One of the things I learned in researching for this blog post is that every team can over spend by 5% of their budget before the penalties really kick in (start losing draft picks). So the Giants over slot for Shilo McCall does not necessarily impact any other selection, as his was only about $75,000 over. And the biggest one, Stratton, was exactly for slot. And the BA Draft Pool calculator currently says the Giants appears to have signed all of their 22 draft picks for slot so far, except for Shilo, as his deal represents how much they are over right now. With a 75% penalty, that adds on $55,800 to the cost of signing Shilo, which would mean that the Giants, if they get everyone else for slot, basically paid the same amount for Shilo as they had offered to McCasland.
Shouldn't Things Even Out
A lot of people are lauding the fact that some teams drafted seniors to clear up assigned bonus space in order to draft and sign high school players in the early teen rounds and denigrating the Giants for not following a similar strategy.
What I don't get is shouldn't the talent even out? Because these other teams are drafting seniors in the late single digit rounds who would never be drafted that early otherwise, they are missing out on talent that are being drafted then in those rounds. They would have to be under by a lot of picks to build up to a conceivably better high school player. But assuming that all teams are paying at the same rate for talent, this should mean that as long as a team is at or under their allotted budget, they are buying the same amount of talent. Even accounting for the extra $100K that a post-10th round pick gets "free", that is not much upside on even the Giants low $4.1M slotted budget. Four such H.S. picks gets you $400K extra spending, only 10% over for the Giants, much less for other teams with higher slotted draft budgets.
So far, I'm seeing teams sign players mostly for slot value, but there are a number of them over already, and just a few under, saving maybe $25-50,000 per pick. I suppose once the seniors bonuses come out, they will be much less, but I don't see how this strategy yields much for the effort put into it.
One of the contentions was that the Giants are entering an era of lowered spending (i.e. being cheap), akin to the pre-Neukom Magowan era. However, the Giants, to my mind, has never really been cheap, in terms of the draft, except for the years it punted draft picks, for which I blamed Magowan. In my research of the early 2000's, I found that except for one season (I believe it was the year Linden was drafted), the bonuses paid were always in line with the five picks before and after, excluding outliers where a team might have paid way overslot for a prospect. Futhermore, when it came to their top picks, they typically paid overslot to them.
Baseball America released some stats on spending on-line. In one, they ranked by size the total spending on bonuses from 2007-11, covering 5 years. The Giants spent $33.2M, which ranked them 13th. And the top 3 are up there (Pirates, Nats, Royals) because they have had to pay some very expensive bonuses to get their #1 overall (or top 5) draft picks signed. While the Giants averaged $6.6M per year spending on bonuses, compared to #4 Red Sox who spent $8.8M. But they were an anomaly in that they did devote more money to the draft (of course, it helps that they pull in probably $100M more in revenues than the average team), Compared to #5 Orioles and #6 Rays ($8.2M and $8.1M), they were within $1.5M. Plus the Giants spent more than $2M apiece on Villalona and RafRod in that period too.
So while not one of the high spenders, they certainly weren't one of the bottom feeders (White Sox averaged $3.7M and was less by a wide margin; if they were above by the same margin, they would jump from 30th to 22nd, and $116,000 more would put them into 20th.).
In 2011, when they got a back of first round draft pick and only one supplemental, they were 17th in the majors, but in a big middle where they could jump to 14th by spending $500K more, roughly. Still, they were generous for the most part with their picks:
- Panik: slot $1,116,000; signed for same
- Crick: slot $717,300; signed for $900,000, over by $182,700 or 25%
- Susac: slot $411,300; signed for $1,100,000, over by $688,700 or 167%
- Oropesa: slot $258,300; signed for $550,000, over by $291,700 or 113%
Now, of course, the Giants could not spend over if they wanted to. But did they go further and punt this draft?
High School Does Not Equal Better
One contention has been that the Giants blew it by not drafting high school players in rounds 11-20 when other teams were. So I decided to dig into the high school class draftees starting with round 11. I just don't get it.
What was pointed out to me was that teams were drafting BA top ranked players who fell past the 10th round early in the teen round, and thus picking up better draft pick than had they drafted them in the single digit rounds. And they were right, there were a lot more seniors drafted in these rounds than before, but were they the steals everyone paints them out to be? Not if you go by BA's Top 500 rankings.
In round 11, out of 10 high school players drafted, only four of them were ranked on BA's Top 500 list (which basically covers picks to round 14-15). That means six of them were players that BA thought should not be drafted in round 11, a huge overdraft. Out of the remaining four, only two of them were Top 100 prospects (with expected slot bonuses based on BA rank of $954,800 and $481,100). Out of the remaining two, one was basically right there (drafted 341; ranked 370) and the other was a pick up of an earlier talent, but he was ranked 291 (roughly 8-9th round talent) so getting him in the 11th round isn't that big a win for any team. And he was slotted for $127,600 and signed for $125,000, so the D-backs now are overslot by $25,000 instead of right around slot.
In round 12, out of 13 high school players draft, only five of them were ranked on BA's Top 500 list. That means that eight of them were players that BA thought should not be drafted in round 12. Out of the remaining five, none of them were Top 100 talent. The highest was 162 (drafted #373; roughly round 4 level) with a slot of $262,000, which means that team theoretically should go over slot by $162,000 in order to sign him. The next was 203 (drafted #385; roughly round 5 level) with a slot of $176,000 (or $76,000 over). The other three were around where they should have been or was overdrafted. #336 was selected with pick #389, #344 was selected with pick #390, and #489 was selected with pick #392 (basically three rounds ahead). In other words, BA thought that they should be no more than $100K anyway.
Where is the plundering by these teams? I see maybe two actual steals (the two Top 100) that could not have happened earlier and thus this strategy did work for them. But for the rest, they were for high school players who should have been drafted right around where they were suppose to be anyway. And for the two OK deals (ranks 162 and 203), by waiting until then to draft them, now they have to pay overslot to get them, theoretically (if their pay was determined by BA's ranking).
Meanwhile, the teams that did not draft cheap seniors get the pick of the players sitting around not getting picked by these teams that are punting picks in rounds 6-10.
Also, studies of the draft (BP did one long ago, and Baseball Analysts did one a few years back) found that the value return from college players are much higher than that for high school players, up to 40% better value, and that seems to hold even for picks far in the back of the draft.
Maybe I'm just too dense, but I don't see how this strategy works of punting picks in the high single digit rounds in order to draft high school players who fell in the draft because their monetary demands had outstripped the slots at some point. I had suspected that there were few of these actual HS prospects but my research was so eye-opening, at least to me. And I see the budget as a zero sum game, so unless you can bundle a bunch of these under-slot senior deals into a $1M prospect in rounds 11-20, I think things just evens out and you hadn't really accomplished much with your draft.
As we can see in rounds 11 and 12, it worked like this for exactly two teams, and one happened with the very first pick of the 10th round when Hunter Virant was drafted, and the other late in the 10th round when Trey Williams was drafted. There were two others selected way after they should have been, based on rank, but they could have been actually drafted in the mid-single digits rounds for roughly the same amount and not count against your slot budget, as they do now, so I count those as even at best (if the pick they punted covers the overslot) and poor if they end up going over slot budget.
For the other 18 high school players, BA's Top 500 ranking suggests that they were huge overdrafts for the most part, though there were four who were basically ranked where they were selected (if I give a wide range). And I cannot imagine that there were more of these hidden nuggets left to draft in rounds 13 and later, it had already dried up before round 12 began.
Furthermore, sabermetric studies of the draft has found that "College players are a better bet than high school players, although this advantage has decreased through the years." So these teams are bucking sabermetric evidence that high school players return less value, as well as bucking BA's Top 500 ranking that these players should not even be selected in these rounds. In other words, they better know what they are doing if they are going to draft high school players.
Now, one could argue that the Giants did not take advantage of these available players in rounds 6-10. There was only one high school player drafted in that range, and another complaint was that many of them were relievers, of which we have an abundance. I don't know prospects well enough to make a judgement on that. But even the draftniks I talked with did not bother to tell me why the players the Giants drafted were not interesting talent, basically it was accepted that the prospects the Giants drafted were not good, and that's that, move on.
Personally, I have nothing against drafting relievers. People forget that Russ Ortiz was a college closer who they used as a reliever until they decided that he should be starting and he was able to make the conversion. And if the reliever is close to being a major league pitcher, even if only as a middle reliever, that is still more value than most draft picks ever return to their team, the vast, vast majority of them never make the majors and a large portion of the ones making the majors get no more than a cup of coffee in the majors before returning to the minors.
As long as the Giants think that they can do something with the pitcher that can be valuable, I'm all for it because the odds of any of these players contributing anything at the major league level is very low. There is nobody with the consistent ability to identify talent that will become a good player in the majors once you get out of the early parts of draft. And really, the odds probably gets bad as soon as the back of the first round of the draft, based on the percentages I've found in my studies of the draft.
However, the Giants player personnel department appears to know pitching pretty well. So given their success so far in rebuilding the Giants - look at how young the team is today, and how young it has been getting with each successive season - I am more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. And as long as Stratton or Agosta turn out to be valuable pitchers for us, I would count this draft as a good draft, it simply is not that easy to find players via the draft, so you have to celebrate the successes, don't get your dauber down with the large failure rate, and keep on plugging away by investing in it.
If these people are right and the Giants are being cheap going forward, then shame on the owners, this would convince me more than ever that we need new, deeper pocketed owners. But if it is a one year blip, or not even that, I'm not going to sweat it. Anytime you can add a prospect who is a college pitcher who looks like he can be a #2 starter for you, that is a big win to me.
This is like the time where the Giants had a choice: buy a bunch of mediocrities and hope for the best or buy Vlad and figure out the rest along way. They should have went for excellence. Instead they gathered a bunch of mediocrities. After looking at the analysis of the 11th and 12th rounds, I don't see any excellence there, only mediocrities, and the Giants following this strategy of drafting seniors 6-10 to pay more for 11-20 would have been a play for mediocrity.
Maybe the Giants could have done more in the latter stages of the draft. With a #2 starter in your pocket, that's like working like mad to try to get your 99 class grade in school to 100. If the Giants wanted to put that effort in, fine, but I am not holding it against them for taking the apparently easier route either, and I'm certainly not giving this overall draft a C or below grade just because of it. A Stratton has to be considered an A grade, no matter what else happens in the draft, in my opinion, as always.
I think the Giants have bigger fish to fry, like how are we going to get Belt, Brown, Panik, and Hembree untracked and going good again. That's more important than using fancy draft tricks so that you can draft high school lplayers that BA did not even rank in their Top 500. Given what I found above, these teams obviously think that these high school players are worth more than what BA thought they were, by a large margin. But I suspect that there will be few $1M bonus babies here, only couple of hundred thousands, which I don't think was worth all the machinations gone through just to get them. Most teams could have drafted that one high school player earlier and gone over by the 5% max, pay the penalty and be done with it.