Believe it not, the 2018 MLB draft is just four weeks away, back in usual spot in the first week or June as opposed to a week later last year. This year, it runs from June 4 to 6, with the first two rounds on Monday night, the next eight rounds on Tuesday and concluding with the last 30 rounds on Wednesday.
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, Blue Jays/front office tendencies and miscellany (checking in mock drafts, Canadian content, etc)
- Last two weeks (May 21-June 3): overview of the options for the first round and somewhat beyond by groups (HS pitching, HS position players, college pitching, college position players), as well as drilling down into individual players that are possibilities for the first pick.
In the meantime, back in December I previewed how things were shaping up roughly six months out on the high school and college sides. As a general matter, what was the case then remains the case now, with the usual dynamic of college positions players having their stocks rise (Georgia catcher Joey Bart, Florida IF Jonathan India) and high school players falling with a lack of equivalent track record, especially on the pitching side.
One intriguing point is that for the first time since hard slotting was introduced in 2012, and really going back to 2010 with Bryce Harper, a player is cementing himself as a consensus 1st overall pick. Auburn RHP Casey Mize is having a dominant spring, with a 2.40 ERA and 104/7 K/BB ratio in 75 innings after a breakout sophomore season. And he’s doing in the crucible of the SEC, including a complete game, 15 strikeout outing this past Friday against Vanderbilt.
So assuming no hiccups over the next four weeks, that could make the very top of the draft interesting, as in the current system there’s o guarantees that the best player goes 1st overall. That’s especially the case now, as the slot values (more on that below) have been “flattened” at the top so there’s less of a difference between picks. That reduces the potential cost of sliding a few picks if a player won’t cut a deal, and also makes it easier for a team a few picks below to go overslot to land a player like Mize. Will Mize demand more than the first overall slot? Will the Tigers pay him, or cut a deal on a player they like to spend elsewhere? Will the Giants or Phillies or White Sox like him enough to engineer a fall to them?
As a result of finishing 76-86 last year, the Blue Jays are slotted 12th among the 30 teams in the draft order, as the first round order was undisturbed by offseason free agent signings. This is the highest the Jays will pick since 2014 when they had the 9th and 11th selections, used to draft Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost respectively. However, as a result of both inflation and the aforementioned slot “flattening” the slot allocation of $4,200,900 for the 12th dwarfs the previous high just under $3.1-million that Jays have had in the hard slot era (since 2012).
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 $7,982,100 is the 16th largest pool along the 30 teams, somewhat paradoxically putting them in worse position than in 2017 when they had 13th biggest pool of $8,231,000 due to the compensation pick for losing Edwin Encarnacion that offset being 10 spots lower in the order.
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 six drafts since this system was put in place with the 2012-16 Collective Bargaining Agreement). That would give the Jays another $399,105 to spend and bring their total spend without draconian penalties to $8,381,205. Or a penny less than that anyway.
The above draft pool also doesn’t count the portion of any bonus under $125,000 awarded to players chosen after the 10th round (anything above $125,000 counts towards the pool total).
Beyond Mize, the draft remains very, very wide open, with the general view being there’s not a lot of slam dunk impact talent, but the class is deep. This sets up reasonably well for the Jays, as while they won’t have the proverbial pick of the litter, there should be options on the board at 12 that would be similarly compelling if they were picking 5th or 6th or 7th. That is, the opportunity cost of being half a dozen spots higher than they are is lower than usual. Perhaps just as importantly, it should mean some interesting talent falls to them in the second round as well.