Draft : : Story
Friday, December 22, 2017

Year in Review: MLB Draft

Patrick Ebert        
Photo: Perfect Game

Year in Review: College
| Top 250 2018 MLB Draft Prospects | 2017 MLB Draft Impressions

At this point in time the 2018 MLB Draft is actually closer than the 2017 one, and while we at Perfect Game are always looking ahead while identifying and analyzing the very best amateur players in the game, it’s time to take one last look at the top draft-related stories from the past year.

PG All-Americans go 1-2-3

For the first time since the inception of the Perfect Game All-American Classic, a culmination of the very best high school players in the nation (and beyond) since 2003, a trio of PG All-Americans went with the first three picks of the draft.

Shortstop Royce Lewis, the MVP of the 2016 Classic, went first overall to the Twins, becoming the ninth PG All-American (in 14 years) to go No. 1 in the draft. Hunter Greene, who was the top-ranked prospect for the draft for pretty much the entire year leading up to the event, went second overall to the Reds. Greene started the 2016 Classic on the mound for the West squad shortly after winning the event’s home run challenge. MacKenzie Gore, a lefthander from Whiteville, N.C., surged up draft boards all spring on his way to being selected third overall by the Padres.

PG All-Americans had been selected with the top two picks two other times (2014 with Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek; 2010 with Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon) and two of the top three picks on two other occasions (2012 with Carlos Correa and Mike Zunino; 2008 with Tim Beckham and Eric Hosmer) since players from the Classic started to be eligible in 2004.

Talented two-ways

An interesting development arising from the 2017 MLB Draft is the two-way ability of the second and fourth overall picks, Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay. Both are very talented hitters and pitchers leaving the teams that selected them (the Reds and Rays) a potentially creative situation to deal with.

As noted above, Greene’s two-way talents were on display at the 2016 PG All-American Classic where he won the event’s home run challenge, made the start on the mound for the West squad (firing an event-high 98 mph fastball) and also had the highest exit velocity as a hitter (over 103 mph). All McKay did was win college baseball’s John Olerud Award for the nation’s top two-way player three years in a row, ending his college career with the Golden Spikes Award as college’s baseball best player in 2017.

In the past teams, and players, had to choose which direction they would take as no player in recent memory had been developed both ways. Greene hit .233 in seven games and also made three starts (giving up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings) while McKay hit .232-4-22 in 36 games upon beginning his professional career, and he also had a 1.80 ERA over six starts. Both are expected to continue to contribute on both sides of the ball in 2018.

The development is especially interesting given the arrival of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani who also is expected to contribute on both sides of the ball for the Los Angeles Angels beginning in 2018. His success and adjustment to the big leagues could play a key role in how both Greene and McKay are developed (and vice versa).

Big JUCO arms go early

It was a good year for talent from the junior college ranks as not one but two players were selected in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft. In fact, they were both pitchers, lefthander Brendon Little and righthander Nate Pearson, who went back-to-back with the 27th and 28th picks respectively to the Cubs and Blue Jays. Both players began their college careers at D-I programs (North Carolina and FIU) before transferring and making themselves eligible for the draft one year earlier than initially expected.

The Tigers added an outfielder, Reynaldo Rivera, from the junior college ranks with the 57th overall pick in the second round and the Royals selected lefthander Evan Steele in the supplemental second round, 73rd overall. The Royals added a second JUCO arm in the third in lefthander Daniel Tillo, who was taken one pick ahead of righthander Tyler Ivey, who went 91st overall to the Astros. Rivera and Steele both played for the 2017 NJCAA Division I National Champion Chipola College (Fla.).

To view the top 75 junior college prospects for the 2018 MLB Draft click here.

Bonus pools doing their job

Major League Baseball has helped create a more uniform and perceived equality of distributing talent since the institution of bonus pools, in which teams have a pre-determined amount they can spend on the collective total of their picks taken in the top 10 rounds (with added limitations on the players selected after the 10th round). Since 2012, the first year the pools were assigned, teams can no longer give players lucrative bonuses at any point in the draft, at least not without penalty, and to date no team has been willing to go as far as to be penalized by losing picks.

As a result players haven’t been falling in the draft, outside of high school players who have made it clear they wish to attend college. Of the teams picking at the very top of the draft, very few have given the full slot allotment for their selections, instead choosing to save portions of the total allotment on other players later in the draft.

The first unsigned player from the 2017 MLB Draft was Drew Rasmussen, who was selected by the Rays with the 31st overall pick, but that had to do with a failed physical more than anything (the Rays will receive a compensatory pick, the 32nd overall selection, in 2018 as a result). Jack Conlon, who the Orioles drafted in the fourth round, 128th overall, was the first high school player that opted not to sign, instead honoring his commitment to Texas A&M.

Joseph Booker (fifth round, Angels) was the only other drafted player that did not sign among the players selected in the top 10 rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft. In addition, there were only three unsigned players from rounds 11-12, the first two rounds from the third and final day of the draft.

Twins take advantage of push for Ohtani

The Minnesota Twins deserve a tip of the cap for their creativity by helping two teams, the Los Angeles Angels and the Seattle Mariners, in their pursuit of Japanese star Shohei Ohtani. The Twins sent both teams one million dollars of international pool money in exchange for talented 2017 draftees.

Outfielder Jacob Pearson, a member of the 2016 PG All-American Classic, was acquired from the Angels (who eventually won Ohtani’s services). Pearson was selected in the third round, 85th overall, and signed for the very same $1 million he was traded for. Pearson was the 70th-ranked overall prospect leading up to the 2017 MLB Draft, a high energy lefthanded hitter with a knack for squaring up the baseball while showing good foot speed as well.

Catcher David Banuelos, who helped carry Long Beach State to the NCAA postseason, was acquired from the Mariners. Banuelos was selected in the fifth round, 153rd overall, and signed for a $300,000 bonus. He was ranked 227th overall by Perfect Game leading up to the draft and was hailed for his defensive prowess, particularly his arm strength after throwing out over 60 percent of would-be basestealers during the spring.

The addition of Pearson and Banuelos made the Twins 2017 drafting effort look that much better after already adding PG All-American shortstop Royce Lewis with the No. 1 overall pick and SEC triple crown winner Brent Rooker in the supplemental first round.

Homegrown Astros win it all

During the Houston Astros championship run much was made about just how homegrown the team was, with a roster made up of numerous key pieces that were all developed from within the system. American League MVP Jose Altuve wasn’t drafted since he was an international free agent – the same is true for Yuli Guerriel and Marwin Gonzalez – but was still part of an exciting young team that could be just the beginning of something special in Houston.

A large part of the young core of this team was procured through the draft, including PG All-American shortstop Carlos Correa, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, and World Series MVP George Springer, the team’s first-round pick from 2011. Former PG All-American Alex Bregman was taken second overall in 2015, a sign of just how quickly some of their recent draftees developed.

On the pitching side of things staff ace Dallas Keuchel was the team’s seventh-round pick in 2009 and PG All-American righthander Lance McCullers, who started on the mound for the East squad in the 2011 Classic, was selected and signed out of the supplemental first round in 2012. The Astros got McCullers in the fold that year by using some of the money the team saved by astutely grabbing Correa first overall.

Another early draftee, and PG All-American, Daz Cameron, was one of the centerpieces used to acquire Justin Verlander, as was 2016 third rounder Jake Rogers. Their second of two early first rounders from 2015, Kyle Tucker, yet another PG All-American,  is knocking on the door and likely will be a phone call away from Houston in 2018, while their 2017 first rounder, J.B. Bukauskas, PG Underclass All-American, only fell as far as he did (15th overall pick) due to concerns about his size and future role after the dynamic righthander went 9-1 with a 2.53 as a junior at North Carolina.

More change to come

While the aforementioned bonus pools, established during the negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Player’s Union in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, have done what they were intended to do, more changes are on the way thanks to the mostly recently ratified CBA (from last December). The changes focus on player compensation, both for free agents sign with other teams as well as the Competitive Balance Lottery, which was altered and expanded.

Free agents that are offered, and subsequently turn down, a qualifying offer from the team they played for the year before are eligible for draft compensation. That part isn’t new, but how the teams are compensated is, and it’s not as easy as simply awarding new picks in order at the end of the first round.

Here’s a breakdown of those changes, which aren’t easy to follow, much less remember:

• A team that signs a qualifying free agent that receives revenue sharing money will lose its third highest selection in the draft.

• A team that signs a qualifying free agents that pays money to revenue sharing (their payroll exceeds the luxury tax threshold) will lose its second and fifth highest selections in the draft. That team will also have its international signing bonus pool reduced by $1 million for the signing period that follows.

• Teams that sign a qualifying free agent that don’t receive or pay money towards the revenue sharing plan will lose their second highest pick.

• Teams that are part of the revenue sharing plan that lose a qualifying free agent to a deal of at least $50 million will receive a compensatory pick after the first round.

• Teams that pay money to the revenue sharing plan that lose a qualifying free agent (again, to a deal of at least $50 million) will receive a pick after the fourth round.

• All other teams that lose a qualifying free agent (in a deal of at least $50 million) will receive a pick after the Competitive Balance Round B, which follows the second round.

Already taking affect in 2017 were new rules pertaining to the Competitive Balance Rounds A and B, which are no longer determined by a lottery. The teams that were assigned picks in Round A in 2017 (Rays, Reds, Athletics, Brewers, Twins, Marlins) will select in Round B in 2018. The Round B picks from 2017 (Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies, Indians, Royals, Pirates, Orioles, Cardinals) will select in Round A in 2018.

This assignment is also tied to international signing pools, as the teams in Round A will have a $5.25 pool with the teams in Round B getting $5.75 million to spend in the year that follows.

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