2014 MLB Draft Primer: How to watch, when to tune in, what will happen

All the odds and ends you need to know for the draft tonight.

The day of reckoning is upon us. In a few short hours, Houston will pick for the third straight year at the top of the MLB first-year player draft. Even though we've been through this before, here's a quick refresher on what you need to know about tonight. Think of this as a big picture overview. Then, check out all the rest of our excellent draft content to get into the specifics.

How can you watch?

The first and second rounds are airing Thursday on MLB Network. Coverage begins at 5 p.m. CST on the network. You can also stream the broadcast on MLB.com and find a feed through your MLB.TV service or through MLB At Bat.

When does it start?

The draft officially begins at 6:05 p.m. CST. There will be 5-10 minutes between picks, as the player is introduced (if they are attending the draft) or the team's designated draft representative announces the selection. There is also a short break between picks. That means Houston should pick shortly after the draft begins, then pick again around 9:15 p.m. CST and once more around 9:45 p.m. CST.

How many picks tonight?

The draft will continue Thursday for all of the first round, including compensatory picks and picks awarded through the competitive balance lottery. It will also continue through the second round, including the second compensatory pick set.

Houston, then, will pick at No. 1 overall, No. 37 overall (in the competitive balance lottery pick they traded for in the Bud Norris deal) and No. 42 overall (first pick of the second round). It is the third time since 2010 that Houston has had three picks in the first two rounds.

What are slots?

They're delightful machines where you...oh, okay, you were talking about the draft, huh?

Each team gets allotted a certain amount of money to sign their first ten rounds worth of picks. Each pick is given a dollar value and those values are added up for every team. Picks signed for over $1 million after the 10th round count against this pool, but the other picks do not.

Here are the values of Houston's first three picks, which all will be selected Thursday evening.

1-1: $7.92 million

1-37: $1.53 million

2-1: $1.35 million

Since the Marlins traded their compensatory balance pick to the Pirates, Houston has the most money to spend in the draft, totalling $13.36 million in the first 10 rounds.

Any other rules worth mentioning?

Though we said that the competitive balance picks could be traded, they cannot be traded now. That window ended before the draft actually gets here, meaning the draft order is locked in now. Teams are prevented by the collective bargaining agreement from trading other picks.

If a team fails to sign a player at a specific slot, it loses that money for the rest of the draft pool. So, if Houston takes a palyer and ends up not signing him for some reason, the Astros draft pool will fall from $13 million to $5 million. As compensation, the Astros would receive the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft.

Though each pick has a slot value, if the Astros can sign a player for less money, they can use that savings for later picks. That's what happened for them in 2012, when they got Carlos Correa for under slot and were able to draft Lance McCullers, Jr. and Rio Ruiz later on, signed for more money than their slot values. The Royals also did this last year, drafting Hunter Dozier out of Stephen F. Austin early in the first round and then getting Sean Manaea late, while signing for over slot.

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