High school pitcher Mick Abel has been mentioned as a possible first-round pick for the Boston Red Sox. Joshua Gunter/cleveland.com

The abridged version of the Major League Baseball draft begins Wednesday night with the first round and supplemental picks (a total of 37 players).

There will be only four more rounds held on Thursday.

Normally 40 rounds, MLB reduced the draft to five rounds because of the coronavirus pandemic. It appears that there will be no minor league season this year, so there is no reason to draft so many players.

The reduction also saves MLB owners money in signing bonuses.

It is also a sign of the future, as MLB plans to reduce the number of minor league teams by almost 25 percent. Future drafts are not expected to go back to 40 rounds.

With the draft only five rounds this year, and the coronavirus canceling college and high school baseball seasons, scouting departments are being challenged with only a few rounds to choose players, and limited data to go on.

“There a lot of uncertainty, more than there would be in a normal spring,” said Paul Toboni, in his first year as the Boston Red Sox director of amateur scouting, during a conference call with reporters.

Toboni’s task is even more demanding because the Red Sox only have four selections. The Red Sox lost their second-round pick as part of the penalty after MLB’s investigation into sign-stealing in 2018. Boston has the No. 17 pick in the first round, and does not pick again until the third (89th overall).

Toboni’s concern about uncertainty is magnified with high school players. Normally more of a risk to begin with – as opposed to more developed college players – high school players are being evaluated without playing their senior seasons, making scouts rely on reports gathered from summer leagues and previous seasons.

That may be why the top three picks in the draft are expected to be college players. Nearly every draft prognosticator has the Detroit Tigers taking Arizona State power-hitting first baseman Spencer Torkelson with the first overall pick – followed by Vanderbilt third baseman/outfielder Austin Martin (Orioles) and Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy (Marlins).

After those three, the picks are less certain. By the time the Red Sox get to choose at No. 17, their best option is likely to be a high school player.

Most mock drafts have Boston picking Oregon high school pitcher Mick Abel. He is one of three intriguing high school arms likely to go in the first round, along with Jared Kelly of Texas and Nick Bitsko of Pennsylvania. It’s possible all three are gone before Boston picks. Or, if Abel is already chosen, the Red Sox could opt for a high school outfielder.

Zac Veen of Florida is considered the best of the prep outfielders, and he could go as high as No. 4, to Kansas City. Robert Hassell of Tennessee and Peter Crow-Armstrong of California are other names to look for – if they are available when it is time for Boston to pick.

Other players floated as possible Red Sox targets are high school catcher Tyler Soderstrom from California, and one college outfielder, UCLA’s Garrett Mitchell.

After the draft, major league teams will be able to sign undrafted players as free agents – but with a signing bonuses capped of $20,000. A top prospect who is not picked in in the first five rounds is likely to head back to school.

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