Prior to the 2012 Draft, MLB instituted a new policy in how it handled the signing of amateur players selected in the June affair. With these new rules in place, it was hard to determine what the best strategy to employ was going to be. My preference would be to go above the slot recommendation with your top two picks and look to make up the difference later. In his first two drafts, Sandy Alderson went in the exact opposite direction.
The good news is that it appears Alderson has decided to zig where he previously zagged in the recently-completed 2014 Draft. The Mets had nine picks in the first 10 rounds and eight of those nine have signed. The only player not to ink a contract from the top 10 is first-round pick Michael Conforto. And currently the Mets are $317,500 under slot with their draft allotment.
Now, this does not guarantee that all of the excess will go to Conforto. The past two seasons the Mets have given six-figure above-slot deals to players drafted outside the top 10 rounds – where all players are assigned $100,000 salaries. The kicker is you don’t accrue money for your pool if you go under on these guys, but any excess counts against your budget.
Additionally, the Mets have finished under the draft allotment the previous two years. Last year they were $82,600 under their pool and in the first year of the new system, they were $185,600 beneath their total. Teams are taxed 75% for money they go over their allotment. Additionally, if they go more than 5% over their total, they would be subject to losing future draft picks. According to Chris Walendin, who provided all of the signing bonuses used in this piece, no club has yet to lose a draft pick.
The following two charts show who the Mets have gone over and under slot in the three years that this system has been in place. They are listed in descending order above/below slot recommendations. Let’s start with the ones who the Mets paid extra to get:
In 2012, Alderson went under slot on his first seven picks (they had a supplemental first rounder) and last year he went under on his first five (they had two selections in the third). We can see a difference in his drafting philosophy already, as he’s gone over slot with his third-round pick and all signs point to going over with the top pick, too.
Now, let’s take a look at the players who signed for fewer dollars than slot:
It’s certainly nice to see top prospects like Smith and Plawecki on this list. It also includes All-Stars Mazzilli and Reynolds. So at first glance it would seem the Mets did a good job selecting players to “go cheap” with in this process. Of course, that’s only one side of the coin. How did they do for the players they went extra on?
Flexen is the best of these premium picks so far. He dominated last year in the APPY and after a slow start has been performing better in the SAL. But Bashlor was underwhelming last year in the APPY and he’s back in short-season ball this year. Oswalt is back for his second stint in the APPY after posting an 8.15 ERA last year. Oberste had a .532 OPS last year in Brooklyn and has not been much better this year in Savannah. King has a solid .746 as a 22 year old in Savannah. Nido is back for his second stint in Brooklyn. Herrmann had a 9.60 ERA last year in the GULF and will be with another short-season club this year.
It’s too early to make any definitive statements but the returns so far with the players they spent extra on have been less than ideal. Of course, Flexen was underwhelming his first year in the APPY, as he put up a 5.62 ERA in his debut year in pro ball. The difference there was that he was performing as a 17 year old.and was one of the youngest players in the league.
We will have to keep tabs on all of these players as we move forward. But it’s a good sign to me that the Mets decided to pay more for players at the top of the draft this year. You’re much more likely to get a player who makes the majors in the first few rounds so it seems sensible to spend extra money there.
Keith Law has gone so far as to claim Conforto as the top prospect in the system. Now all we have to do is sign him.