Now that we have gotten into the month of May, we have entered prime MLB Draft speculation time, perhaps my favorite time of the year!
I started covering the Draft here at Twinkie Town in 2017, when the Twins had the first overall pick and selected Royce Lewis. That was a fun year to cover the draft since we had the pick of the litter. Last year we picked 20th overall, ultimately taking Trevor Larnach. That sort of pick is daunting to try to cover, as there are so many moving pieces and possible outcomes.
This year, the Twins select 13th overall. We also have the benefit of a Competitive Balance Round A selection, the 39th overall pick in the draft. This pick will technically count as a first round pick (meaning that Brent Rooker, the last Twins prospect taken in the CBA round, was also a first round pick), giving the Twins four picks in the top 100 selections (13, 39, 54, 90) and the 12th largest draft signing pool worth $9,905,800 total.
If you don’t know how the draft signing pool works, it is fairly simple. Every pick in the first 10 rounds of the draft is worth a certain amount of bonus pool money, with the 1st overall pick worth the most ($8,415,300) and the picks gradually losing value until the last pick of the 10th round ($142,200). For every pick a team has, the assigned monetary value is added to the team’s pool, from which the team can use to sign players in whatever means they want—meaning that even though the Twins first pick is worth $4,197,300, they don’t have to give it all to the player they pick 13th overall. They could draft me 13th overall, give me $10, and spend the rest of that 4 million elsewhere in the draft. BUT teams only get the money added to their pool if they actually sign the player they draft. So if a stud player refused to sign because we only offered him $10, the Twins would not be able to spend a single penny of that $4,197,300.
The basic rule of thumb is to draft someone you know you can sign, and if you can get someone to sign below the slot value, great! This allows you use that money to overspend on other players in the draft, a strategy we have covered before. The Twins did this in 2017 when they signed Royce Lewis for less than his slot value, but signed Blayne Enlow for more than the slot value of his third round pick. THIS IS NOT SOME CHEAP POHLAD GIMMICK: Every team does this in some capacity, often drafting college seniors in the 6th-10th rounds for pennies on the dollar ($10,000-$20,000) so that they can save a few $100,000 here or there to give to earlier picks, or players they pick later in the draft. By spreading the money around, they can draft more true prospects and give them enough money to sign with us instead of going to or returning to college.
Recent History of the 13th Overall Pick
Before we start looking at the prospects who may be available with the 13th pick, I figured we would look at the recent history of that pick to see what we can learn.
2014: San Diego Padres select Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
Turner was the 14th best prospect in the draft, according to MLBpipeline, so he was drafted in line with his ranking for $167.7K more than his slot value.
The 2014 draft was fairly weak on the number of high-end high school prospects—there were 5 high schoolers drafted in the 12 picks before Turner, but only one high schooler was selected from picks 14-21. The first tier of college position players—Bradley Zimmer (10th ranked), Turner (14), Kyle Schwarber (16), Michael Conforto (17), and Max Pentecost (19)— were not regarded as highly as the first tier of high school pitchers, high school position players, or college pitchers. By the time the Padres were on the clock at 13, the three best tiers were gone, as well as Schwarber, Conforto, and Pentecost. So they had their choice of Turner, Zimmer, and a second tier of pitchers from both levels.
The Padres continued their draft by going for a high school position player in the 2nd round (under-slot), a college pitcher in the 3rd (over-slot), and college position players in the 4th (under-slot) and 5th rounds (under-slot). They finished the second day of the draft (up to round ten) with a high school position player, a college position player, and three college pitchers. They had one traditional senior-sign college pick.
2015: Tampa Bay Rays select Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (N.Y.)
Whitley was ranked the 17th best prospect in the class by MLB Pipeline and the Rays signed him for $2,500 less than slot value (splitting hairs much?).
The first 20 picks of the 2015 draft were dominated by position players—only 7 pitchers were taken in those first 20 selections. The first tier of prospects were the shortstops—Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, and Brendan Rogers. The next tier level consisted of a small group of pitchers followed by a much bigger crop of position players at both levels. Whitley was the 8th highest ranked position player, but the 10th position player taken overall. He was also taken at the end of a run on position players, with the 5 picks before him all being position players but 4 of the next 5 picks being pitchers.
In the 2nd round the Rays selected high school catcher Chris Betts for an overslot deal, a college position player in the 3rd round (over-slot), college pitcher in the 4th (under-slot), and another college position player in the 5th round (slot value). They finished rounds 6-10 with three college pitchers and two college position players, including three senior-signs
2016: Tampa Bay Rays select Joshua Lowe, 3B, Pope HS (Ga)
For the second year in a row, the Rays used the 13th overall pick to select the 17th ranked prospect, according to MLBpipeline, signing Lowe for about $500K below slot value.
The 2016 draft class was heavy on high-upside high school pitchers (6 taken in the first 20 picks) and had a solid crop of position players at both levels. Lowe was the 8th ranked position player and the 6th position player taken, with only one high school position player (Mickey Moniak going first overall) being taken ahead of him. Four high school position players were taken within the seven picks after Lowe, so the Rays were clearly able to take the guy they preferred within that tier of players.
The Rays saved more money by going under-slot to take college position players with their 2nd round pick and Competitive Balance Round B picks. They moved on to high school pitchers in the 3rd (under slot) and 4th rounds (over-slot), and a college pitcher in the 5th round (under-slot). In rounds 6-10 they took a high school pitcher and four college pitchers, the final two being senior-signs.
2017: Miami Marlins select LHP Trevor Rogers, Carlsbad HS (NM)
Rogers was selected 13th despite being ranked as the 25th best prospect.
While this may look like a reach, the Marlins’ well-known bias for taking high schoolers in the first round may mean it was more about organizational philosophy. Between 2010 and 2018 the Marlins have made 12 first round selections. Only three of those players have come from the college ranks (Andrew Heaney, Colin Moran, and Brian Miller—who was taken with the 36th pick in 2017).
The first crop of high schoolers in the 2017 draft were pretty well picked over by the time the Marlins were on the clock. Of the high schoolers still on the board, the Marlins took the third highest rated, signing him for about $400K below the slot value of the pick. Those two higher ranked high schoolers were both pitchers, so either the Marlins really liked Rogers more than the others, or perhaps he was the only one willing to sign for less.
The Marlins then took college position players in the Competitive Balance Round (slot value), 2nd round (under-slot), and 3rd round (under-slot). They took college pitchers in the 4th (over-slot), 5th (under-slot), 6th (under-slot), and 7th rounds (slot value). For roundsd 8-10 they went: college position player (slot value), high school position player (under-slot), college position player (under-slot).
2018: Miami Marlins select OF Connor Scott, H.B. Plant HS (FL)
Another repeat drafter for the 13th pick, the Marlins had the 13th, 53rd, 69th, and 89th picks in the 2018 Draft. They went with another high schooler in the first round, taking Connor Scott who was ranked the 18th best prospect by MLBpipeline. They signed him to a slot-value deal, and then embarked on a fully different strategy than the year prior.
In 2017 the Marlins played it fairly safe, only signing one player to an over-slot deal and saving a good chunk of money for players after the first ten rounds. In 2018, the Marlins spent far more in the early rounds. In the 2nd round they took high school SS Osiris Johnson, going $31,500 over-slot for the 103rd best ranked prospect. In the Competitive Balance Round B they went $905K over-slot to take the 34th best prospect, high school catcher Will Banfield. In the third round they finally went for a college player, going slightly over-slot for Kentucky outfielder Tristan Pompey (51st ranked).
A college catcher in the 4th round went almost $50K below slot, as did a college pitcher in the 5th. They went over-slot again for another high school catcher, Cameron Barstad, in the 6th. They saved big (over 190K) with a senior-sign pitcher in the 7th, saved another $30K with a college pitcher in the 8th, and then went back to senior-sign pitchers in the 9th and 10th, saving over $130,000 each with their final two picks in order to pay for Johnson, Banfield, Pompey, and Barstad.
What this means for the Twins
We can use this brief history to make a few observances. The easiest observance is that in the last five years, no one ranked in the top 13 prospects has been taken with the 13th pick. This doesn’t mean much in itself, since there have been a number of top 13-ranked players who have slid past the 13th pick. What it does point to are three key takeaways: 1: Organizations can rank prospects in widely different ways. 2: Organizations can have a clear bias towards a certain type of players, and 3: Organizations can supercede their overall rankings and biases due to a desire to spread their money around.
Instead of signing college pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, the 7th ranked player in 2017, for a slot value deal, the Marlins decided to take a high school pitcher ranked 25th and save $500K. We know the Marlins like high schoolers, and we know they prefer to spread out their draft pool to multiple high-value targets, so “reaching” for Rogers instead of taking Bukauskas is a decision that has some sort of logic to it.
We’ve also learned a bit about the importance of positional tiers, and how individual prospect rankings matter mostly when a tier is still primarily intact. The Marlins chose Rogers over two more highly-ranked high school pitchers, so clearly they viewed him as either the best arm or the most signable of that tier. We don’t know if the 2015 Rays liked high school outfielder Garrett Whitley more than high school shortstop Cornelius Randolph, since Randolph was taken with the 10th pick before the Rays were on the clock. But we do know that they liked Whitley more than Trent Grisham, another high school outfielder who they passed on in favor of Whitley. Four pitchers were taken in the five picks after Whitley, and while the Rays could have had their first pick of that tier, they chose to go with the position player instead. This infers they ranked Whitley (and perhaps that entire tier of hitters the Rays couldn’t choose from) more highly than the pitchers. The 2016 Rays, on the other hand, had three similarly ranked high school position players to choose from. By taking Josh Lowe it is clear they liked him more than Twins prospect Alex Kirilloff, who was taken two spots later.
So as I continue our 2019 MLB Draft Coverage here at Twinkie Town we are going to try to identify two things. First, we will look at the different tiers of prospects in the 2019 Draft, to try to get a glimpse of who might be available and when. Later, we will try to identify some sort of organizational pattern for the new Twins front office. With these two pieces worked out, perhaps we can get a better glimpse of who the Twins will be taking come June 3rd!
Until next time!