Why are the Twins going down to the wire with the No. 1 draft pick?
With Major League Baseball’s amateur draft set to start a little after 6 p.m. Central, the Twins still have the industry abuzz with speculation on Monday.
Drafting first overall for just the third time in the event’s 53-year history, would the Twins select a college pitcher such as Louisville left-hander Brendan McKay or Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright? Would they go for one of the top two high school pitchers: right-hander Hunter Greene or lefty MacKenzie Gore?
Or would they go with a compromise selection such as California prep shortstop/center fielder Royce Lewis?
If you’re wondering why the process was taking so long, consider economics.
According to Baseball America, a Twins official said signability “will play a significant role.” With Twins general manager Thad Levine already on record as saying there is no “generational talent” in this year’s draft pool — no matter what Sports Illustrated would have you believe about Greene — it stands to reason the Twins will look for value.
It’s not just about the top pick, which comes with a slot value of $7.77 million, but the $14.16 million they have to spend over the first 10 rounds. In essence, with a competitive balance pick at No. 35 overall and a second-rounder at No. 37, the Twins have a chance to walk away with three first-round talents if the right players fall due to cost concerns.
The slot value at No. 35 is $1.94 million, while the 37th pick comes with a suggested price tag of $1.85 million. Taken together, that’s another $3.79 million worth of talent the Twins could add.
Pair those picks with the No. 1 overall selection, and $11.55 million of the Twins’ total bonus pool (81.6 percent) is tied up in those first three selections.
There’s also the matter of a newly compressed first-round slotting system under the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated last winter and what that does to the Twins’ leverage when attempting to reach a pre-draft deal (or understanding).
Last June the Philadelphia Phillies signed California prep outfielder Mickey Moniak for $6.1 million — or 67.7 percent of the slot value of $9.015 million for the No. 1 overall pick.
In 2015, the Arizona Diamondbacks took Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson first overall and signed him for $6.5 million — 75.4 percent of their allotted $8.62 million for that prestigious slot.
Were the Twins to offer 75 percent of this year’s top slot value, that would amount to $5.83 million. They would then have nearly $2 million left over to maximize their remaining picks.
Advisers, not surprisingly, choose to see things differently. As one veteran agent explained, it’s “harder to be creative” under the new slotting system.
Why is that?
While Greene appears unlikely to get past the Cincinnati Reds and their $7.2 million slot at No. 2, another draft candidate such as McKay or Lewis could plunge all the way to No. 7 and still be dealing with the Diamondbacks and a $5 million slot.
That’s quite a different conversation than what the Phillies could hold last summer, when there was roughly a $1.25 million gap for each slot until you got past No. 4. For the fifth pick, the Milwaukee Brewers had a slot of $4.4 million, less than half the value assigned to the top spot.
In 2015, when the Diamondbacks incredibly left $1.7 million of their $12.8 million bonus pool unspent, the Twins were able to take Illinois lefty Tyler Jay at No. 6 with a slot value of $3.9 million.
When it comes to the 2017 draft, it appears compression has led to confusion — or at least some level of consternation as the final hours slip away.