An Intro to the 2012 Washington Nationals Draft

[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.

Author: DC Is For Baseball

Sean T. Hogan is a 2011 graduate of Virginia Tech and blogs at DC Is For Baseball. He tracked the Nationals draft last year and will do it again in 2012.

9 thoughts on “An Intro to the 2012 Washington Nationals Draft”

  1. Brad Peacock (a 41st rounder) netted us Gio Gonzalez. Even if that happens once every decade, it’s still worth it.

    But I agree, this draft seems pretty interesting to watch with a lot of unpredictability.

    Regarding the Nats bonus pool- how was that calculated, and why was the Nats’ 8th lowest? Is it based on market size or something?

  2. Peacock was a 41st rounder, but was a draft-and-follow player. That part of the draft (where you could draft guys in late rounds and wait all the way to the next draft to sign them) was eliminated in 2007. In terms of the draft as it stands in 2012 and beyond, the chances of finding impact players after round 30 or so is very slim. And undrafted free agency still exists, where the Nats could thrive given that they scout and draft a higher percentage of college players than most.

    The draft pool is based mostly on the amount of picks you have and how high they are. The Nats’ pool is so low because they’re not picking all that high to begin with and only have 10 picks in the first 10 rounds (0 compensation picks). The teams with the highest bonus pools are the Twins (2nd overall pick, 13 picks overall, $12.36 mil) and the Astros (1st overall pick, 11 picks overall, $11.17 mil). A breakdown of the bonus pools can be found here:

  3. Baseball America’s Jim Callis had the Nats taking College RHP Chris Stratton in his mock.

    Keith Law has a mock coming out sometime today. He had the Nats being on Meyer and Goodwin last year, so I will be very curious to read his info.

  4. I hope they just draft the best player available and try to sign the ones who want to sign right away. Please no more “signability picks” like Trevor Holder. Quality over Quantity please…

    1. With the new draft slot rules, signability picks are very important (which is one reason why I hate the rules). For teams to get the best players signed, they’ll likely have to take some of the budget away from that of the 3rd/4th rounders (like Holder). Part of the new game, but lame.

      1. I guess it’s how you look at it, rather than putting all my eggs in one basket and drafting one, two or three “best picks” and one “signability” guy or 2 guys etc, I would stick with the best picks and play them against one another like musical chairs after telling them I wasn’t going to “spend over bonus”. Whoever signs last might end up with a “lower slot contract” or I just let them walk… knowing they were trying to get top dollar and didn’t want to sign until the last minute. I bet it would cause more Drew Storen types, to sign without an agent, and sign quick. It might bite you a little this year, but next year I bet the agents would be looking to sign right away. It would also be interesting if you signed your picks in reverse order, in other words, sign your 10th pick first, 9th pick second, etc… leaving your 1st rounder to sign for under bonus money, or you get an additional 1st rounder next year (for not signing this years pick).

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