Four good reasons why you should be paying attention to baseball … – CBSSports.com

That sound? It’s the approaching hoofbeats of June, and June, it so happens, is a big month for baseball on any number of levels.

“Why is June a big month for baseball?” you’re presently not asking. Fortunately for you, this scribe’s stock in trade is answering the questions no one is asking. 

So here, people of baseball, is why the sport that binds is of central importance in June … 

1. The MLB Draft

What’s technically known as the First-Year Player Draft goes down starting on June 12. The event spans three days, and the first round will be televised by MLB Network.

Speaking of the first round, here’s your draft order for 2017:

1. Minnesota Twins
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. San Diego Padres
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Atlanta Braves
6. Oakland Athletics
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
8. Philadelphia Phillies
9. Milwaukee Brewers
10. Los Angeles Angels
11. Chicago White Sox
12. Pittsburgh Pirates
13. Miami Marlins
14. Kansas City Royals
15. Houston Astros
16. New York Yankees
17. Seattle Mariners
18. Detroit Tigers
19. San Francisco Giants
20. New York Mets
21. Baltimore Orioles
22. Toronto Blue Jays
23. Los Angeles Dodgers
24. Boston Red Sox
25. Washington Nationals
26. Texas Rangers
27. Chicago Cubs

The Rockies, Cardinals, and Indians don’t have first-round picks this year because they wound up signing qualifying-offer free agents. As for the draftees, players from the U.S., U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, most notably), and Canada are eligible.

Beyond that, some further criteria via MLB.com … 

  • High school/prep players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college, are eligible.
  • Players from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old are eligible.
  • Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed, are eligible. 

The Twins are of course hard at work trying to decide whom to take with the No. 1 overall pick. California high school right-hander/shortstop Hunter Greene is generally regarded as the best available, but the Twins may be looking elsewhere. The Padres at No. 3 are known to covet Greene, but he may not make it past the Reds. 

2. The NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament

We recently rolled out the bracket for the 2017 NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament. Oregon State, which went a remarkable 49-4 during the regular season, goes in as the top overall seed. Some of the other teams with strong designs on the national championship include LSU, Florida, North Carolina, and TCU.

Here’s a quick calendar for the road to the belt and the title:

  • June 1-5: Regionals played
  • June 6: Super Regional hosts announced
  • June 9-12: Best-of-three Super Regionals played
  • June 17: Eight-team College World Series begins play in Omaha
  • June 26: Best-of-three College World Series Final begins

Reigning champ Coastal Carolina didn’t make the field of 64, so we’ll have a new champion for 2017.

3. The looming non-waiver trade deadline

Switching back to MLB, the non-waiver trade deadline goes down on July 31. However, the run-up to the deadline begins pretty much right now. Middle-dwelling teams are trying to decide whether they’re buyers are sellers, contenders are gauging their needs, and the hapless are trying to decide who’s available in trade. When it comes to establishing a deadline to-do list, June is a very clarifying month. 

Also, contending teams have come to realize that the earlier they acquire a trade target, the more benefit they stand to realize. That’s why you’re seeing trades happen earlier and earlier leading up to the non-waiver cutoff. Last year, for instance, the Red Sox swung a deal for Brad Ziegler on July 9 and Drew Pomeranz on July 14. 

Of course, such deals also happen in June on occasion. The Marlins trade for Fernando Rodney on the final day of June last year. The White Sox also picked up James Shields from the Padres on June 4. In 2015, the Mariners dealt for Mark Trumbo in early June. Going back to June of 2012, that’s when the White Sox acquired Kevin Youkilis from Boston for a playoff push that ultimately came to grief. 

Obviously, July’s going to be more active than June when it comes to trades, but recent history plus the trend of making deals earlier in the “trading season” bodes well for some June action. If nothing else, we get a clearer view of potential trades heading into July. 

4. (Some) clarity in the standings and on the stats page

While we tend to think of the All-Star break as the halfway point of the season, it’s not. Pretty much every team hits the 81-game mark in the final days of June, and that tidy threshold provides us a reasonable lay of the land when it comes the standings and individual paces. The sample sizes are large enough to have meaning in most instances, and paces start to matter.

Will early-season upstarts like the Rockies, Diamondbacks, Twins, and Brewers still number among the contenders when 50 percent of the season’s in the books? On an individual level, will Ervin Santana, Zack Cozart, and Avisail Garcia still be among the most valuable players in the game this season? We’ll no doubt see some wheat and chaff sorted out in the month to come. 

So, yes, ignore June at your own peril, people of baseball. If you do, then you’ll miss a lot of, you know, baseball. 

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