There’s one thing the new Collective Bargaining Agreement got right about the MLB draft, and that was speeding up the process to sign draft picks. Under the old system, MLB would delay over-slot deals. Teams would have agreements in place with players on July 6th, but MLB wouldn’t approve the deals until the end of July, or the beginning of August. That cost the Pirates a few picks, including Dace Kime in the 2010 draft.
The big problem with the old system was that MLB tried to make it look like they had a slotting system that was effective. They would delay signings under the belief that it would deter teams from going over slot. The truth was that they were only delaying the inevitable. The new system comes with harsh penalties for going over the total bonus pool, especially if you exceed the bonus pool by more than five percent. Teams can go over-slot on individual players, which means there’s no reason for MLB to delay any signings.
I’m not a fan of any kind of restrictions on draft spending, whether it’s the old or new system. There was always the fear of “one day the Yankees will spend money in the draft, and that will hurt the Pirates.” That was never a rational fear. The Yankees could have spent money in the draft, and it wouldn’t have impacted the Pirates at all, since draft picks can only negotiate with the teams who drafted them. I don’t like the changes to the new system that force teams to create over-slot money by reaching for players in earlier rounds. But I do like the fact that we’re sitting here on July 6th, and everyone the Pirates will probably sign have already signed.
There’s a chance that the Pirates could still sign other players. I just think the chances are slim. After agreeing to terms with 11th round pick Gage Hinsz for $580,000, they’re left with no over-slot money to sign players. They can spend up to $100,000 on anyone after the tenth round, without that amount counting towards their bonus pool. They’ve got a little less than $5,000 remaining after that before they’d start losing draft picks. It’s possible they could sign a later round pick for $100,000 or less.
Right now it looks like their draft is complete. I didn’t like it at first, but I do like how things have developed since the draft. I wrote last week about how I’ve been getting a lot of good reports on Cole Tucker, which conflict with his pre-draft rankings. I like that the Pirates will be giving Connor Joe a shot at catcher, which is his most valuable position. The addition of Hinsz today is a big boost. The Pirates considered him for the second round, but were able to get him in the 11th. He’s one of our top 20 prospects in the system. As for their second round pitchers, they got two projectable right-handers. Those two, plus Hinsz, should give them a good shot of developing another breakout pitching prospect in the future.
The big benefit of players signing early is that most of these guys are already getting playing time. Cole Tucker has already played in ten games. Mitch Keller and Trey Supak made their debuts this weekend. The two pitchers either wouldn’t have played this year under the old system, or would have gotten less than ten innings of work.
I don’t think we have enough stats on anyone from the 2014 draft to add their production to the draft analysis. Even with a short-season, you’re not going to see many changes to the evaluations. So my opinion on the draft hasn’t changed based on what players are doing, whether that’s good or bad.
The draft looks better than it did on draft day, because of the previously mentioned developments. I don’t think it looks as strong as the 2011 or 2013 drafts, but it’s not as weak as the 2009 draft. At the moment, it looks like it’s in 2008/2010 territory, which wouldn’t be a bad result, as those drafts have generated some MLB talent, and current/future MLB starters. And if the Pirates somehow add anyone else in the later rounds, such as top ranked college pitchers like RHP Colin Welmon (34th round) or LHP Bryant Holtmann (37th round), then the results of this draft would look that much stronger.
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