The draft is just three weeks away, and we'll have an avalanche of preview material both now and then. We unveiled our initial first-round projection on Friday and we'll have three more in the future: May 25, June 1 and early on the morning of June 4. With less certainty than usual and new rules, the first round promises to be more volatile than ever, so stay tuned.
Giolito is the biggest wild card in the draft right now. The Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.) product entered the year with a chance to become the first prep righthander ever drafted No. 1 overall. Giolito hit 100 mph with his fastball in late February, then sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow a week later. Now his health and signability are significant worries.
Giolito hasn't required surgery, though some teams wonder if he might down the line. He began throwing off flat ground two months after getting hurt, but he isn't expected to return to game action and it's unknown when or if he'll be able to throw a bullpen workout before the draft. Giolito was in line to command a bonus of $5 million or more, and clubs don't sense that he'll now come with a drastically reduced asking price.
"His dad says he will throw before the draft and they'll give everyone the medical report," one scouting director says. "But is he going to be tough to sign, or do they realize how fragile this all is?"
If a team drafts Giolito in the first three rounds and doesn't sign him, it will get a compensation pick in 2013 (the choice after the corresponding selection if he goes in the first two rounds, or a supplemental third-rounder if he's taken in the third round). But the club won't get to reallocate Giolito's assigned pick value as part of its bonus money in the first 10 rounds. That money just disappears.
Giolito's upside makes him worth gambling on, but a team won't have its cake (a compensation pick for him) and eat it too (the ability to spend his money elsewhere). Don't forget that a club looking to pay him will have to shuffle cash from other picks, weakening the rest of its draft. If he doesn't sign, that team doesn't get a do-over on its other selections.
As I mentioned in our initial first-round projection, a team with extra picks (like the Blue Jays, with five of the first 60 selections) makes the most sense for Giolito. With all the uncertainty, it's still too early to know which club(s) might bite.
Since he signed with the Braves for $1.375 million as the 24th overall pick in the 2006 draft, Johnson has been able to drive the ball farther than most minor leaguers . . . when he connects. And connecting has been the problem. He has a long uppercut stroke, and Atlanta gave up on him after watching him hit .243/.320/.476 with 629 strikeouts in 456 games over his first five pro seasons.
The Yankees purchased Johnson from the Braves in November 2010. In his first season with his new organization, he led the minors with 194 strikeouts and batted .257/.312/.472 between high Class A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. In his third shot at Double-A, he's hitting .280/.361/.542 this spring. He's still swinging and missing a lot, with 40 whiffs in 31 games, but he has drawn 15 walks.
I'm going to have to see a full season of this kind of performance before I start buying into Johnson. One month isn't going to counteract six previous seasons, and I still see him as someone who's great in a home run derby but would struggle to handle quality pitching at the major league level.
Under the draft rules introduced in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams now have an assigned bonus pool for its picks in the first 10 rounds, based on the sum of predetermined values for each of those selections. Clubs that exceed their pools face penalties in the form of taxes on the overage and the loss of draft picks. Specifically, exceeding a pool by up to 5 percent results in a 75 percent tax on the overage; from 5 to up to 10 percent results in the 75 percent tax and the loss of a first-round pick; from 10 to up to 15 percent results in a 100 percent tax and the lost of first- and second-rounders; and by 15 percent or more results in the 100 percent tax and the loss of two-first-rounders.
All taxes and draft picks collected as penalties will be redistributed among teams that don't exceed their pools. I'll be shocked if any club purposely relinquishes a draft pick, but there should be a few million in tax proceeds.