2010 NPB Draft Preview: How Does the NPB Draft Work?

With the 2010 NPB Draft fast approaching, Tsubamegun will be presenting a number of articles filling you in on how the draft works and which players the Swallows may be eying. Part 1 of this series will explain the mechanics of the NPB draft.

The 2010 NPB draft will be held on October 28 at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo. For those of you who are used to draft systems used in North American sports, the NPB draft has a number of wrinkles that you may not be familiar with. This post will walk you through the minutia of the draft.

Eligibility: Broadly speaking, the draft applies to, any Japanese citizen, or foreigner educated at a Japanese educational institution or who has spent at least 3 years playing semi-pro ball, who has never signed with an NPB team. Although there are a number of other restrictions that limit the pool considerably.

For students currently enrolled in school, they must be on track to graduate in the March proceeding the draft. Furthermore, university students must be in their fourth year of study or above. Students who drop out from their school after April 1st on the year of the draft are not eligible to be drafted that year. Finally, students must submit letters of intent to their respective governing organizations to be eligible for the draft. High school students must submit their letter to the Japan High School Baseball Federation, while university students must submit their letter to the Japan University Baseball Federation.

The draft eligibility of players playing in leagues associated with the Japan Amateur Baseball Association, commonly referred to as the industrial leagues, depend on time served with their current club. Players that joined industrial league teams straight out of middle or high school, are not eligible to be drafted until they play 3 years with that club. All other players, like journeymen industrial leaguers, cannot be drafted until they play 2 years with their current club. Players from teams that fold or go on hiatus are exempted from these rules.

All other players, like those playing in independent leagues, are eligible to be drafted as long as they fit into the broad eligibilty rules outlined in the beginning of this section. In terms of foreigners, if you’re drafted by an NPB team you do not count towards the import quota.

Selections: The first round of the draft is based on a simultaneous bid system. All 12 teams declare the player they wish to select with their first selection. The negotiation rights to players that are named by only 1 team, go to the team that selected them. The rights to players that are named by multiple teams are decided by random draw. Teams that lose out on the draw must name another available player, and the process repeats itself until all 12 teams have selected a player. Hideo Nomo and Hideo Koike share the record for being named by the most teams with their the first selection, with 8 teams vying for their services.

All subsequent rounds carry on through a snaking draft order. In other words, the draft order alternates between regular and reverse order. The draft order for the first such round starts with the last place team from one of the leagues, followed by the last place team from the other league, followed by the fifth place team from the first league, etc. The league which selects first is determined through on the results of that year’s All Star game. This year, the Central league team will select first in the second round.

Teams do not have a set number of draft picks, and may stop picking once they determine that they do not want any other available player. The draft ends when all teams have stopped making selections, or when 120 total players have been selected, whichever happens first.

Negotiation Rights: Once teams have selected players, they have until the end of March of the next year to sign them to a pro contract. Industrial team players only have until the end of January to sign a contract. Players that fail to sign with a team will be eligible to be drafted in the future, provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

That wraps up our quick and dry look at the draft process here in Japan! Stay tuned for some of the big names that will be on everyone’s radar come Thursday.

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.