Today is the deadline for signing 2018 MLB draft picks, and as per Jim Callis, the Pirates made one final signing, inking 13th-round pick Zack Kone to an above-slot bonus of $166,700. He will begin his professional career with the West Virginia Black Bears.
Kone, a junior from Duke University, is a right-handed shortstop listed at 6’3’’ and 200 lbs. He has been a three-year starter at short for the Blue Devils, and has shown steady improvement with the bat, posting a .300/.359/.449 batting line in 2018. Baseball America’s final pre-draft rankings listed him as the #228 prospect in the draft, expressing concern over his “inconsistent - and sometimes violent - ...swing mechanics” while praising his arm strength and feel for the barrel of the bat. You can view film of his violent swing on his MLB.com draft video here.
Kone is a very good student, having been named to both the All-ACC Academic Team and the ACC Academic Honor Roll in 2017, which likely accounts for his above-slot bonus. He was also fairly well-regarded coming out of high school, but was not drafted due to the perceived strength of his college commitment.
He also gives the Pirates another Zac/Zach/Zack, and you can never have too many of those.
Also, as per Callis, the Pirates did not come to terms with supplemental first-round pick Gunnar Hoglund, who will instead attend the University of Mississippi. Hoglund, the 36th overall pick in the draft, is one of four first-round picks who did not sign this year, joining 8th pick Carter Stewart of the Braves, 25th pick Matt McLain of the Diamondbacks, and 30th pick J.T. Ginn of the Dodgers. In lieu of Hoglund, a right-handed high school pitcher from Florida, the Pirates will receive a compensatory draft pick, the 37th overall selection in the 2019 draft. A report published in the immediate post-draft period had indicated that Hoglund had come to a verbal agreement with the Pirates and anticipated a quick signing, and no specific reason for his change of heart has been reported. Hoglund posted a tweet thanking the organization for its interest, so it seems that at least there are no hard feelings between the two.
With the signing of Kone and the non-signing of Hoglund, the Pirates exceeded their bonus pool by a total of $421,100, with pool-eligible expenditures of $8,993,600 against a bonus pool of $8,422,500 (after subtracting the slot value of the #36 pick used on Hoglund). This places their excess spending a small fraction of a percent below the threshold at which they would forfeit a future first-round draft pick. Their new 2019 compensatory pick will result in a corresponding increase in the value of their 2019 bonus pool.
Update: Jim Callis is reporting that the pre-draft deal with Hoglund fell apart after something came up during his physical exam. That’s unfortunate, if true, and not really anybody’s fault.