[Ed. Note:] This is the first of three parts leading up to the 2012 Rule 4 Draft. Part Two is next Tuesday. Part Three, the Tuesday after that. As many of you know, the Draft is not my thing, so I’ve solicited someone that has that passion. Besides, Spike has no thumbs and can barely copyedit, much less write Sean and I worked together this past offseason and I’m sure we will again, as it’s my chance to get to know the new guys beyond the boxscores that I pore through every morning from April to September.
From 2007 to 2011, the Nationals, at $51 million, were second to only the Pittsburgh Pirates ($52 million) in amateur draft spending. Top-level talent like Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Matt Purke were all signed to major-league contracts. In 2012, the draft will be a significantly different process for every team, but the Nats will be one of the most affected due to their free-spending ways over the past five drafts.
In 2012, there will be no more major-league contracts for draftees (unless they hold a scholarship in another sport). There will be a
stupid bonus pool of somewhere between $1.6 and $12.4 million that teams cannot exceed by more than 5% without losing draft picks (in addition to the 75% luxury tax on any amount over the pool).
Draft picks after the 10th round can sign for up to $100,000 without counting against the pool. The Nationals’ bonus pool for their top 10 picks is $4,436,200, which is the 8th lowest in all of baseball. While I think the idea is ridiculous in general, I will withhold full judgment until things shake out in the 2013 draft, including changes to free-agent compensation going through a full cycle.
The deadline for signing picks will be a month earlier from now on (now mid-July rather than mid-August). “Advisors” such as Scott Boras will hold out until the last minute, so this is a ploy to make sure all players get signed fast enough to make it into some sort of affiliated ball this season. The last major change in the 2012 draft is the reduction of rounds from 50 to 40.
I’m delighted by the change; no offense to Bryce Ortega, Richie Mirowski or Tony Nix, but the 40-50th round guys are the ones hardest to dig up information about as well as the hardest to motivate myself to take time and write about. Very few players drafted after the 40th round have become major leaguers at all, but especially contributors (semi-recent exceptions include Keith Hernandez, Mike Piazza, Marcus Giles, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson and Jason Isringhausen). With the elimination of the draft-and-follow in 2007, the excitement over the later rounds has faded some as well.
One major question surrounds the 2012 draft: Will high schoolers sign? In my book, the first five rounds or so will remain largely unchanged and the same high schoolers that would have signed before will still sign. The difference lies later in the Top 10 rounds, where teams will have to make decisions regarding their draft pools and may go for signability-type picks rather than risk losing an 8th rounder (or his attached draft pool amount).
I’m also interested to see if moving up the signing deadline will have any effect on 10+ round high schoolers signing. When the deadline was in mid-August, enrolling in college classes and going to training camps were negotiating ploys. Now with the deadline in July, those ploys won’t exist, and I think we’ll see a bigger divide between the high schoolers deemed to be signable and unsignable. Since the Nats recently have not drafted a whole lot of high schoolers, I’ll probably have to observe this in another team’s situation.
Next week, a look at the folks that make the Washington National draft decisions.