The 2015 MLB Draft begins Monday and will run through Wednesday. Here's what to expect in general, and from the Pirates in particular.
When is the draft, and where can I watch it? The first day of the draft begins Monday at 7:00, or at least that's when the broadcast starts on MLB Network and MLB.com. The first day will proceed through Competitive Balance Round B, and then Rounds 3 through 10 will take place Tuesday beginning at 1:00 on MLB.com. Rounds 11 through 40 will begin on Wednesday at noon, also on MLB.com. You can, of course, follow along with fellow BD readers as they frantically Google the Pirates' picks tonight. I'll have an open thread for the draft, and will have posts for each of the Bucs' picks on Monday.
Which picks will the Pirates have on Monday? The Bucs' first selection is No. 19 overall. They'll pick again at No. 32 as compensation for losing Russell Martin, and then at No. 62 in the second round.
Why aren't the Pirates picking in either of the competitive balance rounds? Because MLB felt the need to turn competitive balance picks into a lottery rather than just giving them to the teams those picks are designed to help. The Cardinals, Rockies, Mariners and Orioles (who traded theirs) were awarded competitive balance picks. The Pirates, Royals and Rays weren't. It makes no sense.
What's up with this draft? No one seems enamored with the talent on hand this year, although there's a fair amount of depth. As Neal Huntington has pointed out, this is a pretty good draft to pick at No. 19 or No. 32. It isn't necessarily a great draft to pick in the top five.
Who will the Pirates pick? I don't know, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Pirates didn't either. In many cases, there doesn't seem to be widespread agreement about who the top players are. My guess is that the Pirates could have someone they've ranked in the top ten on their draft board fall to them at No. 19.
Recent mock drafts have suggested that the Pirates could focus on high school pitching, and some prep pitchers who might be available at No. 19 or No. 32 are Mike Nikorak (Pennsylvania), Donny Everett (Tennessee), Ashe Russell (Indiana) and Beau Burrows (Texas). Then again, Everett and Burrows, in particular, aren't the tall, projectable type the Pirates seem to like, and all these guesses are somewhat scattershot, given that we don't really know what the draft landscape will look like at No. 19. The Pirates picked Cole Tucker at a similar point in last year's draft, and that selection (as well as the Connor Joe pick that followed) came almost completely out of nowhere. So there's nothing to do but wait and see.
I hope the Pirates won't draft an outfielder. They have plenty of those. Teams shouldn't pick for need in the early rounds of the draft, and they certainly shouldn't ignore a player just because he plays a position that already appears well stocked. Most picks take years to get through the minors. There's no telling what the Pirates' system will look like in three or four years. Excesses have a way of taking care of themselves, and when they don't, there are always trades. So if the Pirates believe the best player available to them is an outfielder, that's who they should draft.
Hey, Bud Selig won't be at the podium this year! I know! For once, the draft might not look or sound like amateur hour. Los Angeleez!
How much can the Pirates spend? They'll have $7,392,200 in their bonus pool, ranking 11th among the 30 teams. A team can exceed its total bonus pool value by up to five percent and merely pay a tax on the overage (and the Pirates have taken that route in the past). If a team exceeds its bonus pool by more than five percent, it has to forfeit at least one top choice next year, which the Pirates almost surely won't do.
All picks through the first ten rounds come with a particular value, and a team's bonus pool is the sum of all its draft pick values through the first ten rounds. If the allotted value of a draft pick is, say, $200,000, you don't have to give that pick a $200,000 bonus, but if you don't sign the pick, you lose the entire $200,000 from your total pool value. That means that teams sometimes pick college seniors in the last few rounds of Day 2, agreeing to bonuses significantly below their pick values and spending the surplus on tough-to-sign players in other rounds.
Here are the allotments for each of the Pirates' picks.
Spending beyond $100,000 for any single pick following the 10th round counts against a team's bonus pool. The ability to spend that first $100,000 with impunity gives teams flexibility that they don't have in earlier rounds, so there's often a run on interesting but hard-to-sign high school players in the 11th round. The Pirates took Gage Hinsz in that round last year and signed him away from his commitment to Oregon State with a $580,000 bonus, only $480,000 of which counted against the pool.
Occasionally, there's some drama about a pick who won't sign, as was the case with Mark Appel a few years back. Generally, though, the bonus pool system makes all that unlikely. The Pirates will probably spend slightly, but only slightly, past their total bonus pool figure of $7,392,200, probably signing all of their picks in the first ten rounds. If there's any uncertainty about whether a particular higher-profile pick will sign, it will probably be the guy they take in the 11th round.
Or at least that's how it's mostly worked in the last couple years. Given the lack of excitement about the top talent in the first round this year, it's possible we could see some reaches, which could allow teams to draft tougher-to-sign talent later on. We'll see if the Pirates employ this strategy. Also, the draft is supposed to be much better next year, and you can receive compensation picks in 2016 for players you draft in the early rounds this year and then don't sign. I don't expect teams will negotiate in bad faith, but it will be interesting to see if they take any wild risks with early-round picks, knowing they can get similar picks in a much better draft next year if the players they select pass on their offers.