Draft recap: Explaining Boston's strategy

June, 7, 2012
6/07/12
9:44
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This being the first draft under the new collective bargaining agreement, there was no past precedent to guide how teams would operate. The rules set a certain value for each pick in the first 10 rounds, which adds up to create a team’s total allotment or bonus pool limit for that draft, the penalties of exceeding which are so steep it is believed no teams will do so. The tricky part is if a team does not sign one of those draftees selected in the first 10 rounds, the value assigned to that pick is subtracted from their total pool. After those 10 rounds, any bonus given out in excess of $100,000 counts against the total pool assigned.

What does that all mean? That it makes a lot of sense for teams to be sure they can sign all (or most) of their picks in the first 10 rounds because if they don’t sign them, the money assigned for that slot is lost. If they can sign a guy for below-slot in rounds 1 through 10 then they keep the total bonus assigned to that slot in their pool, and can use whatever is left over to redistribute elsewhere.

This seems to have been what the Red Sox had in mind when selecting an unprecedented number of college players, and specifically seniors, in those rounds. Boston selected just two high schoolers in those 10 rounds (12 total picks), a marked change from the last two years. They picked seven high schoolers in 2011 and six high schoolers in 2010 over their first 12 picks. Only one of those two high schoolers selected this year is regarded as a tough sign, right-handed pitcher Ty Buttrey, while the other, RHP Jamie Callahan, has reportedly already agreed to a deal in principle for around slot money.

Even more significant is the fact that of those 10 college players selected in the first 10 rounds, five are seniors. Between 2007 and 2011, the Red Sox selected exactly zero college seniors in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Essentially, the Red Sox selected seniors because of their lack of leverage in negotiations, which will allow them to offer below-slot bonuses, and then re-assign that money to tougher-sign draftees such as Buttrey and others selected after the 10th round.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that an agent expected many college seniors to sign for as little as $5,000 in rounds 6 through 10 so that teams can shift that money to other places. Slot for these rounds is ranges from greater than $200,000 to $125,000, so that would allow teams to allocate quite a bit of money to other areas.

SoxProspects.com’s Mike Andrews covered some of the Boston draftees with signability concerns that this money was potentially saved for in his recap of Day 2. Buttrey, arguably the second-best prospect selected by the Red Sox in the draft behind top choice Deven Marerro, was among the top 40 overall prospects in the draft with a fastball that hits 96 miles per hour and a very good knuckle-curve. The fact that the team waited until the fourth round to select him is notable because as a guy that will be hard to sign, if they are indeed unable to sign him, they will lose less money from their pool than if they had selected him higher.

After the 10th round, teams do not lose money from their pool for unsigned players, so that’s when the almost all of the high-risk signability players were taken for Boston, including most of their picks from high school. Eleventh-round pick Jamal Martin, a center fielder out of high school in Florida, is an athletic, ultra-fast player that the Red Sox will attempt to sign away from his college commitment.

RHP Carson Fulmer, a top 150 player, slid all the way to the 15th round due to a strong commitment to Vanderbilt. He has two plus-potential pitches in a 92-95 mph fastball and a low-80s power slider. Fulmer might be one of the hardest players to sign out of the class.

Another player that may prove very hard to sign is 29th-round pick Alex Bregman, a second baseman out of Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico who was ranked as the 121st overall prospect in this year’s draft by Baseball America. He is committed to Louisiana State, but has strong potential at the plate with very good bat speed. He is a gritty player with great intangibles and makeup.

In the 18th round, Boston selected outfielder Shaq Thompson, an outstanding, but raw, athlete who is committed to the University of Washington. He was a top football recruit as a safety. In an unusual move, Washington is apparently going to let him play professional baseball in the spring and football with their team in the fall. He is expected to sign with the Red Sox.

Another interesting wrinkle caused by the CBA is it appears players are signing quicker than ever. This is likely because teams had to be fairly sure that some players would take around a certain amount of money prior to the draft in order to know what kind of flexibility the team would have in their budget. For the Red Sox, fifth-rounder Mike Augliera, sixth-rounder Justin Haley and second-rounder Callahan have reportedly agreed to deals in principle for either slot money or below. Supplemental-round pick Pat Light is also reportedly close to finalizing a deal, assumedly for around slot money.

In other news, top local product Rhett Wiseman of Buckingham Browne & Nichols High School in Cambridge, Mass. was drafted in the 25th round by Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs. He is a five-tool outfielder that rated as the 136th prospect in the country by Baseball America, but was likely deemed unsignable by most teams due to his strong commitment to Vanderbilt. Mike Yastrzemski, Carl’s son and a student at Vanderbilt, was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the 911th overall pick. A former Red Sox draftee, he is expected to return to school next season.

The Red Sox selected two local players as well in RHP Pat Delano of Braintree High School in the 35th round and OF Kevin Heller of Amherst College in the final round (40th). Delano is a 6-foot-6 pitcher who is slated to attend Vanderbilt and will also be a hard-to-sign player. He came back this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery two seasons ago.

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