The MLB Draft is less than a week away, and I’ve been silently geeking out about it and planning all sorts of features around it. However, a couple of tweets and emails were sent to me that made me realize that not everyone is silently geeking out about it. There are, in fact, some people who are confused by the whole process.
I can help with that! Probably. No guarantees. And never forget that this is all free.
But I’ve cobbled together an FAQ for the uninitiated. It’s not going to be exhaustive, but it’ll at least give some draft-curious folks a better foundation for the coming week.
What is the MLB Draft, and why should I care?
The Major League Baseball Rule 4 Draft will begin on June 12, with the first two rounds (and the Competitive Balance rounds). The second day will feature rounds 3 through 10, and rounds 11-40 will take place on June 14, the final day.
You should care because you’re a Giants fan, and these suckers make championship teams out of thin air, apparently. Every member of the infield was a notable draftee when Christian Arroyo was starting, and Madison Bumgarner was a first-round pick.
How do the picks work?
The order is based on the record of the previous season, with the worst teams from 2016 getting the first crack at the best players. Teams can lose their draft picks when they sign a premium free agent — i.e. one who was extended a qualifying offer by his previous team, which gives the player an option to stick around for a year for a salary that matches the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball.
The Giants got to keep their pick because Mark Melancon was traded in July of last year, which meant the Nationals were prevented from extending the qualifying offer.
After the first round, there are compensatory picks that are awarded to the teams that lost their premium free agents. Gregor Blanco was not one of those free agents, so the Giants will not have one of these.
In addition, MLB has introduced a hamfisted and silly system in which “small-market” teams qualify for competitive-balance picks that were shoehorned between the first and second rounds, as well as between the second and third rounds. The Cardinals were supposed to have one this year before losing it to the Great Astros Hacking, and the Marlins regularly have one, despite playing in a publicly funded ballpark and a huge market.
Where are the Giants drafting?
They will have the 19th pick.
Is that good?
It’s not bad! Generally, stars are much likelier to be found in the first five picks of a draft, and there’s a high degree of variance with expected success, even in the first round. About a quarter to a third of players picked between #19 and the end of the first round become regular contributors to a lineup, rotation, or bullpen.
Roger Clemens was picked 19th, for example. So was Bobby Grich. Both of them should be in the Hall of Fame, so it’s possible to turn the pick into gold.
The last time the Giants had it, they drafted Tony Torcato.
Wait, but the odds are against the selected player ever becoming a regular contributor?
The player himself? Yes. The odds are against whomever the Giants draft. Most draft picks don’t make much of a difference in the majors, even in the middle or back of the first round.
On the other hand, Phil Bickford made a difference with the 2016 Giants. Just indirectly. The same can be said for Zack Wheeler and the 2011 Giants. If the Giants wanted to trade Christian Arroyo for Ian Kennedy right now, they could*. While draft picks are supposed to provide future players for the franchise that drafts them, they’re also the de facto currency of the trade market.
*They should not do this.
Can the Giants trade up to get a better pick?
No. MLB used to be worried about owners like Charles Finley ditching their draft picks to save money, so they have never allowed draft trades.
The league has changed since the ‘70s, and they should definitely change the rules to bring more excitement to the draft (and give teams another weapon when they’re forced to rebuild.) As of now, though, there are no draft trades.
How much money do the Giants have to spend?
The Giants will spend about $3.1 million on their first-round pick and $6.4 million total. You can find a full breakdown here.
Note that in the good ol’ days, a team like the Giants could draft high school kids who were planning to play college ball, then shovel millions to keep them away from college. The new system discourages that and makes it nearly impossible.
So it’s possible for the Giants to draft a player who won’t sign a contract?
It sure is. In recent years, the Giants have targeted pitchers who wouldn’t sign with the Blue Jays out of high school (Tyler Beede, Phil Bickford), though that was likely a coincidence.
There was talk that the Rays were spooked away from Buster Posey because of a reported $8 million demand and his willingness to leverage his remaining year of college eligibility.
College players can also refuse to sign and leverage their remaining year, seeing as most draft prospects are finishing their junior years. But seniors have zero leverage when they’re drafted, and they almost always sign for whatever the league’s recommendation is because they have no choice.
Is it better to draft a high school player or college player?
Boy, people used to have opinions on this one. If you re-read Moneyball, you’ll notice that the heroes were particularly fascinated with college players because of the statistical paper trail they left.
My favorite part of Moneyball is the part with Matt Cain. pic.twitter.com/CwVe9MOioS— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) August 10, 2016
Currently, though, there is no consensus. People were livid — livid! — when the Giants took a high school pitcher out of North Carolina instead of Beau Mills, a polished hitter out of Lewis & Clark State.
Mills never made the majors. Madison Bumgarner did. There’s no hard and fast rule that works with this stuff.
Except this one: “High school catchers can be weird, so be careful.” We can all agree with that one.
What’s the strength of their minor league system right now?
You’ll never believe it, but it’s the outfield. Between Bryan Reynolds, Gio Brusa, Heath Quinn, Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Ryder Jones, and Austin Slater, the Giants actually have a shot to develop their first outfield All-Star since Chili Davis, who was drafted a couple months after Star Wars came out.
Does that matter?
Absolutely not. Teams should not draft for need. Remember that people were wondering why the Giants would draft Buster Posey when Pablo Sandoval was the catcher of the future. Baseball comes at you fast.
How have the Giants done in recent drafts?
That depends on how recent you’re talking about. If you’re wondering about last year’s, we have no idea. The early returns are promising, considering the Giants didn’t have a first-round pick.
Really, it’s almost impossible to judge a draft until several years after it happens. The 2011 Draft yielded Joe Panik, who contributed to a championship team, so it was already success. But it could also yield a closer of the future in Kyle Crick, as well as current members of the bullpen. If you factor in Andrew Susac bringing over Will Smith, it’s possible that more than half the 2018 bullpen might have come from a single draft.
But it’s still possible that Joe Panik’s 2014 contributions will be the only lasting legacy of the draft. And, again, that’s a draft from six years ago. When it comes to the drafts we can judge unambiguously, the Giants have been incredible. They drafted Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford on the same day in 2008, for example.
Who are the players the Giants have been connected to?
MLB.com and Keith Law both think Evan White, a right-handed first baseman, makes sense. Baseball America suggests college shortstop Logan Warmoth in one mock, but I’ve also heard all three sources bring up the name of Luis Campusano-Bracero, a high school catcher.
I have decided to root for Warmoth because I found this picture:
Which is all I need.
But there are all sorts of pitchers and hitters who could tickle the Giants. Jake Burger has the kind of power the organization is looking for — it’s rare to medium-rare for a Giants prospect to have this kind of power — but I could see them going for a hard-throwing left-hander (David Peterson out of Oregon), a toolsy outfielder (Jeren Kendall, Vanderbilt), or a safer, projectable college right-hander (Tanner Houck, Missouri).
Or a high school lefty.
Or a high school outfielder.
Or a middle infielder.
Like, they might take any of these guys.
Whomever they take, though, will immediately become one of the very best prospects in the organization, so they should probably avoid screwing this up. That’s an evergreen sentiment. But it’s especially true as the major league team circles around the bowl clockwise.
Hopefully this helped some of you, and if you have more questions for me to include, please leave them below. I’ll see you on Monday, when the future of the franchise is at stake. No biggie.