Fixing the draft

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Jayson Stark at ESPN wrote a rather idiotic article yesterday complaining about the draft.  It wasn’t idiotic because the draft is perfect or anything — it’s not — but because all it complained about was the sheer amount of money teams spend on the draft, quoting no one but anonymous people connected with baseball ownership (other reasons why his article was stupid can be read here).

Of course those guys hate spending money in the draft.  If they could, they’d pay draftees in lumps of coal and bowls of gruel. What Stark never mentions, however, is that overall, the draft is like a bargain basement for teams looking to acquire talent.

While Stephen Strasburg’s $15 million gets all the headlines, overall, teams will spend around $180 million in signing bonuses for draftees this year. That amounts to $6 million per team.  That $6 million gets each team dozens and dozens of players the team controls for a minimum of six years a piece.  Even if only one or two of those players become major leaguers, the teams have more than gotten their money’s worth.

In light of this, the problem with the draft isn’t the amount of money teams are spending. It’s the particular players at the very top on whom that money is spent. Ideally you want the worst teams to take the best players, rendering signability a non-issue. This wasn’t a huge problem this year (as Stark’s colleague Peter Gammons notes), but it has been in the past.

Perhaps some sort of slotting system makes sense to accomplish that (and today the New York Times talks about the forms that could take). Simply complaining about what the top draftees are making, however, accomplishes very little.

(thanks to reader DonCoburleone for the data on overall draft expenditures)

Yankees sign top two draft picks

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The Yankees signed first-round draft pick Clarke Schmidt and second-round pick Matt Sauer on Saturday, per a team announcement. Schmidt, a right-hander from the University of South Carolina, is set to earn a signing bonus of $2,184,300. According to MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin, that’s much lower than the typical $3+ million allocated for a No. 16 overall pick. The opposite is true for Sauer, whose projected $2.5 million signing bonus tops the suggested $1.2 million reserved for a No. 54 pick.

Schmidt, 21, boasts an impressive four-pitch repertoire and profiles as a front-end or mid-rotation starter, according to reports from Yankees’ VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer and ESPN’s Keith Law, among others. He carried a 4-2 record through nine starts in 2017 and turned in a 1.34 ERA before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. While the Yankees won’t see him pitch at any level until late 2018, they seem confident in his makeup and ability to rebound over the next couple of years.

Fellow right-hander and Righetti High School senior Matt Sauer is a different story altogether. The 18-year-old hurler appears destined for the bullpen with a polished fastball-slider combo and a promising curveball and changeup. He dazzled on the mound this year, going 9-1 with an 0.98 ERA and two shutouts over 78 1/3 innings. While the Yankees seem most interested in his pitching skills, Sauer showed some pop at the plate as well, touting a .427 average with 24 RBI through 135 plate appearances.

Three A’s rookies hit their first big league home runs on Saturday

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The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.

Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:

Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:

In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.

The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.