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2017 MLB Draft: High School Draft Picks Analysis

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How did teams do signing their high school draft picks? Who left money on the table that should've been used to sign prep draftees?

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins - Game Two Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Last year, I did a review of each team’s success in signing their high school draft picks in the MLB Draft. I wanted to revisit that this year now that the 2017 MLB Draft signing deadline has passed.

Last year, teams set a record by signing all but two picks in the top ten rounds, or 98.6% of all top ten round picks. Pittsburgh Pirates first round pick Nick Lodolo was the highest pick that didn’t sign, and after a decent freshman season at TCU, he looks to be on track to be a first round pick again in 2019.

The other unsigned pick was Tyler Buffet, who could have pushed for about $200,000 from the Houston Astros, but instead decided to return for his senior season at Oklahoma State. After a rough year as a starter, he was picked in the sixth round by the Cincinnati Reds and signed for $70,000 - a lot for a senior, but less than he would’ve received last year.

This year, there were three unsigned picks in the top ten rounds. The Tampa Bay Rays picked Drew Rasmussen in the supplemental first round, but he didn’t sign due to issues with his medicals. He will return to Oregon State as a redshirt junior next year with eyes on the first round in 2018.

The other two unsigned picks were prep pitchers. The Baltimore Orioles selected Jack Conlin in the first round, and could’ve offered him more than $1.2 million to sign, but they too were scared off by medical reports, and refused to offer any contract. Conlin is now an unrestricted free agent, who can sign with any team without limitations of draft pools. Or he could decide to go to Texas A&M.

The Los Angeles Angels picked Joseph “JoJo” Booker in the fifth round, and could’ve offered him up to $370,000 to sign. However, he chose to honor his commitment to South Alabama. This was in large part to his desire to continue playing with his long-time catcher and friend, Angels’s 15th round pick Hunter Brittain in college.

Six years into the new draft rules, it’s clear that teams, and prep players, understand the new system, and the limitations to not signing out of high school as a top ten round pick. In fact, teams, have gotten very good at signing prep players outside the top ten rounds, with a 52.1% sign rate for prep players picked in rounds 11-30 this year. There are still teams that are not utilizing the draft bonus pools to their full potential, however. Here are the results of this year’s draft.

2017 MLB Draft HS signings.csv

Team R 1-10 HS Signed R 11-20 HS Signed R 21-30 HS Signed R 31-40 HS Signed Total Total Signed % Signed Bonus Pool
Team R 1-10 HS Signed R 11-20 HS Signed R 21-30 HS Signed R 31-40 HS Signed Total Total Signed % Signed Bonus Pool
Baltimore Orioles 4 3 4 2 2 1 2 0 12 6 50.0% $835,285
Minnesota Twins 4 4 2 0 0 0 4 0 10 4 40.0% $774,235
Cincinnati Reds 4 4 3 1 3 0 8 1 18 6 33.3% $508,520
Miami Marlins 1 1 3 3 0 0 0 0 4 4 100.0% $469,275
Houston Astros 2 2 1 1 1 1 3 1 7 5 71.4% $453,280
Colorado Rockies 1 1 0 0 0 0 5 0 6 1 16.7% $368,885
Chicago White Sox 1 1 0 0 0 0 5 0 6 1 16.7% $360,470
Seattle Mariners 2 2 1 0 1 1 6 0 10 3 30.0% $341,365
New York Yankees 2 2 1 1 3 0 6 0 12 3 25.0% $320,640
New York Mets 1 1 6 4 2 1 4 2 13 8 61.5% $313,625
Washington Nationals 0 0 1 1 2 1 3 0 6 2 33.3% $244,875
Pittsburgh Pirates 5 5 2 2 0 0 1 0 8 7 87.5% $224,395
Cleveland Indians 3 3 3 2 2 1 6 1 14 7 50.0% $191,580
Chicago Cubs 2 2 1 1 3 0 6 0 12 3 25.0% $172,545
Texas Rangers 4 4 4 4 4 1 7 1 19 10 52.6% $114,730
San Francisco Giants 3 3 0 0 0 0 3 1 6 4 66.7% $100,380
Kansas City Royals 3 3 3 3 2 2 4 0 12 8 66.7% $84,245
San Diego Padres 6 6 3 3 3 1 4 0 16 10 62.5% $76,250
Arizona Diamondbacks 3 3 2 1 1 0 4 0 10 4 40.0% $70,895
Philadelphia Phillies 2 2 1 1 2 0 6 2 11 5 45.5% $47,155
St. Louis Cardinals 2 2 2 2 0 0 4 1 8 5 62.5% $36,700
Los Angeles Dodgers 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 0 5 3 60.0% $35,910
Oakland Athletics 3 3 2 1 1 0 3 0 9 4 44.4% $27,275
Boston Red Sox 3 3 5 5 3 1 3 1 14 10 71.4% $23,455
Detroit Tigers 1 1 1 0 0 0 6 0 8 1 12.5% $8,805
Los Angeles Angels 4 3 3 2 0 0 6 0 13 5 38.5% $8,615
Atlanta Braves 2 2 0 0 5 0 5 0 12 2 16.7% $3,160
Milwaukee Brewers 4 4 9 4 2 2 1 1 16 11 68.8% $1,185
Tampa Bay Rays 1 1 1 0 1 0 2 0 5 1 20.0% $460
Toronto Blue Jays 1 1 3 1 4 1 2 0 10 3 30.0% $50
Totals: 75 73 68 46 49 15 120 12 312 146 Med Pool $107,555
% signed: R 1-10: 97.3% R 11-20: 67.6% R 21-30: 30.6% R 31-40: 10.0% Total: 46.8% Ave Pool $207,275

As a whole, the league left an average of $207,000 in bonus pool money on the table, with a median of $107,000. Given the new $125,000 bonus max after round ten, that means they could’ve signed an average of one player for $332,000 (fifth round money), or a median of $232,000 (sixth round money).

The Orioles were the least successful team in maximizing their draft pool. Most of the money they saved, a total of $835,000, was ticketed for Conlon. However, when that fell through, they should’ve been looking to sign some of their later round prep picks. They could’ve signed one player after the tenth round for $960,000 (second round money), or two for around $542,000 (third round money). It’s hard to believe that none of the five other prep players they picked that didn’t sign weren’t willing to sign for those types of bonuses. I would’ve offered either of those bonuses to Greg Jones (my 106th ranked draft prospect) or Logan Allen (#156 for me), their 16th and 17th round picks.

The Toronto Blue Jays were on the other end of the spectrum, leaving only $50 on the table. What’s interesting is they did this while drafting very few high school players - only one in the first ten rounds, and only one after the tenth round that cost more than the $125,000 limit. Instead, they took college players and signed them for slot deals in the first ten rounds, save for their two seniors - those savings were used for their lone top ten prepster, Hagen Danner.

Only one team signed every high school player picked - the Miami Marlins. However, they only picked four prep players in forty rounds, all by the twentieth round. That was also the fewest of any team. They really focused on college talent, looking to build their minor league depth. The Texas Rangers led the league with 19 prep players taken, signing ten of them. The Milwaukee Brewers signed the most prep players with 11. Among teams with double digit prep signees, the Boston Red Sox led the way with 71.4% signed, or ten out of fourteen of their prep picks.

What is interesting is how the increase to a $125,000 bonus has impacted the number of prep players signed. The additional $25,000 led to a 5% increase in prep signings in rounds eleven through thirty as compared to 2016, and a 3.4% increase over the entire forty rounds.

Anyway, there’s a lot of info here. Please ask questions or share observations in the comments below!