Age-Appropriate Priorities: Direct Assignment versus Draft
At the youngest levels of Madison LL - the Tee Ball and Farm divisions - competitive game play is of secondary importance to the primary goals of skill development and having fun. Because of this emphasis on skill development and “getting comfortable” with baseball, players in the Tee Ball and Farm divisions are directly assigned to teams with consideration (but no guarantees) given to which school the player attends and to friend requests made at the time of registration.
Beginning in the AA division, play against other teams becomes a bigger focus, and with this progression we strive to have balanced skill levels across the teams within a division to promote a challenging and fun game experience. With this greater need to balance skill levels across teams, players in the AA division and above are selected to teams based on a draft. The formation of teams based on an equal distribution of skill level rather than on existing peer or school groups also helps promote another benefit of playing Little League: the opportunity to make new friends.
How Players are Placed into Divisional Draft Pools
Divisional draft pools are formed according to three main factors: (1) the player’s League Age; (2) the division the player chooses to register into (when there is a choice); and (3) whether the player attended any required player assessment.
Little League separates players into divisions by age, not by school grade. The League Age chart specifies a player's League Age based on birthdate, using a cutoff of Aug 31 between League Ages. (Note that a player’s League Age and actual chronological age may differ.) The League Age chart also clearly shows which division(s) a player may play in based on League Age.
In some cases, there is divisional overlap and players of a certain League Age can choose which division to register in. In other cases, the division a player will play in is determined by Madison LL. Our Divisions page clearly shows which division(s) a player may play in based on League Age.
Player assessments, when required, are offered on two Sundays in January and players only need to attend one of the two dates. Assessments are required for League Age 11 and 12 players who did not play Majors previously, League Age 10 players who want to be considered in the Majors draft, and League Age 8 or older players who are new to Madison LL.
How the Draft Works
The player draft is conducted by the Madison LL Player Agent in accordance with Little League International regulations. Before drafts can begin, player registration and any required assessments must be complete and managers for every team in each division must be nominated and approved by the Madison LL Board. Drafts for each division take one to two hours and are typically conducted in February.
Who Attends the Draft
The manager of each team in the division must attend the draft in order to select players for his/her team. In some divisions, other coaches are permitted to attend as well. Often, the Divisional Commissioner will also attend the draft.
The Draft Pool
The draft pool for a division is comprised of the players who are eligible to play in that division, as described above. On draft day, managers are provided with player data sheets that include information about each player taken from any assessments that were required for that season plus the evaluation forms completed by the players’ coaches from the prior year. Together, these provide a reliable set of measures of various baseball-specific skills. Player data sheets are never distributed prior to draft day and managers are not permitted to take data sheets with them after the draft is complete. Managers are also given strict instructions not to discuss the order in which players were picked in the draft.
The Draft Process
Once managers are given the player data sheets, they are allowed sufficient time to review them and plan their draft strategy. The order of the draft for all divisions except Majors is determined by random draw, and proceeds in a serpentine fashion, where the draft order reverses each round so as not to give an undue advantage to the team picking first. Because Majors is a “keeper” division (i.e. returning players stay on the same team from one season to the next) the draft order is based on the standings from the end of the prior regular season (the last-place team picks first) and proceeds in a fixed format, keeping the same draft order in each round.
Some divisional drafts cascade into the draft for the next-lower division, determining the order in which these drafts must take place. For example, any Majors-eligible League Age 10 player who is not drafted onto a Majors team will be placed into the AAA draft. (The number of League Age 10 players who are drafted into Majors will depend on the number of Majors teams, the number of League Age 12 players who chose to register for Majors, and the number of League Age 11 players who must play Majors.) Similarly, any League Age 9 player who is not drafted onto a AAA team will be placed into the AA draft. (The number of League Age 9 players drafted into AAA will depend on the number of AAA teams, and the number of League Age 10 players who must play AAA.) Depending on the distribution of League Ages in a given season, we may implement cascading drafts between any or all divisions to ensure an appropriate distribution of ages and skill levels throughout the league.