The new Collective Bargaining Agreement punishes teams with harsh penalties if they go over their total bonus pool. The bonus pool is made up of picks in rounds 1-10. However, that doesn’t mean teams are free to spend after the tenth round. Picks in rounds 11-40 are capped off at $100,000. Any amount over $100,000 counts against the bonus pool.
The Pirates made an interesting move in rounds 11-15 when they took prep pitcher Walker Buehler in the 14th round. Buehler was one of the top players on the board, ranking as the 50th best prospect in Baseball America’s rankings. He was a guy I had ranked in my top 100, and was expected to go in the top rounds.
In rounds 6-10 we saw the Pirates take a lot of signable guys. College seniors like Jacob Stallings, D.J. Crumlich, and Pat Ludwig won’t cost anywhere near their recommended slot amounts. The same could be said for sixth round pick Eric Wood, who didn’t rank in Baseball America’s top 500 prospects. The Pirates could potentially come up with half a million to spend on an over-slot pick thanks to these picks.
Add that half a million to the $100,000 cap for Buehler in the 14th round, and his $600,000 is similar to what he would have received if he was drafted in the second round. But it’s not that easy.
If there’s $600,000 floating around, you can bet that Scott Boras is going to want that going to Mark Appel in the first round. Boras will probably want more than just an extra half million. Prior to the selection of Buehler, all of that money would have been guaranteed for Appel, as there’s no one else who they’d need to save money for in rounds 1-15. Now that they’ve got Buehler — a top 50 prospect — they can offer Appel a small over-slot bonus, and tell him to take it or leave it. If he passes, they can give that money to Buehler, get a top 50 prospect this year, and take a compensation pick in a stronger draft next year.
The best case scenario would be signing both players. That would require Appel signing close to slot, and Buehler signing for closer to third round money. Or it would require some extra funds from the 1a-5 picks. But that seems too optimistic, and unlikely to happen.
The Pirates presumably already have some extra money to spend after looking at their 6-10 picks. Now they have two possibilities to spend that money on, which reduces the bargaining power that Appel and Boras have, and increases the chances that the Pirates walk away with some value in this draft, even if Appel doesn’t sign.
11th Round, 346th Overall: Chris Diaz, SS, NC State
Diaz had a strong year at the plate during his junior year at NC State, hitting for a .356/.394/.482 line in 253 at-bats. He’s got good defense at shortstop, although he’s not a lock to stick at the position in the long term. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power, so if he moves he’d be a second baseman or a utility player. He’s probably a better bet to stick at shortstop than the previous two shortstops taken by the Pirates.
12th Round, 376th Overall: Dalton Friend, LHP, Jefferson CC
Friend had a good season with Jefferson CC, putting up a 2.94 ERA in 46 innings, with a 68:22 K/BB ratio. He throws 89-91 MPH, and was reported to touch 95, although that didn’t happen in front of scouts. He profiles more as a two pitch reliever, and has a history of shoulder issues, which further push the idea that he’ll be a reliever. He’s coming out of the JuCo ranks, and has a commitment to Texas Tech.
13th Round, 406th Overall, Thomas Harlan, LHP, Fresno State
Harlan is a big, projectable left handed pitcher at 6′ 6″, 195 pounds. He had good numbers this year, with a 2.78 ERA in 106.2 innings, along with an 85:16 K/BB ratio. Harland increased his velocity in the last few years, jumping from the mid-80s to the 89-91 MPH range. The Pirates are no strangers to taking Fresno State left handers. They took left hander Josh Poytress last year in the 18th round, and took left hander Justin Wilson in 2008 in the fifth round. That same year they also drafted Tanner Scheppers in the second round out of Fresno State. As a senior, Harlan will most likely be an early signing.
14th Round, 436th Overall, Walker Buehler, RHP, Prep
Buehler might be the most interesting pick on day two. He was the 50th best prospect on Baseball America’s board, but fell presumably due to signability concerns. He has a commitment to Vanderbilt, and was viewed as signable if he went in the first few rounds of the draft. His fastball has been inconsistent, but at its best is 90-94 MPH. He also has a low-80s curve and a sinking changeup. All three of his pitches have the potential to be plus pitches. He’s got a small frame at 6′ 2″, 160 pounds, but has an easy arm action, which could lead to a velocity increase if he adds some weight. As mentioned above, it will be interesting to see if he becomes a contingency plan if Mark Appel doesn’t sign.
15th Round, 466th Overall, Jonathan Youngblood, CF, Meridian CC
Youngblood was taken by the Atlanta Braves last year in the 30th round. The 6′ 3″, 170 pound center fielder has grown a lot in the last few years. He was only 5′ 9″, 120 pounds as a freshman, but grew throughout high school, with improvements at the plate. He didn’t do much at the plate this year, hitting for a .277/.379/.326 line in 184 at-bats. He’s got speed, and covers a lot of ground in center field. He looks to be more of a project with a lot of raw skills and good hand/eye coordination, which could lead to better hitting going forward.