The MLB Draft is a Crapshoot

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The MLB draft is a crapshoot. Every June, Major League Baseball holds its first-year player draft and hundreds of high school and college baseball players become professionals. Brandon Magee takes a look at the newest Boston Red Sox draft class.

As the 2015 Major League Baseball first-year player draft ended, Boston Red Sox fans started to ask questions. When will Andrew Benintendi join the major league club? How does Austin Rei fit into the catching rotation? When will Tate Matheny take over as manager? Does Jagger Rusconi actually have moves like Mick? These questions are best left for the future. However, there are questions that can be answered with great confidence at this point. 

When will Andrew Benintendi sign?

There is very little doubt that Benintendi will sign, if only because the Red Sox have historically signed their first picks of the draft. In the previous 49 editions of the June draft, the Red Sox have failed to sign their top pick only twice – Jimmy Hacker in 1970 and Greg McMurtry in 1986. Benintendi is not likely to be the third as he is more likely to lose draft value over the next year then to move up higher in the draft:

However, Benintendi has some more college baseball to play before going into the professional ranks. His Arkansas Razorbacks will be participating in the College World Series in Omaha beginning on Saturday. The earliest they can be eliminated is Monday, and the latest they could play is in a third game of the Championship Final on Wednesday, June 24th.

The bigger question is whether the Red Sox can save a little money off of his slot number. The seventh pick of the draft is allocated a signing bonus of nearly $3.6 million. Given that Benintendi was a draft eligible sophomore, and has two more years of college eligibility left, it may be difficult for the Sox to get any discount.

Historically, the top Red Sox college prospects start with the Lowell Spinners of the New York Penn League, and Benintendi is not likely to be an exception to this rule. However, the time in Lowell may be brief. A number of their college prospects have been promoted to the Greenville Drive after less than a month in New England.

Will the Sox have trouble signing the other Top 10 draft picks?

Historically, the answer is no. In the first three years under the current draft system, the Red Sox have signed all of the picks drafted in the first ten rounds. Last year, the Sox signed their first 21 picks.

The last time the Sox failed to sign a top 10 pick was in 2011, when Senquez Golson decided to ply his trade at the University of Mississippi as a cornerback. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Sox also failed to sign a player drafted in the first ten rounds in 2010 (Tyler Barnette) and 2009 (Branden Kline). In fact, going back to the 2004 draft, the Red Sox have never had more than one player drafted in their top ten rounds that did not sign.

How much money can be saved by signing the three college seniors to below slot deals?

One of the stratagems employed by baseball teams in this new draft era is to save some of their bonus pool by drafting college seniors. Seniors have always had very little leverage when drafted as they have nowhere else to play. In the past, seniors were often selected later in the draft simply because of that reason. Now, however, they gain a modicum of leverage as teams need to sign them to gain extra money to sign other players to over-slot deals. 

The Red Sox drafted right-handed pitcher Ben Taylor in the seventh-round, first baseman Tucker Tubbs in the ninth round and third baseman Mitchell Gunsolus in the tenth-round – all college seniors. The three players combined carry bonus slots of $531,700.

In the three previous drafts, the Red Sox have drafted ten college seniors. Only one, Mike Adams in 2013, signed near his draft number (signing a bonus of $150,000 off a slot number of $191,000). One other signed for $25,000, five signed for $10,000 and the other three signed for less than that. Based on that, the Red Sox could gain half a million dollars to pay for over-slot deals.

Where will the extra money go to?

Eighth-round pick and left-handed pitcher Logan Allen is a likely target. Andrew Pearson at the Asheville Citizens-Times reports that Allen and the Red Sox have already agreed to a deal. Allen, as the 231st pick taken, has a slot number of $175,100. However, his prospects ratings alone would have made him a fourth-round pick. The agreement in place is rumored to be over $700,000, which would use all the savings gained from signing the college seniors to small deals.

Allen isn’t the only draft pick that could sign above slot. Fifth-round pick Jagger Rusconi has a commitment to USC that he could leverage against the Red Sox. However, he was drafted higher than his prospect ratings would indicate, so he would probably not get a significant bump from the $384,000 allocated. The Red Sox sixth-round pick Travis Lakins is, like Benintendi, a draft eligible sophomore. With two more seasons of eligibility at Ohio State University, he also may require a bump from his $287,500 allocation.

It should be noted that in addition to the money the Red Sox save by signing the seniors, they also are allowed up to a 5% overage of their total draft allocations before hitting non-monetary penalties – specifically, loss of draft picks. This season, Boston will have an additional $311,000 to sign draft picks. This extra money is important, as every player after the tenth-round is allocated $100,000 as a signing slot (and is not considered against the pool). If any player in the final 30 rounds signs for above $100,000, the difference goes against the Red Sox draft allocation. Last year, the Red Sox used $350,000 of their allocated money after the tenth-round (towards Trenton Kemp and Devon Fisher). They utilized $225,000 in 2012 (Jake Drehoff, Jalen Williams and Gabe Speier) and $100,000 in 2011 (Willie Ethington) on selections after the top ten rounds.

The Red Sox made a couple of selections in the later rounds that could utilize this extra money. In the 16th round, Boston selected Marc Brakeman, a college junior who was rated as a fourth round talent. Brakeman is one of the rare juniors who could make out better in the draft as a senior. In the 11th and 18th round, the Sox selected a couple of prep players – Nicholos Hamilton and James Nelson – who might warrant extra incentive to keep from going to college.

What about the college juniors?

Austin Rei and Tate Matheny, the only two college juniors drafted by the Red Sox, are likely to sign at or slightly below slot, based on the past three drafts. While both Rei and Matheny have the option to go back to college, as noted above, college seniors rarely make out well from a bonus standpoint. There is not likely to be significant savings with Rei and Matheny, but they will not be taking extra from the allocations.

What affiliates do the players report to?

With the exception of Jagger Rusconi, who will go to the Gulf Coast League in Florida because of his age and experience level, the other position players will join the Lowell Spinners. The pitchers are more difficult to give a direct answer to. 

Logan Allen, as a prep player, will likely head to the Gulf Coast League. Travis Lakins, as a college starter, will likely head to the Lowell Spinners. However, the Red Sox may decide that both have had a high enough workload for the season and not assign them to a team. In which case, we would not see them until 2016.

Ben Taylor, as a college reliever, will be assigned to a team. The question with Taylor is whether the Red Sox want to convert him into a starter. If so, he too will be assigned to Lowell. If they want to utilize him as a reliever, they may assign him directly to the Greenville Drive or the Salem Red Sox.

The draft is a fun diversion into the unknown. Now, that it is over, the blanks begin to be filled in and we can begin to get answers to some of our long term questions. The Lowell Spinners begin their season on Friday, June 19th. The GCL Red Sox begin the 22nd. For the 2015 draft class, the future starts then.

Brandon Magee writes a weekly minor league report, about Boston’s favorite utility man, and the offensive malaise that the Red Sox have been dealing with.

Follow Brandon on Twitter @cuzittt.

Check out Justin Gorman’s look at long-tenured GMs.

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