MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers have signed all 11 of their picks from the first 10 rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft earlier this month. It didn’t come cheaply, but they believe it was worth the price.
With Monday’s announcement that third-round pick Dylan Smith has agreed to terms, the Tigers completed what was one of their trickiest Drafts since the signing pool rules went into effect a decade ago. Yet, in some ways, their work resembled the old days when the Tigers went over slot values aggressively when they felt it was worth it.
Smith, a right-handed ace from the University of Alabama, agreed to a $1,115,000 bonus, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis. That’s well above the slot value of $844,200 assigned to the 74th overall pick. Since the Tigers had also gone above slot value to sign Competitive Balance pick Ty Madden and second-rounder Izaac Pacheco, Detroit actually had just $403,700 remaining from its Draft pool allotment.
Teams can go above that allotment, but pay different penalties depending on how far they exceed it. Teams that outspend their allotment by five percent or less pay a 75 percent tax on the overage. If a team goes beyond five percent over, the penalty includes forfeiture of a future first-round pick. Half of the MLB teams exceeded their pools last year, but no team has gone more than five percent since the spending pool rules went into effect nine years ago.
The Tigers came close. Smith’s reported bonus brought them within $790 of the threshold. The penalty on their estimated overage works out to about $529,425. For a Draft haul that includes two of MLB Pipeline’s top 10 Draft prospects, three of the top 30 and four of the top 74, it’s a penalty they’ll take.
Smith’s rise with the Crimson Tide in his junior season earned him comparisons as the school’s best pitching prospect since Spencer Turnbull, whom the Tigers drafted in the second round in 2014. His advanced grasp of his slider and curveball and his work with spin rates caught Detroit's attention. He was also fairly young for a college junior, having just turned 21 at the end of May.
Seven of Detroit’s 11 picks in the top 10 rounds were pitchers. Only two were college seniors. By signing them all, topped by last week’s deals with first-rounders Jackson Jobe and Madden, the Tigers added buildup arms to a farm system that had leaned towards hitters the last couple years.
Add in the back half of the Draft, and the Tigers have signed 16 of their 21 picks. Central Florida catcher Josh Crouch, their 11th-round selection, is their highest-drafted pick yet to sign. All five are college players, though 20th-rounder J.D. McLaughlin was a junior college player at Central Arizona College.