04/18/12 10:00 AM ET
New Draft system adds intrigue to June event
By Mike Persinger / Special to MLB.com
This year's Draft will be the first held under new rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement agreed upon last year. The new system is intended to level the playing field between the wealthiest teams and those in smaller markets. But people are watching, waiting to see how things shake out, including the impact of an earlier signing deadline.
"I think we have to see how it goes before you can really pass judgment on it," said Sarasota (Fla.) High coach Clyde Metcalf, who has been at the school since 1982. "I know it's going to shorten the window for decisions for those kids.
"They're going to have to have a better idea going in about what they will take or what they won't take."
The basics of the Draft, under the new CBA:
Each team has a designated pool of bonus money it can use to sign players selected through the first 10 rounds. Minnesota, with the second-worst record in the Majors a year ago and holder of three supplemental picks, has the largest bonus pool, almost $12.37 million. Houston picks first overall, has 11 picks and has a pool of almost $11.2 million. Anaheim, with eight picks overall and none in the top 60, has the smallest pool, about $1.65 million. The total pool is $189.9 million, slightly less than 2011's 10-round spending total of $191.9 million.
The deadline for signings, which had been in mid-August, has been moved up to July 13.
Any player picked after the 10th round can be signed for a bonus of up to $100,000.
The shorter time frame is important, because it could mean an extra year of development in a professional system for more players.
"It's a huge benefit, just for the kids to get comfortable in what they're doing, just to understand how it works being a professional and make that adjustment," said Arizona Diamondbacks director of scouting Ray Montgomery. "That's mostly what the first year is, adjustment, just like any new job.
"Just getting their feet underneath them, if that doesn't occur until September and October and then the following year, you've really lost a calendar year of development, and you can't get it back."
In reality, the new system is similar to the way 10 to 15 smaller-market teams have operated in the past -- with a self-imposed budget for bonuses. But the other clubs have been able to spend what they want to sign players they covet.
That's still allowed, but now the system has mechanisms intended to penalize teams that exceed the bonus pool. The dollars are finite, and teams that choose to go over their allotted amount will be hit with stiff taxes and, in extreme cases (when teams exceed their pool by more than five percent), the loss of high Draft picks the next year.
The hope is that players will be selected solely based on their talent, and that the slotting will get players who want to sign into pro systems faster, reducing the practice of waiting until the last minute to get significantly better offers. There will also, in theory, be less room to negotiate, and thus less need for players to wait until the last minute, hoping a team will blink.
How the Draft will shake out under the new rules depends on a player's situation. Here is a look at some of those situations, through the lens of the teams and players at the National High School Invitational in late March:
Gallo is committed to LSU, but he's ranked No. 18 in MLB.com's Prospect Watch, so he's also likely to go early in the June Draft.
Gallo's father, Tony Gallo, has been a pitching coach in the Las Vegas area for the past 10 years. He has studied the new CBA, and likes what he sees.
"The big money is going to be near the top, and then it is going to fall off considerably," he said. "It's not the penalties involved, it's losing the Draft picks. Most teams are gonna say, 'If I want this kid, I'll go over my budget as far as I can, but I don't want to lose my Draft picks.'"
And the deadline will get the top players who choose to sign into a pro system faster.
"What it has done is make it more cut and dried, and less stretched out," Tony Gallo said. "It's stressful on the parents, it's stressful on the colleges -- they don't know if they are going to get a player, and they're waiting to see what the decisions are.
"It just gets things going a little faster. I think it's good -- good for the colleges, and good for the pro side."
A switch-hitting slugger from Jesuit (Texas) High, Bell was so intent on going to college at the University of Texas that he sent a letter to the Major League Scouting Bureau requesting that he not be selected last June. Bell was arguably the best high school hitter in the 2011 Draft class, and without the letter, he would likely have gone in the first round. But with it? Signability questions had the potential to drop Bell all the way out of the Draft.
Pittsburgh took him anyway, in the second round. The Pirates signed him, using a $5 million bonus to convince him to pass on the Longhorns. The signing came a day before the August deadline.
That $5 million bonus represents 77 percent of Pittsburgh's allotted bonus pool of just over $6.5 million for picks in the first 10 rounds of 2012.
"The Josh Bell kind of deal in the second round -- you'll never see that again," Tony Gallo said. "When you're down there, it's gonna be, 'Here's the money, if you want it take it, if you don't go to college.'"
But will it send more early picks to college?
"When you're dealing with a new system, I think people will always defer to the default," Montgomery said. "If you were unsure about what you wanted to do, or if the contract terms aren't to your liking, the default, and the safer route, is to just go ahead and go to school and revisit this in three years. And we've never had a problem with that as an industry."
Moore's stock has skyrocketed. A left-handed hitter who throws right-handed, scouts view him as a hitter. He plays right field for Mater Dei but can also catch, and a left-handed hitting catcher is a premium.
After his junior year, he was projected as a mid- to late-round pick. His MVP performance in a travel tournament in Jupiter, Fla., in October, changed that projection to mid to early. Now, his play in Cary has him hearing early-round projections.
But Moore says he's not worried about that.
"I'm just focused on playing baseball and having the time of my life for my senior year," he said. "People just tell me don't worry about it, let your play do the talking. You've just gotta keep playing."
And the new Draft rules?
"Rules are rules, but the game of baseball is still the same. The rules don't affect me -- the rules affect the clubs. It's their decision to pick me where they pick me and offer me what they offer me, but regardless, I'm still going to be playing baseball, whether it's college or pro."
Moore says he doesn't have a bonus number in his head for what it would take to keep him from going to UCLA.
"I let my dad kind of handle the financial side," he said. "I chose UCLA regardless of baseball. I love the campus, love the school; it's got great tradition. There's a big USC-UCLA rivalry, and I love that rivalry. I want to be a part of it.
"A degree these days means a lot and can get you very far in life. Baseball is a game, but school comes first."
Outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr., an 11th-round pick, got a $1.25 million bonus. Then the Cubs trumped themselves, giving Dillon Maples, a 14th-round pick, a contract that included a $2.5 million bonus.
Metcalf, the coach at Sarasota High, has seen that before and thinks that change might be the Draft's biggest.
"Kids who have been in our area, they sit and they say, 'I want $750,000,' or 'I want a million,' and really and truly they are 12th- or 15th-round picks," Metcalf said. "Sometimes they hang around long enough to get that money or close to that money."
Now, they can't.
"I don't think there's any doubt we're going to see a lot of these really quality kids that in the past have signed going to college," Metcalf said.
Considered a possibility to become the first right-handed prep pitcher in Draft history taken No. 1 overall, Giolito has been out since early March with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He dropped from No. 2 to No. 7 in MLB.com's Top 50 Draft Prospects list after his injury,
How far, if at all, will Giolito fall in the Draft because of concerns about his elbow? And if he does slide, will it take a slot-busting bonus to sign him?
"I think there are a bunch of kids around the nation that will be in that situation," said Harvard-Westlake coach Matt LaCour. "You look at some of the injuries that you're hearing about, and it will be interesting to see what Major League Baseball wants to do with some of these kids who maybe haven't gotten to prove themselves late in the spring.
"But the scouts have really gotten to know Lucas well over the past 12 months."
Giolito, who has also committed to UCLA, stayed in California during the NHSI to rehab his elbow. Harvard-Westlake, led by another top prospect, No. 9 Max Fried, a left-handed pitcher, advanced to the championship game without him.
So far, LaCour said, he hasn't had specific discussions about the Draft with Giolito or Fried.
"We will talk about it later in the season," he said. "In late May, when we're done, we'll have healthy discussions. My perspective is just one of many those kids and those families are going to get.
"I think we're all interested in this first year to see how it plays out. Max and Lucas will obviously give us a good test run for athletes at the top end and how this is going to work."
Mike Persinger is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.