As much as the draft has dominated my life for the last two weeks or so, Stony Brook's run to the College World Series captivated me. To win a regional at Miami would have been an impressive accomplishment in and of itself, and then the Seawolves thoroughly dominated a super-regional at Louisiana State.
Aaron Fitt noted last summer that Stony Brook players were starring in the Cape Cod League, and that turned out to be a preview of coming attractions. The Seawolves are the most improbable team to make it to Omaha since The Citadel in 1990.
Two distinct differences between those teams jump out at me. First, under the old playoff format with six-team regionals and no super-regionals, the Bulldogs only had to be at their best for one weekend rather than two to advance to the CWS. Second, the Citadel didn't include a single player who would be drafted before the 15th round. This Stony Brook team is more talented and had five players selected in the first 12 rounds last week: outfielder Travis Jankowski (sandwich round, Padres), catcher Pat Cantwell (third, Rangers), second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum (11th, Padres), third baseman William Carmona (11th, Phillies) and righthander James Campbell (12th, Dodgers).
Now we'll see if Stony Brook's magic can continue in Omaha. Twenty-two years ago, The Citadel managed to pull out a victory at the CWS, outlasting Cal State Fullerton 8-7 in a 12-inning contest.
. . . And now, back to the draft. A number of you have asked where you can find bonus information on our website. In the past, we had a basic draft database and reported bonuses in an advanced database available only to subscribers.
This year, we have one database. Once you sort by team, round, name or state, subscribers can click the binoculars next to a player's name to get his scouting report and bonus info. Click the [+All] link in the blue header bar, and you can see those details for all of the players on that list.
Want to track how your team is managing its draft bonus pool? You can do that instantly by going here.
With all the whirlwind of draft activity and then an immediate flurry of signings, I neglected Ask BA last week. I'll make it up to you this time around by answering five questions instead of the usual three. Let's get to them.
Actually, I'm going to go with the Pirates. While most of us draft prognosticators thought the Astros would select Stanford righthander Mark Appel with the No. 1 overall pick, he didn't stand head and shoulders above this draft class. In our revised Top 50 rankings for the MLB Network draft broadcast, Appel came in at No. 3 behind Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton and Puerto Rico prep shortstop Carlos Correa.
Additionally, there are new rules this year imposing strict draft-pick penalties for exceeding assigned bonus pools in the first 10 rounds. Those pools are determined by totaling individual pick values, and teams believed the numbers in the first round were higher than the worth of the players selected there. So many clubs looked to sign their first-rounders below pick value so they could use the savings to create opportunities to draft talented players elsewhere in the first 10 rounds.
It wasn't a surprise that Appel (advised by the Boras Corp.) wouldn't cut a deal. When that happened, it wasn't especially stunning that the Astros passed on him to take Correa. The shocker was that the Pirates selected Appel at No. 8.
I thought the Orioles and Royals, both of whom wanted college pitching, might take Appel at Nos. 4 and 5. When they went with Louisiana State's Kevin Gausman and San Francisco's Kyle Zimmer, I began to suspect the Nationals at No. 16 might be Appel's preferred destination. Washington GM Mike Rizzo and Scott Boras have negotiated several lucrative deals, including a total of $11 million in bonuses for three of the first 34 picks in last year's draft.
I didn't see the Pirates coming at all. They have a total of $6.6 million allocated for all of their picks in the first 10 rounds, which isn't even as much as the $7.2 million that the Astros were assigned for the No. 1 choice. Pittsburgh gambled on taking the best player on the board and hoping to find a way to sign him.
I don't see the Bucs forfeiting any draft choices to get it done. Pittsburgh could offer Appel $3.5 million to $4 million and tell him to take it or leave it. If he declines, the Pirates would get the No. 9 overall pick in next year's draft and could use the extra cash to sign Kentucky high school righthander Walker Buehler, a legitimate sandwich-round talent who slid to the 14th round because of his Vanderbilt commitment. Appel would have to return to Stanford or head to independent ball before re-entering the 2013 draft, in which he'd have less leverage.
I believe that's exactly what the Astros did. We may never know for sure, but I also get the sense that they valued Correa as much as they did Appel and Buxton. Because Correa would have gone at No. 6 to the Cubs or No. 7 to the Padres if he didn't go No. 1, Houston had the leverage to sign him for $4.8 million. That's more than Correa would have gotten at No. 6 or 7, and it also saved the Astros $2.4 million to spend elsewhere.
Houston can use some of that cash on McCullers, a mid-first-round talent who dropped all the way to No. 41 amid concerns that it might take $2.5 million or more to sign him. After closing a deal with McCullers, the Astros could have enough money left over to sign more high-priced players such as two California high schoolers, third baseman Rio Ruiz (fourth round) and lefthander Hunter Virant (11th).
I'm always a bit of an optimist on this, but I'd set the over/under at one. With the new rules, clubs wanted cost certainty in the first round. Before selecting a player, most teams made sure not only that he'd sign below pick value but also that he'd agree to a specific bonus.
I'd estimate that at least three-quarters of the first-round selections accepted a number from a team before they were drafted. Though it's a violation of draft rules to negotiate with a player before the draft, that didn't deter clubs. It's no coincidence that eight first-rounders signed within a week of getting picked. Last year, only two did.
There are just two first-rounders this year who I could envision turning down teams: Appel and California high school righthander Lucas Giolito (No. 16, Nationals). I discussed Appel in the first question above. In the end, it will make more sense for him to sign for $3.5 million to $4 million rather than delay his pro career (and eventual free agency) by a year while gambling he'll go in the top three or four picks in 2013.
Giolito projected as a likely top-three choice and had a chance to become the first prep righthander ever to go No. 1 overall before he sprained an elbow ligament in March. There's no indication that his bonus expectations have diminished since he got hurt.
Giolito has yet to pitch off a mound since he injured his elbow, and he's not going to have a clean bill of health before the July 13 deadline. The Nationals have just $4,436,200 in their bonus pool for the first 10 rounds, including $2,125,000 for his pick. By moving money around and going over budget to the threshold of incurring a draft-pick penalty, they could get in the neighborhood of $3 million for Giolito. If that's not enough, he figures to attend UCLA.
The tricky part of trying to put a value on Giolito is that he won't be 100 percent healthy before the signing deadline next month. The Nationals may believe he's on the road to a full recovery, but there still will be some risk involved.
As I mentioned above, Washington should be able to get to $3 million for Giolito without giving up a draft pick. Even if they were willing to surrender their 2013 first-rounder, that would allow the Nationals to add only another $220,000 to the ante. I don't see that amount making a huge difference to the Giolito camp.
If Giolito eventually gets back to where he was before he got hurt, then he's a steal with the 16th overall pick. At the same time, if I were running the Nationals, I wouldn't want to assume all of the risk. I'd be willing to pay Giolito as much as I could without giving up a first-round choice in 2013, and that's where I'd draw the line.
I love brand-new draftees as much as the next guy, but assuming everyone signs, I only see two who are locks to rank No. 1 for their teams in the 2013 Prospect Handbook. Correa, the No. 1 overall pick, should ascend to the top of the Astros system. Slugging Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins doesn't have much competition in a White Sox system we ranked as the game's worst entering the season.
Buxton, the No. 2 choice by the Twins, has to contend with Miguel Sano, who might be baseball's best power-hitting prospect now that Bryce Harper has graduated to the majors. At least Buxton can make a case for himself, which the Nos 3-6 selections will have a hard time doing.
Florida catcher Mike Zunino (Mariners) isn't better than Taijuan Walker or Danny Hultzen. Louisiana State righthander Kevin Gausman (Orioles) has to get in line behind Dylan Bundy and Manny Machado. San Francisco righty Kyle Zimmer (Royals) has no argument, unless maybe Wil Myers gets promoted to Kansas City. Florida prep outfielder Albert Almora (Cubs) will take a back seat to $30 million Cuban defector Jorge Soler.
There are five other 2012 draftees who could be in the discussion of their club's top prospect: California high school lefthander Max Fried (Padres), Giolito (Nationals), North Carolina prep third baseman Corey Seager (Dodgers), Mississippi State righthander Chris Stratton (Giants) and California high school righty Shane Watson (Phillies).