Constraints on Signing Bonuses Puts New Spin on This Year’s Process
spending on signing bonuses in recent drafts, particularly 2011,
prompted baseball’s power brokers to undertake the most sweeping
changes in 46 years to the game’s primary talent procurement
process as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement between
owners and players. The modifications, ratified in November 2011, go
into effect with this year’s draft.
may not be a hard cap on individual draft slots, as owners initially
pushed for, but stricter, enforceable measures were implemented that
will limit the total amount that teams can now spend on players
signed in both the domestic and international markets. If teams
exceed the imposed limits, they will be subject to a significant tax
and even a loss of premium draft picks.
the best efforts of the commissioner’s office to limit runaway
growth, signing bonuses rose for the fifth year in a row in 2011.
Collectively, teams spent more than $228 million on signing bonuses
for players subject to the draft in 2011, including roughly $192
million on players taken in the first 10 rounds. The overall amount
shattered the previous record of $195,782,000, set a year earlier.
new CBA mandates that teams cannot spend more than $185,153,500 on
bonuses to players in the first 10 rounds in 2012, a slight reduction
from the amount spent a year ago. Each team has been allotted a fixed
upper limit, depending on its position in the draft rotation.
changes are also in the works to limit the amounts that teams can
spend on the international market. For 2012, each club has been
assigned the same upper limit, $2.9 million, but that figure will
change in succeeding years as Major League Baseball moves towards the
implementation of a full-blown international draft, possibly by as
early as 2013 or 2014.
Houston Astros will have first pick in this year’s draft, and it’s
open to question whether there is a headline player in this year’s
talent pool that might warrant a $7.2 million signing bonus—the
amount that has been earmarked for the initial selection through the
the outset of the 2012 season, it is generally agreed that the top
three prospects available are two college players, Stanford
righthander Mark Appel and Arizona State shortstop Deven Marrero, and
California prep righthander Lucas Giolito. But none is a lock at this
point to go No. 1, much like righthander Stephen Strasburg was in
2009 and Bryce Harper a year later.
part of the new draft rules, the Astros will have $11,489,400 to
spend on all their picks in the first 10 rounds, including $7.2
million on the first selection. That’s in contrast to 2011, when
the Pittsburgh Pirates paid out a record signing bonus of $8 million
to sign No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole. Additionally, the Pirates
spent a record $17,005,700 to sign all their draft selections, more
than $5 million more than the previous mark.
Astros are not required to spend the full allotment of $7.2 million
on this year’s top pick. The new rules provide that they could
elect to spend under slot on the No. 1 selection and utilize the
difference on some of their draft picks in later rounds without being
if the Astros, or any team, elects to spend more than their allotted
amount in the first 10 rounds, they will be penalized with a tax or
loss of future draft picks. A team overspending by up to five percent
of its allotment will be subject to a penalty of 75 percent of the
amount by which it exceeds the threshold. If it spends upwards of 15
percent more, it would stand to be punished with a 100 percent tax on
the overage and the loss of first-round picks in each of the
succeeding two drafts.
new, restrictive draft measures were enacted to curb continuing
runaway inflation on signing bonuses and better assure that the best
prospects end up with the weakest teams, restoring the original
premise of the draft.
the team with the poorest record in 2011, the Astros have been
granted the most money to sign their 2012 draft picks. Each
succeeding team will have progressively less to spend on both their
first-round pick and all picks cumulatively through the first 10
rounds. The 30th and last team in the draft order, in this
case the Philadelphia Phillies, have been earmarked $1.6 million for
their first-round selection and a total of $4,471,800 through the
first 10 rounds.
could be numerous upward or downward adjustments to the allotted
bonus amounts each team is assigned in the first 10 rounds, depending
on several facvtors, including free-agent compensation and the
inability of a team to sign a pick in those rounds.
a team may spend up to $100,000 on a player drafted after the 10th round or signed as a non-drafted free agent without being penalized.
But if it signs a player for more than $100,000, the excess will be
applied against the team’s allotment in the first 10 rounds. For
instance, if a team signs a 14th-round pick to a bonus of
$500,000, the additional $400,000 will apply to the team’s signing
other changes to the draft will go into effect this year, including a
reduction in the number of rounds from 50 to 40 and a new, mid-July
signing deadline. In the case of 2012, that deadline will be July 13.
draft itself is set this year for June 4-5 and many big-league clubs
are currently in the process of gearing up for the process with
pre-draft organization meetings to sift through the talent in this
the Big Three of Appel, Giolito and Marrero, one of the more
interesting sideshows of this year’s draft will be the potential
run on players from a talent-laden Stanford team. Led by Appel, that
school has three potential first-rounders this year and two or three
more players that are candidates to go in the top 3-5 rounds. Over
the next three drafts, the Cardinal has the potential for 7-8
6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, with a fastball that has approached 100 mph,
Appel is a near-lock to be one of the first 2-3 picks in the 2012
draft, providing he can pitch for Stanford as a junior like he often
did last summer in stints with USA Baseball’s college national team
and in the Cape Cod League.
arm was electric, at times, with a fastball that was consistently at
97-98 mph, along with two above-average secondary pitches in his
slider and changeup. He mixed all three pitches effectively when he
was on his game, and was able to work each to all parts of the strike
zone efficiently with an extremely easy arm action.
110 innings as a sophomore for Stanford in 2011, Appel allowed 114
hits while walking 29 and striking out 86. The result was a modest
6-7, 3.02 record, but Appel should become more of a dominant pitcher
as he refines his raw stuff, especially his changeup.
is a superior prospect in all phases of his game, but the one area
where he truly stands out is on defense. He is in a league of his own
as a college shortstop and scouts say he is ready-made to play
defensively in the big leagues.
his ability to play shortstop has never been questioned, the
6-foot-1, 170-pound Marrero continues to open eyes with his bat. He
hit .322-0-14 last summer for USA Baseball’s college national team
and led that squad in hits, doubles, RBIs and stolen bases. In
contrast to his summer showing at the plate, Marrero hit a modest
.315-2-20 with the new BBCOR bats during his sophomore year at
Arizona State, and scouts may have already come to the conclusion
that he is one of those players who is a better hitter with wood.
the 46-year history of the baseball draft, a high-school righthander
has never been taken with the first overall pick. That could all
change this year as the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Giolito is not only the
No. 1 prep prospect on most draft boards, but the No. 1 prospect
overall on many.
has a big, strapping, athletic frame in his favor, but also an easy
delivery and wide array of pitches that he can throw for strikes with
confidence. His best offering is a sinking fastball that is
consistently in the mid-90s, but he also has two superior breaking
pitches—a mid-80s slider and high-70s curveball—and can be
overpowering with the downward angle he generates from a high release
by Appel, Giolito and Marrero, Perfect Game is unveiling its list
this week of the Top 500 Prospects in this year’s draft class. We
begin today with Prospects 1-100, and will break out a new group of
100 each day.