequent rounds)||13. Brisbane Bandits|
|14. Melbourne Aces|
|15. Sydney Blue Sox|
|16. Perth Heat|