OK, any of you who know me know that I am a draft guy first and foremost, prospect guy second and ML analysis guy 3rd.
So let's start with an axiom that experts in the draft put out every time a draft pick is questioned by the fans:
"Teams like who they like".
OK, we get that. So THEY like who they like. But does that have to mean they should PAY the guys they like a lot more than what the consensus is on that guy's talent?
So, from that, here is my draft axiom: Like who you like but draft who you can sign with the intent of doing two things:
1. Not going over your draft budget so you don't have to pay a penalty and, potentially, use a first round pick in next year's draft.
2. Have enough left over from your draft budget after the first 10 rounds to sign a flyer or two in rounds 11-40.
There are three ways that teams usually handle the first 10 rounds.
1. Draft guys that you think will all sign at their slot value
2. Draft a few guys in the first 10 rounds (like college seniors) who will sign for peanuts ($1000) and then draft a combination of the best available guys and guys who will sign for slot in the remaining picks.
3. Draft a #1 pick who will sign for way below slot and use that money to sign other picks who will require above slot bonuses to sign.
When I look at these three scenarios, the only one I see that fits with the Indians first 10 rounds this year is #3...and only if their first round pick signs for much less than his slot or some of the better talents they drafted later sign for slot value.
Let's look over the picks and see where the money should be saved and spent.
Will Benson is a great prospect in the old scouting sense. He is tall, incredibly athletic, and a potential 5-tool guy. But he is a consensus supplemental first round pick, not a 14. They should be able to get him to sign for roughly $2.5 million, a savings of over $400,000 which can be used elsewhere but, for this kid, MUCH more than his current talent level and likelihood of making an impact at the ML level would dictate.
On the other hand Nolan Jones will probably require more than the $1.2 million that his draft spot is valued at to sign his pick. So Benson's extra money (and more) should go to Jones.
Logan Ice should get money about his draft level. Let's say they pay this defense-first college junior about $50,000 below slot and give that money to Jones.
Aaron Civale - This guy was drafted at slot 92 and was ranked about 200 in the country. I think they should be able to sign him for less than his slot, maybe $150,000 less.
So, if the above works out we have an additional $600,000 to give Jones, meaning his bonus would be about $2 million, which should be enough, I hope, to get him signed.
Civale is a 3rd round pick. For picks through the 3rd round you get a compensation pick next year if you fail to sign them. However, you lose their slot bonus from your budget this year. For rounds 4-10 if you fail to sign a guy you don't get a draft pick next year AND you lose their slot bonus from your budget this year.
Bieber was their 4th round pick. Like Civale he is a pitchability guy. He was rated lower than the 122 slot they will sign him at. In order to make this draft work for the Indians they will have to sign him for at least $100,000 less than what his slot is valued at. Why? Let's look at the rest of their class.
Conner Capel - In steps our first sleeper/flyer of the draft. By that I mean a guy who we got at a much lower slot than his talent would indicate. This is usually a sign that the guy wants a lot of money so let's figure he wants more than his #60 ranking would indicate. Maybe say $1.5 million. You can argue about the actual amount but clearly it appears the Indians will need more than his slot to sign Capel. I estimate we will likely need close to $750,000 more than slot to sign him. Normally when you have two guys like Capel and Jones taken this early in the draft, you draft a number of college seniors who sign for $1000 or so and you bank their bonus money. However, the Indians drafted ZERO college seniors in the first 10 rounds. So, on paper, they have no guys who they can sign for peanuts like they can college seniors. So, I think they will be nickel and diming savings on the remaining top 10 round guys. Let's see where that money is coming from
Ulysses Cantu - Here is a guy who was a top 60 guy this winter and fell to the mid 200s. So, to sign him we save no money. In fact, Bieber's $100,000 and more will have to go to sign Cantu, IMHO. So now we are two picks down from Capel and have saved no money for his bonus, and are actually $100,000 in the red towards more bonus money for him.
Michael Tinsley was drafted at slot 212 and was a 294 ranked player. In my opinion this is just a guy who the Indians liked a little more than his slot. There is no savings here.
Andrew Lantrip - Here is a guy who was a top 140 guy this winter but his ranking fell to 422 and we tapped him at 242. Maybe we save $100,000 here vs slot, but probably will save less than $50,000.
So now we are down to our last two picks in the top 10 rounds, the only picks left in this draft where you can save money you can spend on other picks. How much money can we save here?
Well, Hosea Nelson is a second year junior college guy. He can go to college for his junior year and hope to get drafted higher next year. He has options so getting him to sign for peanuts will be difficult and, at this point, his draft slot is valued so low (around $200,000) that there is not much savings there. Let's say we can save $50,000 on him as he does have leverage to go back to school and his slot is not that high.
Samad Taylor is a HS kid who was not ranked in BA's top 500. High school kids drafted in the top 10 rounds usually require at least slot money to sign. You just can't get a kid who has a college scholarship to a good college (Arizona) in hand to sign for $150,000 or so unless he REALLY doesn't want to go to college and, in that case, he will likely NOT sign for below slot.
Summary - I think the way this draft breaks down we don't have enough money to sign Jones and Capel unless they both sign for slot. Ditto for Cantu (over slot a little) and Taylor (at least at slot). Plus, we won't have any money left in later rounds to pay HS players who fell during the draft any more than $100,000, meaning almost none of them will sign.
I really hope the Indians know what they are doing. To the pundits with the axiom "Teams like who they like" I say this. While that is true you have to be able to sign who you like. If the Indians can sign Benson, Jones and Capel and not get into draft tax hell, I think this is a good, solid draft for them. If, in fact, they lose one of the three of these guys and do not have a backup plan in later rounds because they haven't saved enough money because they didn't draft any college seniors early, this draft is going to be lacking in talent.
One of the most interesting drafts in years for the Indians. They don't really need another outfielder but Benson is EXACTLY the type of high risk, high reward prospect that, if he hits, will make this draft. The Indians do need catching depth in the minors but do you spend full slot bonuses on medium prospect college catchers in the top 10 rounds? The Indians have rarely done this so it is interesting they drafted a college catcher not only once but twice in the top 10 rounds this year. They have drafted very little top pitching talent this year and, looking at the draft reviews, maybe drafted three future pro middle relievers in their 3 college pitchers drafted in the top 10 rounds? Historically the Indians have not settled for pitchability college guys in their picks in the first 10 rounds so it is interesting they did it this year. Plus not drafting a college senior in the top 10 rounds while not being unheard of is a dangerous way to go if you don't know some of your 5-10 round guys will sign for MUCH less than their slot. We'll see how it all turns out. We are Indians' fans. We always hope for the best.
On to day 3.