The start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season has already been postponed twice, most recently to mid-May as the global coronavirus pandemic continues to put the sports world on hold. The longer baseball’s hiatus goes, the more money MLB will lose, forcing it to find ways to cut costs.
Among those things being considered, according to the Associated Press, is a cancellation of the 2020 amateur draft—which is currently scheduled for early June—as well as delaying or eliminating the next international signing period.
Skipping the draft could create a ripple effect down into college baseball, which is already looking at figuring out how to deal with the extra year of eligibility that the NCAA plans to grant to all spring sports participants. It could mean that the game’s top draft-eligible players would be forced to stay in school for another year rather than sign a pro contract.
And that means several Arizona Wildcats players who were likely to be drafted in June could be coming back for another season, including catcher Austin Wells, outfielder Donta Williams, utilityman Mathew Dyer and pitchers Vince Vannelle and Garrett Irvin.
Baseball players are currently eligible to be drafted out of high school, but once they attend class at a four-year college they’re not able to enter the draft again for three years. The exception is for sophomores who will turn 21 before their junior year of school, which applies to Wells, who turns 21 in July.
The reigning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Wells is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 23 prospect in the 2020 Draft. He was hitting .375 with two home runs, 14 RBI and a 1.116 OPS in 15 games before Arizona’s season was cut short.
Williams, a junior, was hitting .348 with 14 RBI and a 1.027 OPS while Dyer, a redshirt junior, was batting only .220 but had three homers and 18 RBI and was batting .320 during a 6-game hit streak before the stoppage.
Though a senior, Vannelle had been dominant in five appearances, posting a 1.35 ERA and a .152 batting average against while striking out 20 in 13.1 innings. Irvin, a junior college transfer, won all four of his starts and had a 3.18 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 22.2 innings.