First Pitch: The New Draft System is Growing on Me

This is the second year that the MLB draft has operated under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Pirates didn’t really experience the new system last year, mostly because Mark Appel fell to them and didn’t sign. This year was more of a “normal” draft under the new system, if you can say anything is normal after just two years. Because it was a more common draft under the new system, we get a chance to see how the new system would work. I wasn’t a big fan of the changes, but after looking at this year’s results I like the outcome. I don’t know if that’s just a good year for the Pirates, or if it is something that could happen year after year. Below I’ll detail a few of the things I like about the new system.

Under the old system, Austin Meadows would be a month away from signing.

Under the old system, Austin Meadows would be a month away from signing.

Signings happen much earlier

Take a look at the 2010 and the 2011 Draft Pick Signing Trackers. Notice the dates when players sign. The first round picks didn’t sign until the mid-August deadline. The over-slot picks in the middle rounds didn’t sign until the first week of August. Nick Kingham was the first big over-slot guy in 2010, signing August 4th. In 2011 there was Jake Burnette on August 1st and Tyler Glasnow on August 3rd. Because they signed so late, they weren’t able to get much playing time. The first round picks didn’t play at all in the years they were drafted. Neither did Glasnow. Burnette and Kingham combined for three innings of work.

This year Reese McGuire signed almost immediately after his high school graduation, which came about two weeks after the draft. Ten days later Austin Meadows signed. By the end of June the Pirates had both prep picks signed, despite the fact that both guys dropped a few spots from where they were projected to go. Under the old system that would have led to them signing in mid-August. Under the new system they are both playing games in early July, and both could reach Jamestown by the end of the year.

The Pirates also went over-slot on Trae Arbet, Neil Kozikowski, Nick Buckner, and Billy Roth. Rather than having to wait until early-August, they signed all of those guys in June. Arbet and Buckner are already in games, while Kozikowski and Roth should get into games in the next week or two. By comparison, guys like Kingham, Glasnow, and Burnette got next to no work in during their draft years.

As far as promotions, I don’t think this will change much. Meadows and McGuire were probably going to West Virginia next year, no matter how much playing time they got. The prep pitchers could speed up the process with good performance, getting the boost to Jamestown next year instead of the GCL. However, the prep pitchers usually end up in West Virginia in their second full seasons, so that’s also not going to change much. The biggest impact of the early signings could be the prep hitters. Arbet and Buckner could have a chance to prove themselves and get the promotion to West Virginia, rather than Jamestown.

The biggest benefit here is that it starts the instruction early. Meadows and McGuire might have gone to West Virginia no matter what, but now the Pirates have two more months to work with them, including a full schedule of games. The same goes with everyone else. That becomes a situation where you’re not sure how much the extra time actually helps. For example, Jon Sandfort got about a month and a half in the GCL last year. He returned to the GCL this year and has shown a lot of big improvements. Is that because of that extra playing time last year? Or would he have seen the same improvements and would the Pirates have known what to work on without those innings? You may not be able to substantiate the extra playing time, but I think everyone can agree the extra time doesn’t hurt.

Are Over-Slot Signings the Same?

In 2010 the Pirates went over-slot on Nick Kingham, Drew Maggi, Ryan Hafner, and Jared LaKind, not to mention Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. In 2011 they went over-slot on Glasnow, Burnette, Jason Creasy, and Clay Holmes, plus Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell. The middle rounds were pretty much four prep players each year.

This year the Pirates went over-slot on four guys. They got Trae Arbet, Neil Kozikowski, Nick Buckner, and Billy Roth. They didn’t pay as much for those guys as the guys in the 2011-2012 middle rounds. I don’t know if that’s because the new system is keeping prices down, or if it is because the players this year aren’t as talented. Either way, they’re getting the same amount of prep players to sign over-slot deals. Plus, Blake Taylor is a guy who they probably would have taken in the middle rounds and signed to an over-slot deal for the amount he received. Instead they can take him early in the new system and save money by giving him $750,000.

The one thing the Pirates can’t do is add a Josh Bell or a Stetson Allie in the second round. You’re probably not going to see potential top ten picks fall to the second round anymore, since they don’t have as much negotiation leverage with the new slots. Even if a Bell or an Allie fell to the second round, the Pirates couldn’t give first round money without losing a lot of future draft picks. The Pirates can still add talent in the first round, and they can still add high upside guys in the middle rounds. They just can’t grab those big bonus players in round two anymore, although those guys probably won’t exist.

The Downside Comes in Future Years

The good thing about this year is that the Pirates had the 9th and 14th picks in the draft. They had one of the top draft pools, with the ability to spend the 5th most money. That led to a great group of draft picks, although the Meadows pick makes up for the loss of the first round pick in 2012.

If the Pirates remain competitive this year and in future years, they’re going to see smaller draft pools. For example, the White Sox and Dodgers picked 17th and 18th this year, and had bonus pools of just over $5 M. The Giants picked 25th and had a bonus pool of just under $5 M. By comparison the Pirates had a bonus pool just under $8.9 M, which would have been just under $5.9 M without the Meadows pick.

To put that downside in perspective, you probably would cut Meadows from this draft, plus instead of getting a top ten ranked player like McGuire, you’re getting a guy ranked around the 20 range. You can probably add middle round upside guys, but there might not be room for Buckner and Roth. You want the Pirates to be competitive, but the trade off of lower draft slots is the biggest downside. Under the old system you could still get a top talent late in the first if you were willing to spend. That’s not as likely under the new system. The only hope would be that the new compensation picks would allow the Pirates to get an additional mid-to-late first round talent, making up for the lack of top of the draft talent.

Overall there’s a lot less unnecessary drama with the new system, you get guys in the system earlier, and you get relatively the same amount of talent. The biggest difference is that you can’t get a Josh Bell or a Stetson Allie, and as the Pirates become more successful, their ability to spend will go down which will prevent them from landing top of the draft talent. The competitive balance picks could make up for that last part. It’s not perfect, but it’s also not the horrible system I envisioned when the changes were made.

Links and Notes

**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 12: Prospect Analysis on Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Tyler Glasnow. Also includes an interview with 2013 first round pick Reese McGuire.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker.

**2013 Pittsburgh Pirates International Signing Tracker.

**Pirates Prospects is Looking For Writers and an Ad Sales Representative.

**Prospect Watch: Shutout Pitching All Around, Lambo, Barnes and Dickerson Homer.

**Who Is Still Unsigned From the 2013 Draft Class?

**Pedro Alvarez Selected to Home Run Derby as Injury Replacement.

**Minor League Schedule: Kingham and Pimentel Take the Hill Tonight.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    I’ll gladly take the tradeoff of getting lower draft picks and less pool money. It’d mean we’re finally (gasp) winning on a regular basis!
    .
    Foo

  • vanderbilt

    I am sure college baseball coaches love the new system too!

  • Kevin_Young

    I still feel the same about it. Love the early signings, hate that small market teams are punished for winning games. I’ll never like that.

  • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

    I think it’s waaaaaay to early to be making judgements about the new draft system; it’s like making a judgement on last year’s draft class. I think it will be another five years or so before we’ll have any real handle on how the system is going to affect the Pirates.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I don’t think it is. We can see immediately the type of players that are available to them, and how they can spend their money.

  • deacs

    Be honest Tim – did Major League Baseball slip you a couple bucks to write this? I definitely like the earlier deadline.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Haha, no. I figured it would be much harder to get deals like we saw this year. For example, Reese McGuire and Blake Taylor signed for under-slot, allowing them to get over-slot deals later. Neither of those guys were reaches for their picks either. So being taken where you are supposed to go doesn’t necessarily guarantee slot.

  • Heckler1

    Anything the Pirates can do to avoid ever signing again a huge disappointment like Stetson Allie will be a wise investment of time data and intelligence in the part of Pirates management. Flash and fluff look good on paper but when that leads to a joke like Allie has become its detrimental to the system

    • buster09

      Is Stetson Allie a bigger ” joke ” than Bubba Starling ?

      • meatygettingsaucy

        apparently, Stetson wronged Heckler (and please note this guys name for how serious everyone should take him) in the past. But I wouldn’t consider Stetson any bigger of a “joke” than Bubba Starling, Kyle Zimmer, and Trevor Bauer. Heckler also doesn’t seem to understand that just because you are promoted, doesn’t mean you are going to put up super human numbers right away.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          I know who Heckler is. He’s actually a heckler down here in Bradenton. So that probably explains the comments on Allie since he’s struggled so far in Bradenton.

        • buster09

          mgs : actually,when you look at it from a certain angle,Allie isn’t any bigger a ” joke ” than Dylan Bundy. I hate that guys like ” Heckler ” ,with statements like his get my back up so fast,but I just can’t help myself !

    • http://www.facebook.com/fred.langford.9 Fred Langford

      Heckler – Put in some research about Allie, come back and then have an educated conversation. Do you even know he is a hitter now? For a kid that doesn’t even have 500 minor league Abs, advancing to High A is impressive. …and ignore the age, he has the experience of a 20 year old right now.

      • Nickmid13

        Don’t give him the attention he wants. If you look at his prior posts, you’ll notice that he is just trolling.

  • leadoff

    I like some parts of it and don’t like some parts of it. The early signing could have happened without changing the actual draft to a pool money draft.
    A small market team can have an aberration year and a draft could set them back years because they won’t have money to sign top players. I don’t think it will hurt the Pirates for several years because the organization can take a couple of draft year hits and still survive, look at how much bad drafts contributed to 20 years of losing, but eventually it will catch up with them. The key is for the Pirates to identify quality players after the top players are selected, like St.Louis does.
    Since free agency is failing miserably, evaluating talent is now critical, buying players that will get you to the promise land is tough to do.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      I agree with you leadoff, I was thinking that it would be nice if the Draft Pool $ also accounted for the Major League player budget as well so teams with a smaller major league budget could choose to spend more on the Draft.
      .
      I would think that would be something the MLBPA would support because they always look at the teams with small budgets and want them to spend more, well if they’re spending more on the draft that means there is still money going to players that may eventually join the MLBPA. Or maybe I’m missing something and thats not how it would work.

      • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

        Actually the MLBPA would be against that. Draft picks aren’t members of the MLBPA, so they don’t care. The MLBPA would rather see teams spending on guys in the MLBPA, which is a reason why the lowered spending abilities on the amateur ranks went down in the last CBA.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

          Ah yeah, I figured they wouldn’t care. It seems counter productive to not care though since draft picks may join the PA in the future. Maybe it’s because so many draft picks don’t make it tot he majors?

          • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

            I think it’s that, and they’re focused on the big money in free agency. A few years ago I remember that Jermaine Dye couldn’t get a deal and was forced into retirement. There were a lot of complaints that teams were willing to spend $6-7 M on a first rounder, and $10 M in the draft, but wouldn’t spend that amount on Dye, who had good numbers.
            .
            It makes sense though. A team like the Pirates can get a ton of production by spending $8 M on Gerrit Cole in the draft. They’re only going to get one year of production for Dye or any other one year rental. That’s not to say they shouldn’t spend on guys like that ever. It’s that they should spend on the draft when they’re rebuilding, much like any other team that would have been interested in Dye.

            • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

              I agree with your point but I’m not sure if Dye is a good example.
              .
              Even though Dye was on the decline, the Brewers gave him a shot in spring training and supposedly the Nationals offered him a contract but it wasn’t enough for him to move from the Chicago area. To me it seems like Dye wanted more than what he was worth and was content with retiring.

  • piratemike

    I keep harping on this but no system will be really good until the difference between small market and big markets are addressed…….
    .
    This year BOSTON picked I believe in the 7th slot and throughout the draft. Boston gets a lot of quality prospects because they had an aberration of a year in “12. Couple those prospects along with the vast amount of money they can spend on keeping their own players who become expensive and free agents they can throw massive amounts to acquire and it just makes a large market team that more powerful compared to a Tampa franchise.
    .
    If Pittsburgh finally has a good run of above .500 teams what happens?
    They start drafting in the 20′s range and being unable to acquire high priced free agents while being unable to keep all their best players they end up pretty much where they started while the big market teams just keep buying their way to the top.
    .
    Small markets need to keep permanent high draft slots to offset the spending of larger markets. While teams like Boston no matter where they finish still can only draft so high.

  • Mike

    This is probably the exception rather than the norm in regards to guys slipping in the draft under the new system, but Rowdy Tellez (30th round pick by Toronto) signed for 850k. It shows that there will be still guys who slip into the later rounds in which the Pirates will be able to snag up (like Allie and Bell) and hope to be able to sign them.