Though it may seem like the 2017 season just got going, with the calendar having flipped to May and its second week now upon us, it can only mean one thing for diehard baseball fans: it's time to start thinking about the MLB draft. The 2017 MLB draft is just five weeks away, running from June 12th-14th, with the first two rounds on Monday night, the next eight rounds on Tuesday and concluding with the last 30 rounds on Wednesday.
With the Blue Jays struggling over the first five weeks and potentially facing the reality of a rebuilding/reloading phase, the draft takes on added significance this year. Here is a brief overview and timeline for what can be expected in terms of draft preview content here at BBB, all of which will be collected in a Storystream on the front page:
- Week 1 (this week): an overview of the farm system as it stands going into the draft, looking over the organizational depth charts
- Week 2 (next week): review of recent drafts and takeaways.
- Week 3: review of Blue Jays/front office tendencies and miscellany (checking in mock drafts, Canadian content, etc)
- Last two weeks (May 29-June 10): profiles of the options for the first couple rounds by groups (HS pitching, HS position players, college pitching, college position players)
This year will also be interesting since not only will be only the second draft of the Shapiro/Atkins era, but its also the first draft for new Director of Amateur scouting Steve Sanders, replacing Brian Parker who was in charge of the previous four drafts. Sanders comes over from Boston's front office, joining VP of Baseball Operations Ben Cherington. The Red Sox have consistently had one of the more productive farm systems in baseball in recent years.
As a result of finishing 89-73 last year, the Blue Jays are slotted 24th among the 30 teams in the draft order, however as a result of picks forfeited by teams above them, their first round pick is 22nd overall. As compensation for losing Edwin Encarnacion, they will also have the 28th overall pick at the conclusion of the first round and before the competitive balance round. After that, they don't pick again until the 61st overall pick towards the end of the second round.
The MLB draft was largely untouched by the new collective agreement, leaving in place the slotting system of putting a hard dollar figure on each pick that result in a team's overall bonus pool, with escalating penalties for exceeding the draft pool. One modification was flattening the slot allocations, reducing them at the very top of the draft and increasing them in the rest of the first round, which actually works to the Jays advantage (for more, see this from Baseball America). Last year, their 21st overall pick had a slot of just under $2.3-million. This year, the 22nd overall pick is closer to $2.8-million.
Here is a breakdown of the Blue Jays draft pool by pick and slot (via Jim Callis of MLB.com):
The total draft pool of $8,231,000 is the 13th largest pool along the 30 teams, which is an improvement on the 20th largest pool last year. Most of that is the extra pick for Encarnacion, offset by not having the extra second round pick they had last year.
MLB teams can spend up to 5% beyond their pool while only paying a 75% tax on the overage (no team has gone beyond 5% over in the four drafts since this system was put in place with the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement). That would give the Jays another $411,550 to spend and bring their total spend without draconian penalties to $8,642,550. That also doesn't count the portion of any bonus under $100,000 awarded to players chosen after the 10th round that doesn't count towards the pool (anything above that counts towards the pool total).
Overall, the 2017 Draft sets up reasonably well for the Jays. It's not considered a historically great draft class, like for example the 2011 class, however it is considered deep with stronger than normal depth in college pitching in particular. That should work to the advantage of a team like the Jays that lacks elite picks, but has a pair of them in the 20s.