Projecting The Draft Signing Bonuses

The Padres started this week’s amateur draft with six straight high schoolers, highlighted by 6-foot-3 left hander MacKenzie Gore. Then, just when you thought you had them figured out, they reeled off nine straight college players, taking 25 of them in total from round six onward. Just for good measure, they added in some exciting high schoolers in between, like LSU commit Daniel Cabrera.

Are they going to be able to sign all of their picks inside the first 10 rounds? Is there going to be money left for someone like Cabrera or another late-round high schooler? These are questions you might have. We don’t have the answers, but let’s take a crack at it.

Player Status Commitment Pick $ BA Rank Slot Bonus Proj. Bonus
MacKenzie Gore HS East Carolina 3 4 $6,668,100 $6,200,000
Luis Campusano-Bracero HS South Carolina 39 42 $1,760,700 $1,600,000
Blake Hunt HS Pepperdine 69 123 $858,600 $600,000
Mason House HS Oklahoma State 78 84 $732,200 $900,000
Sam Keating HS Clemson 108 116 $497,000 $800,000
Jonny Homza HS Hawaii 138 Unranked $371,200 $200,000
Aaron Leasher College Jr. N/A 168 Unranked $278,500 $100,000
Nick Margevicius College Jr. N/A 198 234 $217,000 $165,000
Olivier Basabe College Jr. N/A 228 Unranked $172,000 $80,000
Alex Cunningham College Sen. N/A 258 Unranked $147,000 $25,000
Dominic Taccolini College Sen. N/A 288 Unranked $136,600 $25,000

The last two columns are the slot value for that pick and my projected signing bonus, based on a super-secret formula (it’s just a guess, really).

Gore has Scott Boras in his corner, but the commitment to East Carolina probably never scared anyone. A lot of early picks sign for something under slot, just because the slots are so high. A player might not mind going under slot when he’s still getting a check for $5 or $6 million. Not saying Gore shouldn’t get full slot for being a kick-ass pitcher and bypassing three years of college, but my guess is that he settles for something closer to $6 million.

Luis Campusano-Bracero should come in right around slot. His BA rank is right around where he was drafted, and that’s still a healthy signing bonus. Reading the tea leaves, it doesn’t seem like it’ll be super tough to break his commitment to South Carolina.

The other early catcher, Blake Hunt, was something of a reach. Last year the Padres did something similar, though more drastic, with Hudson Potts. Potts, taken at no. 24 overall, signed for $1 million, less than half the slot bonus for that pick. Seems like there could be a bit of a discount here.

Mason House and Sam Keating both have strong college commitments. Keating’s already indicated he’s going to sign with the Padres, and the quickness of the deal hints toward something over slot. This is an area where teams are prone to going over to sign guys away from college.

Jonny Homza was an out-of-nowhere pick from Alaska, unranked on Baseball America’s top 500. Even though he can still opt to go to Hawaii, he’s likely to forego that opportunity for an unexpected paycheck.

Aaron Leasher, Nick Margevicius, and Olivier Basabe are all college juniors, and they should all sign. Margevicius seems to have the best track record, so his bonus has the best chance to get close to slot. There could be some good savings with the other two, if not all three.

Speaking of savings, both Alex Cunningham and Dominic Taccolini are college seniors. The Padres clearly wanted to save some precious bonus pool dollars at the end of the first 10 rounds, so expect both of these guys to sign for under $50,000 a pop.

The Padres have an overall draft bonus pool of $11,839,000. That’s for the first 10 rounds plus any part of a bonus over $125,000 after round 10. My projected bonus total comes out to $10,695,000. If that’s right (hah!), that means the Padres would have approximately $1.1-1.2 million to spend on guys after the tenth round. So, to answer the two questions above:

1. Yes, they should definitely be able to sign all 11 of their picks in the first 10 rounds. Remember, teams lose the corresponding bonus pool money when they don’t sign a pick in the first 10 rounds, so they’re less willing to take a gamble on someone they’re unlikely to sign. On the other hand, players drafted that high generally want to get their professional careers started. Unless I’m underestimating the bonus demands of someone, everyone should be able to be signed without surpassing (or even reaching) the Padres signing bonus pool.

2. Maaaybe. Cabrera was ranked at 82 on BA’s big board. Once he started falling past the first couple of rounds, it became more about signability and less about talent. Teams didn’t want to use a pick on him, watch him tweet about going to LSU, and then lose $500,000-$1,000,000 off their total bonus pool. So he dropped . . . and dropped . . and dropped, all the way to the Padres in the 26th round, 768th overall.

Cabrera’s already made it clear that he’s going to LSU,

but who’s to say he’s not just a good negotiator.

If the Padres were really able to get through those first 11 signings with $1.2 million in their pocket, they’d be able to offer Cabrera something in the neighborhood of $1.3 million. That’s right around the slot value of the 51st or 52nd overall pick. That might be enough to get Cabrera to think about going pro. (The Padres can actually go over their total signing bonus pool by up to five percent, with the only penalty being a 75 percent overage tax. That’s nearly another $600,000 to play with, and it could push the Padres bonus offer, under this scenario, up to almost $2 million.)

By my count, only two players in rounds 11 through 30 ended up signing for a figure over $1 million last year, and they were both picked in the 11th round. The Padres did sign two guys—Jack Suwinski and Ethan Skender—for a combined $1 million, so they’ve tried to employ a similar strategy in the recent past.

I wouldn’t rule out Cabrera entirely. It’s possible the will Padres have more money to offer than he’s expecting. Then again, it’s still a long shot.

There are other picks beyond the 10th round who could be more realistic. Jason Pineda and Christian Robinson are two of the youngest players in the high school class, and both are likely to command over $125,000 to sign. Kevin Abel, a small righty from San Diego, has an interesting repertoire and could also be an above-slot target.

While the Padres took a bunch of high schoolers early, they didn’t necessarily grab any players that should be tough signs. In fact, nobody in the top 11 picks had a higher BA ranking than where they were drafted. Even Keating, who initially sounded like a hard-to-sign guy, essentially agreed to a deal by the second day of the draft. Further, the Padres took five college players to end the first 10 rounds, including two seniors. They should save a bunch of money there to funnel toward any over slot players. Cabrera and some of the other late-round high schoolers may still be long shots, but the Padres should have enough money to play with to make things interesting.

Thanks to good friends on the twitter for some input on this. 

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