Making sense of the Royals 2016 draft

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 draft came and went. We have discussed various topics about the draft and tried to understand the strategy employed by the Royals. Now, that the draft signing deadline has passed, the facts if not the strategy have become clearer.

I will be using numbers reported in Baseball Americas draft database with a few cross checks. I will let the reader decide how much weight he wants to put into the reported numbers and in some cases the numbers that weren’t reported. We have to remember that although BA has a very good reputation, it still took them over a year to realize that we had signed Michael Arroyo in 2014.

Key facts:
- The Royals signed a College Junior, AJ Puckett, with pick 67.
- AJ Puckett was rated as the 73rd best draft prospect by BA, and our own Shaun Newkirk calculated him to have composite ranking of 71st from multiple rating sites.
- There remained at the time prospects that were ranked higher by BA and in composite.
- Some of those higher ranked prospects including High School players signed for less than AJ Puckett.
- The highest composite ranked player left on the board when the Royals picked at 67, Conner Jones, signed for less than AJ Puckett.
- The Royals signed only one top 10 round player for less than $100K and that was Travis Eckert for $50K. The Royals didn’t have any ultra cheap $5-$10K senior signs in the top 10 rounds.
-The Royals signed 20 players to bonuses of $100K and above. That is the most in the bonus pool days of the draft, with 2012 having the second most at 16.
- The Royals signed 36 of the 39 players that they drafted. That is second most behind the 37 signed by Milwaukee. (The Brewers had two more picks than the Royals.)
- The Royals spent $118K over their draft pool, incurring a tax by MLB.
-The Royals could have spent $43K more against the pool without incurring the severe draft pick penalties.
- The three players the Royals didn’t sign where High School players, however, the Royals did sign 5 High School players and 6 Junior College players.

My 2 cents:
1) Since the advent of bonus slots, Dayton Moore doesn’t gamble.
With the exception of the Dozier/Manaea gambit in 2013, there has been very little drama in signing the players in the top 10 rounds. Further, he hasn’t really wasted a pick beyond 11+ on an almost impossible to sign player. Yes, he has failed to sign players such as Junior Harding and Luke Bandy. But, you don’t see that top 100 High School player such as Hunter Bishop this year getting drafted as a just in case gamble.

It looks like Dayton and staff, generally have a pretty solid idea of who they like, what they will cost, and how likely they are to sign for their advertised price. This makes for a very ordered draft and signing period. But I wonder if we have seen a couple of negatives with this strategy.

a) Conner Jones- It is one thing to simply go against industry standards. If AJ Puckett and his price make the most economic sense to you and your staff, then make your choice and live with it. I mean- a team that would have picked Mike Trout with one of the top 5 picks, would have been initially criticized. But, they sure would have been crowing over that pick now.

But, were the Royals too set in their board, going by outdated bonus requests, or too locked into a pre-arranged deal to be able to pick a player like Conner Jones or others when they fell to them at 67?

b) $1.2 million for a consensus 2nd round College Junior- Shaun Newkirk has pointed out on numerous occasions in the comments, that Puckett as a college Junior had very little leverage in negotiations. It was even wondered if Puckett was an underslot pick to save money for bigger fish that would be drafted later. But, instead Puckett signed an overslot deal of $1.2 million.

Did Dayton and staff make a pre-draft arraignment with Puckett? If the Royals saw Puckett as the best of the most likely available players at 67, then making an overslot agreement with his agent could make some sense. By making such a deal, the agent could steer other teams away from drafting Puckett before the Royals did. It allows Dayton to create a much more ordered view of the rest of the draft. This would include making more pre-draft deals with the all important top ten picks. This way Dayton doesn’t have to gamble on whether or not he will lose any bonus slot money, for an unsigned player.

The con however, is that Dayton as an honorable man, would not have been in a position to pick up a talented player who unexpectedly fell into his lap. Also, it can lead to over paying a player, to get some certainty the player will be able to be picked. We see another interesting case in 2014 when Scott Blewett got a seemingly over sized bonus of $1.8 million.

2) Quantity versus quality- A common question when discussing International free agents: Is it better to spend $1 million dollars on one player or spend that same money by signing 10 players at $100K each? The question generally hinges on the difficulty when projecting 15 year old kids, There really isn’t the same question when discussing the draft because the success rate of first round picks far outstrips that of later round talent. But, this year the Royals didn’t have a first round pick.

Now to be sure, the Royals didn’t take the quality over quantity position to the extreme. After-all their first two draft picks were paid overslot bonuses. But the 20 players signed to deals of $100K or more did show a willingness to spend money. Using the reported signings from 11+ we have a total expenditure of $1.62million (with 10 signings without information.) It really looks like the Royals looked to find as many players who would sign for about$100K (and hopefully be worth it), giving them a quantity of low priced talent to make up for the low quality due to the limited draft pool budget and lateness of the first pick.

The con obviously is back to quality over quantity. Would the Royals have been better off to go cheap in rounds 4-10 with $5K seniors, and then trying to sign one or two higher priced talents like Hunter Bishop (did not sign) or local kid Tyler Benninghoff ($600K, although the Royals would have to have drafted him in the 10th round.), Luis Curbelo (composite 67) was available in round 4 for $700K.

Draftee update:
AJ Puckett, RHP, $1.2 million: Playing at A ball Lexington with a 7.71K/9 and a 2.64FIP in 14IP.
Khalil Lee, OF, $750K: Just turned 18, in fact he is only two months older than top 2015 IFA signing Seuly Matias. Current doing will with a 164 wRC+ but a 32% K% for Rookie ball in Arizona.
Jace Vines, RHP, $375K: Playing in Rookie ball Idaho Falls, with 7.71 K/9 and a 4.23 FIP in 16.1IP.
Nicky Lopez, SS, $243.3K: Playing in Rookie ball Burlington, with a 111 wRC+.
Cal Jones, OF, $250K: Playing in Arizona, with an 18 wRC+ but in limited action.
Travis Eckert, RHP, $50K: Playing in Burlington, with 9.84 K/9 and 2.24 FIP in 11IP.
Chris DeVito, 1B, $125K: Playing in Burlington with a 122 wRC+.
Walker Sheller, RHP, $115K: Playing in Burlington with 9 K/9 an 9 BB/9 in relief.
Richard Lovelady, LHP, $100K: Playing in Arizona 11.74 K/9 and a 2.30 FIP in relief.
Vance Vizcaino, OF, $105K: Playing in Burlington with an 83 wRC+.
Jeremy Gwinn, RHP, $100K: Playing in Arizona with a 6.23 K/9 and a 6.82 FIP in relief.
Logan Gray, 2B, $100K: Playing in Burlington with a 4 wRC+.
David McKay, RHP, $100K: Playing in Burlington with a 7.15 K/9 and a 3.84 FIP in relief.
Mike Messier, LHP, $25K: Assigned to Idaho Falls, but has not yet played.
Nick Heath, OF, $100K: Playing in Idaho Falls with a 100 wRC+
Dillon Drabble, RHP, $100K: Playing in Arizona with 8.82 K/9 and a 3.29 FIP in relief.
Vance Tatum, LHP, $60K: Playing in Burlington with a 10.8 K/9 and a 5.84 FIP in relief.
Tyler Fallwell, RHP, $102.5K: Playing Arizona with 12.5 K/9 in 4.1IP after signing later.
Anthony Bender, RHP, $172.5K: Interesting late signing who has only pitched 1.2IP for Arizona.
Dalton Griffin, OF, $105K: Playing with Arizona with a 9 wRC+.
Cody Nesbit, RHP, $100K: Assigned to Arizona, but has not yet played.
Kort Peterson, OF: Playing in Burlington with a 105 wRC+.
Mike McCann, C, $60K: Currently unassigned, has not yet played.
Robby Rinn, 1B: Playing in Arizona with a 124 wRC+.
John Brontsema, 3B, $80K: Playing in Arizona with a 109 wRC+.
Rex Hill, LHP: Later sign due to the College World Series 2.25 K/9 in only 4IP.
Yordany Salva, C: Playing for Burlington with a 176 wRC+ in limited action.
Grant Gavin, RHP: Playing in Arizona with a 6.06 K/9 and a 3.17 FIP in 16.1IP of relief.
Geoffrey Bramblett, RHP, $102.5K: Starting in Burlington with a 4.76 K/9 and a 5.37 FIP.
Malcolm Van Buren RHP, $147.5K: recovering from TJ surgery.
Nathan Webb, RHP, $60K: Playing in Arizona with an 11.57 K/9 and a 4.51 FIP.
Mark Sanchez, C: Playing in Idaho Falls with an 83 wRC+ in limited playing time.
Alex Massey, RHP: Playing in Burlington with a 9.46 K/9 and a 4.81 FIP in relief.
Justin Camp, RHP: Playing in Burlington with an 8.18 K/9 and a3.39 FIP in relief.
Chase Livingston, C: Playing in Arizona with a 163 wRC+ in limited playing time.
Taylor Kaczmarek, RHP: Playing in Arizona with a 6.14 K/9 and a 3.56 FIP in relief.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.