New Draft Rules - 1st Round June 4th

I've been boning up on the draft which starts this Monday and one thing I haven't seen talked about much is how the new CBA will dramatically alter this year's draft. And I honestly don't think it can be understated how big that impact will be. I've summarized some of the highlights here just to open up some discussion and some conjecture on what it means for the Dbacks.

  • The biggest change is what is essentially a hard slotting system, though not exactly that, but it will work almost the same as one. Each team is assigned a bonus pool and the penalties for exceeding that draft bonus pool are so onerous that few teams will do it. Gone are the days of overpaying draftees in lower rounds to keep them out of college. IMO, the simplest result of this change is that many more good prospects will choose to attend college because they simply won't get offered enough. The Dbacks only have $3.8 million to spend on their top 10 picks combined. Only two teams have less than the Dbacks. Don't expect this draft to be anything like last year's goldmine. This change probably hurts the Dbacks and other small market teams who have been willing to spend more on the draft as a core club-building philosophy. But the league has done some things to make up for that via luxury tax distribution and some additional compensation picks.
  • International signings will have a similar signing bonus pool and again the penalties for exceeding this pool are extreme. This should help the Diamondbacks and other small market teams compete with the big boys for top international talent. Teams can also trade portions of this signing pool!
  • Draft pick compensation for losing free agents is changing dramatically. Only free agents who sign for the average or better of the top 125 players in the game will earn teams compensation picks. In addition, teams who sign one of these free agents will forfeit next year's 1st round pick! Top 10 picks in the next draft are protected with those teams losing their next highest pick instead.
  • Six extra picks will be added at the end of both the 1st round and 2nd rounds (starting in 2013) and be awarded via a weighted lottery system for teams in the bottom 10 in revenue and market size, with weight determined by winning percentage. I believe the Dbacks will qualify for this lottery but don't quote me on that yet. These lottery picks can also be traded, a first for MLB. In addition, any picks surrendered by teams signing free agents or for exceeding your bonus go into a lottery for distribution to the small market teams.
  • The signing deadline will be moved up from August 15 to around July 15 (depending on the date of the All Star Game). This should be good for everyone and will allow signees to get some minor league action in their draft years instead of waiting until next season.
  • No draftees can be offered major league deals. This would have been an obvious work-around for teams to spend more on their draft picks.
  • Top prospects have to register for medical screening, allowing teams to learn more about the medical conditions of players in the top 5 rounds. Maybe you could call it the Barrett Loux rule.
  • The draft has been reduced from 50 to 40 rounds.
  • Teams get protection for not signing players from the first three rounds (meaning they get an equal pick in the next year's draft), and that protection extends for an additional year to ease the bargaining position of the clubs.
  • There is serious study being done for an international draft. It's only a matter of time.
  • Draftees below round 10 can only sign for a max $100,000 bonus, otherwise anything above that counts towards your pool for your Top 10 picks.

There's more to it than I've summarized here but this is the crux of the deal. It puts a lot more emphasis on scouting, both domestically and internationally. Scouts have to know that kids drafted in rounds 3 and below are signable for less than what they'd gotten in the past. This is especially true for prospects who have scholarship commitments to major conference schools.College coaches must be thrilled to death.

Junior Noboa's value to the organization also just went up as teams will have to pick and choose where to spend their dollars on international players, and we no longer have to concede that the big market teams will automatically scoop up the top 25% of talent. This is a very, very good thing for us. An international draft will be even better. Scouts of the future can rejoice because you just became a lot more valuable in every sense of the word.

The Dbacks have the 26th pick in the draft and that spot is assigned a $1.7 million signing bonus. They don't have to spend that much on that pick, but if they spend more or less then that it takes away or adds to what they can spend on the other rounds. Also, if they don't sign one of their top 10 picks they lose that money for this year's pool. So there's no drafting stiffs, not signing them and thus spending more elsewhere. You draft to sign. Kids who claim they are committed to college could possibly plummet or not be drafted at all. More onus on the scouts. I can see the phone lines burning up as each team's pick approaches and they try to decide who to draft and whether they'll sign. And you don't get all day to figure this out like they do in the NFL. No slow thinkers allowed on draft day.

The Dbacks don't pick again until pick 90, then 153, then every 30th pick after that. It's not a particularly deep draft. Nothing like 2011 which was one of the best in recent memory. I expect the team to target some bats after the bumper crop of pitching they landed last year. The lower levels desperately need some hitting to start up the ladder. I'm not sure there's a single hitting prospect in South Bend who has anyone excited. They need to change that.

Baseball America has some great information on the draft and credit to them for portions of this summary. I'd link it but it's subscriber content. BA's mock draft has us taking Stryker Trahan, a HS catcher out of Louisiana with a big bat and questions about whether he can stay at catcher. For what that's worth.