Draft analysis: Rounds 1-10

June 14th, 2017

In the hours leading up to the start of the 2017 MLB Draft, the rumor mill was red-hot with buzz about potential deals being struck, starting close to the very top of the first round. In the end, though, the top players went at the top of the Draft, and most of Day 1 was talent-driven.
The top five players on our Top 200 Draft Prospects list went in the top five picks. Only three players who were taken in the first round's 30 selections weren't in our Top 30.
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The biggest hot spot was at No. 5, where the Braves were kicking the tires on a number of possibilities, discussing money-saving options like Keston Hiura. The Rays were rumored to be considering taking Bubba Thompson at No. 4. Even the Twins were weighing all options, including ones that would save a bunch at 1-1 and allow them to be super-aggressive with picks 35 and 37. While financial considerations certainly came into play -- it's a reason why Royce Lewis was the choice ahead of Brendan McKay and the Yankees, for example, took injured Clarke Schmidt to then nab first-round talent Matt Sauer in Round 2 -- talent ruled the day.
Not all first-round caliber talent went on Day 1, of course. It never does. Over the last few years, a number of highly-ranked players, largely from the high school ranks, don't go in the top two rounds because of signability or bonus demands. The opening of Day 2, Round 3, is often where those players come off the board, at least if they're going to sign. Last year, there were five high school players among the top 10 remaining players as Day 2 began. Three of the five were taken in the third round and signed; the other two didn't go until late on Day 3 and went on to college.
It looks like the 2017 Draft followed the same pattern. Right-hander Blayne Enlow, shortstop Nick Allen and lefty Jacob Heatherly were three of the top four in terms of ranking still available as action started on Tuesday. All came off the board in the round's first six selections, with the Twins nabbing Enlow to kick things off, Heatherly going one pick later to the Twins and the A's selecting Allen with the sixth pick of the third round. Three more prepsters in the top 100 went in the round's top 10.
Expect that every team making those picks will sign them. Much work is done after the completion of Day 1 and before Day 2 starts to determine signability. One of the reasons the top signable talent goes so early is that teams know what it will take to sign the player and don't want to risk another team swooping in to take a player they feel they have a deal with.
It wasn't just high school prospects that went, obviously. Six college and junior college players from the top 100 also went in the third round, though there are not the same concerns about signability with those players.
From there, things went basically according to the Day 2 script that evolved when the new Draft rules laid out the bonus pool structure. That meant a lot of college seniors, who'll sign for as little as $5,000, were taken, particularly in rounds 6-10. The Braves may not have cut a deal at No. 5, but they did take six seniors on Day 2, finishing off on an emotional note by taking Jacob Belinda in the 10th round. Belinda plays in the area of Gene Kerns, the Braves' legendary scout who passed away recently and was scouting his area up until two-to-three weeks before his passing.
Their binge on seniors is likely to allow them to sign high schooler Freddy Tarnok, the Braves' third round pick who will require more than the $709K pick value to sign. Atlanta was far from alone, as many teams employed this money-saving strategy to be able to sign all of their picks in the top 10 rounds. And they will. As has been mentioned on several occasions, all but two players in last year's first 10 rounds signed.
Some teams might have a little money left in the bank for Day 3, which starts on Wednesday at noon ET with live coverage on MLB.com. All picks from the tenth round on have the same pick value of $125K, up from the $100K limit the past few years. Teams can go over that level, but anything over counts toward their bonus pool.
The 11th round has become a spot where the seemingly unsignable are taken and sign. Josh Stephen was the first pick of Day 3 and signed for $600K in 2016. The Brewers gave their 11th-round pick Chad McClanahan $1.2 million and the Mets gave Cameron Planck seven figures. A total of 15 players taken in the round last year signed for at least slightly over the $100K limit.
So while most look at the remaining top players available based on our rankings -- Alabama prep right-hander Tanner Burns (No. 39) and Stanford sophomore Tristan Beck (53) lead a group of a dozen top 100 players, 10 of whom are high schoolers -- and assume that none will sign, recent Draft history tells us that isn't close to being true. There are still big leaguers out there, and some will start on that journey by deciding to sign this year. Tune in on Wednesday to find out who.