The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is held every year in June by conference call among the 30 Major League Clubs. The Clubs take turns selecting players in reverse order of their won-lost records at the close of the previous regular season. The order of selection is without regard to League.
The Major League Rules govern which players are eligible for selection in the Draft. These Rules are detailed, but the basic eligibility criteria can be described as follows: Generally, a player is eligible for selection if the player is a resident of the United States or Canada and the player has never before signed a Major League or Minor League contract. Residents of Puerto Rico and other territories of the United States are eligible for the Draft. Also considered residents are players who enroll in a high school or college in the United States, regardless of where they are from originally.
Certain groups of players are ineligible for selection, generally because they are still in school. The basic categories of players eligible to be drafted are:
- High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college;
- College players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old; and
- Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed
A Club generally retains the rights to sign a selected player until 11:59 PM (EDT) August 15, or until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college on a full-time basis. A player who is drafted and does not sign with the Club that selected him may be drafted again at a future year's Draft, so long as the player is eligible for that year's Draft. A Club may not select a player again in a subsequent year, unless the player has consented to the re-selection.
A player who is eligible to be selected and is passed over by every Club becomes a free agent and may sign with any Club until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college full-time or enters, or returns to, a junior college.
This description is a general one and the Major League Rules themselves, not this summary, govern eligibility issues. Players and coaches with questions about particular players are referred to the Baseball Operations Department at the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.