Central vs. Western 2/29/20

Central Arizona College pitcher Mat Olsen delivers against Arizona Western on Feb. 29 at CAC.

Central Arizona College has a well established reputation of getting its baseball players drafted to the majors. With the 2020 MLB draft in flux, all bets are off for what to expect next month.

The draft was originally scheduled to take place June 10-12 with 40 rounds. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into those plans.

MLB and its players’ association, MLBPA, came to an agreement in March to have have no fewer than five rounds, with the total number of rounds undecided.

On Thursday, MLB’s latest proposal for the draft was rejected by the players’ association, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.

The proposal included 10 rounds, but there were other concessions related to player compensation that MLBPA found unpalatable.

Players drafted in the first five rounds would receive the same amount of money as was slotted in 2019. However, players drafted in rounds six through 10 would receive 50% of the 2019 values.

What does this mean for the defending NJCAA World Series champion Vaqueros? Current and former CAC players could be impacted by how the draft is conducted and how many rounds are included.

Players on the current CAC roster who could be drafted in the top 10 rounds include redshirt freshman pitcher Mat Olsen, a Florence High School product, and sophomore pitcher DJ Carpenter.

The Vaqueros (19-9-1) made it 29 games into the season before the remainder of the 2020 campaign was canceled due to the virus outbreak.

Olsen thrived as the team’s ace, as the right-hander posted a 1.98 ERA with 61 strikeouts and 16 walks in 36 1/3 innings over seven starts. Carpenter, also a righty, was a force in the bullpen with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 9 1/3 innings with a 1.93 ERA.

Olsen’s 61 strikeouts ranked second in the NJCAA.

Former CAC standout RJ Dabovich, now a junior at Arizona State, is also expected to be a high draft pick, and could even go in the first five rounds. Dabovich, a 6-foot-5 right-handed reliever, struck out 17 in 11 2/3 innings and allowed just three hits with a 0.77 ERA for the Sun Devils this season.

The MLBPA wants more rounds to be included so more players can be drafted and get paid. On the other side, MLB owners may decide to play hardball now that the union rejected its first proposal.

The next proposal could have a take-it-or-leave-it attitude with 10 rounds or it could offer fewer rounds, all the way down to the minimum of five.

Other language in the rejected proposal was a limit of five undrafted players per team at $20,000 — the maximum bonus an undrafted player can receive — and an unlimited number of those players at $5,000, as reported by The Athletic.

Olsen, the 2018 PinalCentral Player of the Year at Florence, has a few options. He gave a verbal commitment to the University of Arizona in January.

Next season, Olsen could return to CAC, he could go to Tucson and pitch for Arizona, or he could be playing in the minor leagues if he is taken in next month’s MLB draft.

The uncertainty of life during a pandemic, and the cancellation of the 2020 season, has added to the difficulty of Olsen’s situation.

“It’s tough, but I’m going to make the adjustments and make a decision on what’s best for my future here in the upcoming months,” he told PinalCentral in late March.

MLB and the players’ union will continue to negotiate, but time is running out for them to reach an agreement, as the draft is still scheduled to be held some time next month.

Billionaire MLB owners will cite lost revenue during the pandemic and try to use that as a reason to further cut draft rounds and compensation. Here’s to hoping the players still get their fair share of the pie.

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Brian Wright is the sports editor at PinalCentral. He can be reached at bwright@pinalcentral.com.

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