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Draft | Story | 12/20/2012

2012 Year in Review: MLB Draft

Patrick Ebert     
Photo: Perfect Game

As part of a four-part series Perfect Game will highlight the top 10 storylines from the 2012 MLB Draft, from Perfect Game's Showcases and Tournament events (Jeff Dahn) as well as those from both College (Kendall Rogers) and High School (Todd Gold) Baseball.

Not surprisingly the main focus of the 2012 draft was the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the effects the new rules would have not only on team's ability to sign players, but on which players were actually selected.  In the months leading up to the draft people speculated whether or not high school players would be avoided more so than they had been in the past, since they have more financial leverage than their college counterparts, and which teams would be most likely to surpass their assigned draft pools at risk of financial penalty and the possibility of losing future draft picks.

It turns out high school players dominated the first round in the draft, and no teams spent more than their allotted draft pool.  The Houston Astros may have set a precedent for other teams to follow at the top of the draft, and while one player, Mark Appel, turned down a multi-million dollar bonus opting to return to college for a bigger pay day, it wasn't the first time in recent years a Boras-advised client has done so.

Here are the top 10 storylines from the 2012 MLB Draft:

10. PG All-American record surpassed

Nineteen former Perfect Game All-Americans were selected in the first and supplemental first rounds of the draft last year, breaking the record of 18 from the previous year.  Sixteen of the 19 had played in the Classic the previous summer (2011), with the other three hailing from college, including the Nos. 3 and 4 overall picks, Mike Zunino and Kevin Gausman.

Shortstop Carlos Correa, who received the Rawlings Defensive Player of the Year Award at the 2011 Classic, went first overall, becoming the sixth All-American (Matt Bush, Justin Upton, Tim Beckham, Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole) to receive that honor since the All-Americans started to become eligible for the draft in 2004.

In addition, 31 National Showcase alumni were drafted in the first and supplemental first rounds, 22 of which participated at the event in 2011.  Ten of the top 13 overall picks had attended the prestigious showcase in past years, as well as 87 of the top 188 (top five rounds) picks.

All 35 of the high school players that were drafted in the first and supplemental first rounds had previously attended a Perfect Game event, as well as 55 of the total 60 players (92 percent) taken in that range.  Of all of the players taken in the top five rounds, 88-percent are PG allumni.

9. Preps players dominate Round 1

After college players, particularly pitchers, dominated the first round of the 2011 draft, there was a noticeable swing in talent toward the high school spectrum.  Seventeen high school players were drafted among the first round's 31 picks, with another 18 prep players (among 29 picks) being taken in the supplemental first round.

Nineteen more high school players were selected in Round 2.

That trend is expected to swing back to the college ranks in 2013.

8. Padres, Cardinals, Rangers make most of extra picks

With three sandwich picks and an additional second-round selection due to free agents lost during the 2011-12 offseason, the San Diego Padres had a wealth of draft commodities to help replenish their system with talent. They didn't take a conservative approach with these picks either, using three of these picks to select live-armed high school pitchers, including PG All-American Max Fried, the No. 7 overall selection. They balanced out those arms with three bats from the college and junior college levels, including their other sandwich selection, outfielder Travis Jankowski.

After signing all but one of their top 23 round selections in 2011, the Padres followed that up by signing every pick they owned in the top 13 rounds and 40 of their 44 overall selections.

In addition to an extra first-rounder, the Cardinals also had three sandwich picks to play with. They took a more conservative, college oriented-approach with their first four picks before taking prep position prospects Steve Bean and Carson Kelly. Kelly's $1.6 million bonus as the 86
th overall pick was surpassed by only their first pick of the draft, Michael Wacha, who received $1.9 million from the Cardinals as the 19th overall selection.

The Cardinals managed to sign all of their picks in the top 10 rounds, and also gave their 12th rounder, left-handed pitcher Max Foody, a $400,000 bonus.

For as much credit as the Rangers get for taking Joey Gallo in the sandwich round, they did make a selection (Lewis Brinson) prior to taking the prodigious slugger.  That said, it took $2.25 million to add Gallo to the organization, money comparable to a top 10 pick, closer to the range that Gallo was expected to be taken.

The Rangers didn't have as many picks as the Padres and Cardinals did, but they did have two supplemental first rounders and an extra second round selection.  After Brinson and Gallo they continued to add high school players with high ceilings in outfielders Jamie Jarmon and Nick Williams as well as prep right-hander Collin Wiles.  It took just under $6 million to sign all five players, so it wasn't surprising that they shifted their focus to the more conservatively viewed college crop after the second round.

7. Puerto Rico makes a comeback

Much has been made in recent years by how the inclusion of Puerto Rican players in the draft has spoiled the talent pool from the Republic. The 2012 draft class was a banner year for talent from Puerto Rico, and fittingly, the Astros made Carlos Correa the highest drafted Puerto Rican ever after taking Ramon Castro 17th overall in 1994.

Three players from Puerto Rico were drafted in the first round. Jose Orlando Berrios was the first pick in the sandwich round, and Jesmuel Valentin, son of long-time MLB infielder Jose, joined Berrios later in the same round. Edwin Diaz, along with Berrios, gave the draft a pair of promising, live-armed right-handers from Puerto Rico.

As evidenced by the amount of talent that attended the inaugural Perfect Game Caribbean Showcase in mid-November, this influx of talent from the island appears to be more than just a one-year wonder.

6. Giolito selected by, signs with Nats

The new draft rules would restrict the Nationals from spending $15.4 million on its first four picks like they did in 2011, but they may have selected the top prospect available for the draft for the fourth consecutive year (Stephen Strasburg in 2009; Bryce Harper in 2010; Anthony Rendon in 2011) by taking Lucas Giolito with the 16th overall pick.

Giolito entered the spring with speculation that he could become the first ever high school player to be selected with the first overall pick. The speculation ended in early March when he left a game after feeling a pull in his right elbow. It was determined that he had a slight sprain in his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) that would not require surgery.

After resting his arm for two months, Giolito returned to throwing in May, although he did so on flat ground. The condition of his arm was kept quiet, and speculation grew that Giolito may be more likely to head to college (UCLA) given the uncertainty of his health.

The Nationals took a chance on the promising young right-hander and got him in the fold for a $2.925 million signing bonus. However, after the discomfort he experienced in the spring returned in the summer, it was determined that Giolito would need Tommy John surgery, which was conducted in late August.

5. Blue Jays load up, again

The 2012 draft marked the fourth year in a row that the Blue Jays had extra picks in the early rounds, the third of which that they had at least four additional selections. Because of that the team has become accustomed to spending big on their picks, and this year was no exception, even with the new draft pool in place.

With an extra first-rounder and three sandwich picks the Blue Jays loaded up once again with high ceiling talent, predominantly from the high school ranks. Potential five-tool outfielder D.J. Davis was their first pick, followed by flame-throwing yet diminutive college right-hander Marcus Stroman. 2011 PG All-American left-handed pitcher Matt Smoral, who entered the year as a possible top 10 overall pick, fell to the team's first of three sandwich picks after suffering a broken foot in the spring, and he received the highest bonus, $2 million, of all of their picks.

Their next pick, high school infielder Mitch Nay, was the fourth player to receive seven figures from the Blue Jays, with three others receiving high six-figure bonuses. One of these, two-sport star Anthony Alford, was allowed to pursue a collegiate football career at Southern Miss.

This aggressive approach caused the team to give their fourth through ninth round picks $5,000 each, with their 10th rounder receiving a $1,000 bonus. They did go well over slot with their 15th round pick, Ryan Borucki, and overall signed 21 of their first 26 selections.

As they continue to load their system with talent, this haul allowed the Blue Jays to trade two of their top prospects, Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino, as part of a package in which they received Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes from the Marlins, without missing a beat.  They followed that trade up with another blockbuster, dealing catcher Travis d'Arnaud and right-hander Noah Syndergaard to the Mets for reigning 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.

4. Appel falls, returns to Stanford

Mark Appel entered the 2012 scouting season as one of the favorites to be taken with the first overall pick. The only negative that loomed over him was the lack of consistent dominance, something he quieted with each and every start over the course of the spring. In 16 starts he went 10-2 with a 2.56 ERA, striking out 130 and allowing only 97 hits and 30 walks in 123 innings of work.

However, the more Appel solidified his case to go first overall the more he strengthened the case of he and his advisor, Scott Boras, to justify him being paid every penny, if not more, than the slot value of the No. 1 overall pick ($7.2 million), particularly since Gerrit Cole received an $8 million bonus the year before as the top pick. Due to this, the Astros passed on Appel which caused him to slide to the eighth overall pick owned by the Pirates.

The Pirates had $3.8 million of their own to sign him with without being penalized by MLB for exceeding their bonus pool, which wasn't enough to get Appel in the fold. He opted to return to Stanford hoping another big spring will grant him a pay day closer to his bonus aspirations.

While the Pirates do receive a compensatory selection for not signing Appel, the ninth overall pick in the 2013 draft, their inability to sign Appel is notable after they inked their first and second round selections in 2011, Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell, for $13 million combined.

3. Astros show creativity taking Correa No. 1

As noted above, not only did Carlos Correa become the first Puerto Rican to be drafted first overall, he also became the sixth Perfect Game All-American to garner that distinction, joining current MLB stars Bryce Harper and Justin Upton.

The Houston Astros' creativity in handling the new bonus pools is notable. By signing Correa and their second pick, fellow PG All-American Lance McCullers, for a combined $7.3 million, they barely exceeded the $7.2 million that was allotted for just the No. 1 overall selection. This allowed them to go well over slot for a third All-American, fourth round pick Rio Ruiz, who signed for $1.85 million.

Correa's selection by the Astros was somewhat surprising since several draft pundits had them connected to Stanford ace Mark Appel for most of the spring. When Appel's bonus demands didn't mesh with the Astros' intent of saving part of their bonus pool for later signings, they turned their attention to Correa, who generated more and more support since the World Showcase in early January as a legitimate candidate to go No. 1 overall.

2. New CBA meets intent

As the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was ratified over a year ago, there was a lot of debate as to how much impact the new changes would have. The biggest changes made were the institution of draft pools to help keep bonuses down and moving up the signing deadline to mid-July instead of mid-August to speed up the signing process.

Initially it was believed that more high school players would head to college because of these changes, but that was not the case. As noted above, high school players dominated the early rounds, and a record number of players selected in the top 10 rounds of the draft ended up signing. A record was also set for the highest percentage of overall players signing, although some of that had to do with the draft being reduced from 50 rounds to 40.

Only two players ranked among Perfect Game's final ranking of the top 50 players eligible for the 2012 draft did not sign: Appel and 2011 PG All-American Hunter Virant, who honored his commitment to UCLA.

1. More changes to come in 2013

While the first round of changes were geared toward keeping signing bonuses down, the next round of changes will factor the draft order itself. The rules regarding compensatory picks for free agents lost, in addition to what free agents even qualify for compensation, have been overhauled.

Only eight players were deemed eligible for draft-pick compensation, and one of those players, Hiroki Kuroda, re-signed with the Yankees. The teams that lose qualifying free agents gain a compensatory selection after the first round, while the teams that sign these free agents forfeit their first pick (the teams that finished among the 10 worst in 2012 forfeit their second pick). However, the lost picks are simply removed from the order, they are not distributed to the teams that lost the respective free agent.

A Competitive Balance Lottery was also instituted in which 12 teams, six after the first round and six after the second, garnered an additional, early pick.

One result of this is that teams with the worst record in baseball not only will have a premium pick in the first round, but their second round pick will also be higher than what it has been in recent years. In 2011 the first pick in the second round was the 61st overall selection. Due to the logistical changes, this pick will be no lower than the 44th overall pick in 2013.

To read about these changes in greater detail please visit this story which also includes the 2013 raw draft order.

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