Once conducted in relative obscurity, the MLB Rule IV draft has gained increased exposure over the last few years. However, because even the best prospects usually don’t surface in the majors for at least a year or two after being signed, the interest level in baseball’s draft continues to pale in comparison to the events held by the NFL and NBA
There are exceptions to this rule, however. Since the draft process was instituted in 1965 (in various forms including secondary events held in June and additional rounds held in January), 20 players have jumped right from the amateur level into the big leagues, including 13 within 30 days of being selected. However, no one’s transition was quicker than Dave Roberts, who needed only one day to sign a contract and make his major league debut with the Padres in 1972 (interestingly, three of the major league’s four Dave Roberts have played in San Diego).
Players Who Have Appeared in the Majors within 30 Days of Being Drafted
|Draftees||Team||Drafted||Debuted||Days to Majors|
|Brian Milner||Blue Jays||6-Jun-78||23-Jun-78||17|
Note: Dick Ruthven was selected by the Phillies in the second phase of the January 1973 draft and debuted on opening day of that year.
After 1978, teams started taking a more patient approach with their draftees. Since that time, only John Olerud and Xavier Nady have bypassed the minors and played a big league game in the same year in which they were drafted. Otherwise, only Pete Incaviglia, Jim Abbott, Darren Dreifort and, most recently, Mike Leake have played their first professional game in a big league uniform, although each of those players needed to wait until the following season.
As evident from the names above, a quick burst on the scene doesn’t necessarily translate into long-term success. In fact, in most of the cases, the early promotions seemed to be more a case of wishful thinking than prudent expectations. Nonetheless, even though the impact of baseball’s draft lacks the immediacy of other sports, it has still become a day of new hope for teams badly in need of a talent infusion.