It has been about two weeks since the Cardinals (and the rest of the league) had their First-Year Player draft. Anticipation was very high because the Cardinals had 5 picks on the first night in the first round and first supplemental combined. The Cardinals had what I thought was a big bonus pool and I was hoping they would go out and be aggressive. But, what happened was different and it is hard to explain my emotions between disappointed/upset/let down. But, after hearing how the new draft rules shook out the draft, I think the Cardinals did what they had to do and may have even been ahead of the game. The rest after the jump!
Let’s start with the new draft rules which are in place for the first time this year. Baseball America has the breakdown of how it shook out after the draft. (I have linked to this before, but it is a great read if you want to understand what happened in the draft.)
The new draft rules attach a value to each pick in the first 10 rounds. The total of all of those picks is each team’s bonus pool for this year’s draft. Go over budget and the team pays a tax, and if it goes over by more than 5 percent it starts losing draft picks. Any player selected after the 10th round who signs for more than $100,000 counts against the pool. And if a team doesn’t sign a pick in the top 10 rounds, it loses the budget space allotted for that pick.
So teams had to know how to stretch their dollars, but just as importantly, how to make absolutely sure they would sign all of their picks in the first 10 rounds.
The Cardinals bonus pool is $9,131,100. (The Cardinals bonus pool plus 5% to pay the tax, but avoid draft pick loss is $9,587,655)
Let’s go chronologically in the draft. The Cardinals selected Michael Wacha at 19. Wacha fell to the Cardinals, Baseball America had him at #8. He is not the caliber of pitcher that Shelby Miller was when he fell to the Cardinals, but still a good pitcher who should move quickly with a good fastball that touches 96, great change-up and average breaking pitches right now. The Cardinals slot for this selection is $1,900,000 and per Jon Heyman, he has agreed to terms on exactly that number pending the physical in St. Louis.
The Cardinals did not save any money at 19, but still went the senior route with James Ramsey. I abhorred the pick at the time and over the last two weeks, I have come to understand it. I was upset that the Cardinals passed on Styker Trahan, who was picked three picks later by the Diamondbacks and signed for slot of $1.7 mil. The Cardinals already understood how the rules made it so they could not lose this pick and the $1,775,000 associated with it and obviously wanted to save money with this pick. They saw the value of seniors in the top 10 rounds, so they proactively went ahead and got one of the best seniors, who could save them upwards of a million dollars on the slot. James Ramsey was a supplemental first rounder at best, but probably has already agreed to a below slot deal to get the “first rounder” tag. Ramsey turned down $500,000 from the Twins last year. As a senior with zero leverage, it is possible he could accept a $500k-$700k deal in exchange for being picked in the 1st round. Ramsey was the only senior picked in the first round, but it was not long the other teams got in the act. The Cardinals knew Ramsey’s demands during the draft and how that fell into the greater scheme of their draft targets and how much money they had to spend. The Cardinals probably would have signed Ramsey already, but his Florida State Seminoles are still playing and they are the No. 3 overall seed in the College World Series. Once their season ends, Ramsey will be signed immediately.
In the supplemental round, the Cardinals picked Stephen Piscotty, who has shown himself to be a good hitter in college and in the Cape Cod League, but I personally don’t like his prospects as a future corner outfielder with limited power. However, that being said, the Cardinals got Baseball America’s #26 player at pick 36. The slot for this pick is: $1,430,400 and I believe the Cardinals will be able to get him for around that number.
The Cardinals picked two below slot players in Patrick Wisdom and Steve Bean. They have already signed both and saved $276,700 and $170,600 under slot respectively.
In the 2nd round, at 86th overall, the Cardinals got a big time prospect at 3rd base in Carson Kelly. He was Baseball America’s #43 prospect and will need big money over the slot at this selection of $574,300 to get him out of a commitment to Oregon. The money saved above will be the only reason the Cardinals will be able to sign Kelly. I think they will sign him because otherwise they are going to lose that $574,300 from their pool.
The Cardinals have signed six of the next eight picks for slot or under slot deals. The only reason they have not signed two of those players is they both play for University of Arizona which is in the College World Series. (Actually playing against James Ramsey and Florida State at 8pm on Friday night. Set your DVRs.) Jacob Wilson in the 10th round saved the most for the Cardinals signing for $105,000 under slot.
Now, on to the 10th round and beyond and back to the Baseball America article about the new draft rules:
And in a perverse incentive, because the first $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round does not count against a team’s budget, a team can stretch its bonus pool by taking better talent in later round. Say a team wants two players, one who will sign for $1,000 and the other who will sign for $250,000. If it takes the $250,000 player in the sixth round and the $1,000 player in the 11th, $250,000 counts against the budget. But reverse those two picks and only $150,000 counts against the pool.
The Cardinals obliged the rules picking hard signs with their 11th and 12th round selections in Trey Williams (BA #99) and Max Foody (BA #349) knowing that their would be no harm if they were unable to sign them.
On the exterior the Cardinals draft looks strange. Their picks seemed to be all over the map, but with the new draft rules, their is a huge importance on the dirty word of “signability”, especially among the top 10 rounds. Every team knows the bonus demand of every player they target and they have to orchestrate the draft and the bonuses required like a puzzle. Unfortunately, this puzzle is only starting to become visual for fans like us. But after researching the draft, the Cardinals did exactly what they had to do with the bonus pool and the rules provided. The draft is not sequential. The Cardinals probably knew who they were going to pick in round 11 and 12 and knew they were going to pick Kelly in round 2, so they had to save money earlier. The MLB draft is different than any other draft in that way.
The good thing about the new draft rules is that with the public bonus pools, we can keep track of the Cardinals bonus pool here at Baseball America and how they are doing (currently up $764,400) and we will be able to see whether or not the Cardinals have enough money in their pool to sign the players left unsigned. Right now, they look like they are in good shape, but the big ticket players will not fall into place until later in the signing period.
The moral of the story is that the 2011 draft was not a very good one for talent, especially as low as the Cardinals were picking in the 1st round, consequently, the Cardinals picked who they needed to in order to hold their bonuses within the restrictive cap. I had a few nitpicks, but now I have gone from hating the Cardinals draft to understanding it and with the development time required on each of these players, we are more than five years away from seeing how well the Cardinals actually did.