Just after the draft, I did something ridiculous: I tried to predict all of the signing bonuses for Padres picks in the first 10 rounds. How’d I do?
Alright, not terrible. Not great, but not terrible.
I didn’t see MacKenzie Gore getting slot—or a little over slot, technically—but so be it. Give that dude all the money. Campusano signed for $400,000-plus under slot, which is kind of interesting given that he was considered the top catcher on the board. House signed for slot, which was also something of a surprise. Keating got quite a bit over, which we figured. Homza, Margevicius, and Basabe were right about where we had them. Leasher was more expensive than predicted, but maybe we weren’t considering park factors. The senior signs were cheaper than our guesses, but they’re always something of a wild card. After all that, though, one player’s signing bonus stood out (and completely destroyed my overall guesstimate).
Blake Hunt signed for $1,600,000, nearly twice his slot value of $858,600. I figured he’d be an under-slot signing.
It’s not unprecedented, by any means (more on that in a minute), but it’s surprising because Hunt didn’t seem like the type of player that would take that much to sign. Sure, he’s a high schooler, and he had a strong commitment to Pepperdine. But every high schooler projected to go in the top four or five rounds has a strong commitment somewhere, and Pepperdine, nice as it is, doesn’t exactly qualify as a baseball powerhouse.
Hunt was actually the biggest reach among the first five picks, that is if you go by Baseball America’s rankings. If you read the scouting reports, he sounds like a catch-and-throw guy who has plenty of work to do with the bat. That’s not a knock, really; legit backstops don’t grow on trees, and the Padres probably like Hunt’s offensive game more than most. Still, he didn’t profile as a dude who’d need almost $750,000 more than slot to lure away from college.
Just for kicks, I decided to look at how often players drafted near Hunt’s pick (69) sign for over slot. Here are the top five signing bonuses for any player taken from pick No. 59 through 79 since 2015 (A.J. Preller’s first draft):
- (tie) Blayne Enlow, , 2017, Twins, 76, RHP (HS), $755,500 slot, $2,000,000 bonus
- (tie) Michael Matuella, 2015, Rangers, 78, RHP (college), $776,600 slot, $2,000,000 bonus
- Reggie Lawson, 2016, Padres, 71, RHP (HS), $905,900 slot, $1,900,000 bonus
- Blake Hunt, 2017, Padres, 69, C (HS), $858,500 slot, $1,600,000 bonus
- (tie) Hagen Danner, 2017, Blue Jays, 61, C (HS), $1,043,200 slot, $1,500,000 bonus
- (tie) Mark Vientos, 2017, Mets, 59, 3B (HS), $1,094,700 slot, $1,500,000 bonus
- (tie) Brett Cumberland, 2016, Braves, 76, C (college), $838,900 slot, $1,500,000 bonus
The Padres also signed Mason Thompson for $1,750,000 in the third round last year, but he fell just out of the range here. It’s clear that they like going over slot in this area, though, with two of the four biggest bonuses since 2015 (plus Thompson). Here’s how all picks have fared in this group:
Most picks still sign for slot or under slot in this range, but it’s interesting that it’s trending more in the opposite direction. There have already been six big ($300,000-plus) over slot signings in 2017, which is two more than the previous two drafts combined.
It’s possible that the Padres have identified a good area to spend money, dishing it out to high upside high schoolers in the second and third round. It’s also possible that they need to work on their negotiating skills some. Just look at Vientos and Hunt; Vientos was taken 10 picks higher, a pick with over $200,000 of additional slot value attached, and he was ranked 83 spots high by BA, yet Hunt got $100,000 more. While the Padres signed all of their first 11 picks with no hitches, and while getting Daniel Cabrera to sign was always something of a pipe dream, signing Hunt for way more than expected could cost them some later round pick like Cole Bellinger or Kevin Abel.
Then again, I’m just going to shut up and let this one breathe. The Padres have shown they know how to find amateur talent. They paid Hunt like he’s going to be a stud, so it’ll be fun to find out if they were right.