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Let’s track draft signings and talk about the draft bonus pool system

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What is meant by “overslot” and “underslot?”

MLB First Year Player Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The draft is over, and the Royals have 43 new players they could potentially add to the fold. They won’t sign all of them of course, teams sign over 80% of the players drafted in the first 20 rounds, but it generally tapers off after that.

You may be wondering why the Royals took a college senior with an 8.47 ERA in the first ten rounds, or a player ranked 230th by Baseball America with the 58th pick. It all has to do with the draft bonus pool system.

Baseball was worried that amateurs in the draft were getting millions of dollars despite a high bust rate because teams couldn’t exercise restraint (aided in part by “adviser” Scott Boras). So in 2012, they implemented new bonus pool rules. MLB would assign a “bonus value” for each slot in the draft, pick one would be worth $X, pick two would be worth a little less, and so on. Teams could take combine all the value from their picks in the first ten rounds in a draft bonus pool and disperse the money to picks however they want, so long as they do not exceed their overall pool. After the first ten rounds, the draft bonus limit is $125,000, and if teams go over that amount it must come from their draft bonus pool.

So to sign a guy like Brady Singer, the Royals may have to go a bit over the slot amount for that pick, $3,349,800. That means they must make up the difference somewhere else, which is why they probably drafted a guy like Zach Haake, a college senior with an 8.47 ERA for Kentucky. Haake, having pretty much no leverage, will probably have to take whatever bonus the Royals offer him, and it will likely be well under his slot bonus amount of $258,000. The earlier you can take an “underslot” guy, the more his slot bonus will be, and the more money you can use from that slot value to apply to someone else’s bonus.

Many times, teams with multiple early picks like the Royals had this year, will try to go with an underslot player early - like the Royals did in 2013 with Hunter Dozier. This allows them to grab a top-shelf talent later in the draft that slid due to being a difficult sign, like the Royals did later in that draft with Sean Manaea. Why not just grab Manaea early? Because if he fails to sign, the team loses that draft bonus slot amount, wiping out a lot of their pool. However, if you take him later and he fails to sign, you lose less from your pool, since the assigned slot value is smaller.

This year, the Royals had $12,781,900 to spend in their bonus pool, the most in baseball due to their compensatory picks for losing Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer. But they opted not to take the strategy they employed in 2013, instead grabbing a top-shelf talent like Brady Singer with their first pick. There may be some massaging of the draft bonus pool, but for the most part I would expect most Royals signings to be around their assigned slot value.

Players have until July 6 to sign. Short-season leagues begin play next Friday, on June 15. We’ll track players that have signed here.

Royals 2018 draft signings

Round Pick Player Position School Bonus Slot Bonus Signed Difference
Round Pick Player Position School Bonus Slot Bonus Signed Difference
1 18 Brady Singer RHP University of Florida $3,349,300 $4,250,000 $900,700
1 33 Jackson Kowar RHP University of Florida $2,118,700 $2,147,500 $28,800
1 34 Daniel Lynch LHP University of Virginia $2,066,700 $1,697,500 -$369,200
1 40 Kris Bubic LHP Stanford University $1,786,300 $1,597,000 -$189,300
2 58 Jonathan Bowlan RHP University of Memphis $1,168,300 $697,500 -$470,800
3 94 Kyle Isbel CF University of Nevada-Las Vegas $594,800 $592,300 -$2,500
4 122 Eric Cole CF University of Arkansas $451,200 $500,000 $48,800
5 152 Austin Cox LHP Mercer University $337,000 $447,500 $110,500
6 182 Zach Haake RHP University of Kentucky $258,000 $297,500 $39,500
7 212 Tyler Gray RHP University of Central Arkansas $201,800 $2,500 -$199,300
8 242 Jackson Lueck OF Florida State University $163,800 $161,300 -$2,500
9 272 Kevon Jackson CF Queen Creek HS (Arizona) $147,100 $144,600 -$2,500
10 302 Austin Lambright LHP University of Central Oklahoma $138,900 $2,500 -$136,400
Subtotal $12,781,900 $12,537,700 -$244,200
Round Pick Player Position School Bonus Slot Bonus Signed Difference
11 332 Michael Emodi C Creighton University $125,000 $125,000
12 362 Rylan Kaufman LHP San Jacinto College North $125,000 $722,500 $597,500
13 392 Jon Heasley RHP Oklahoma State University $125,000 $247,500 $122,500
14 422 Christian Cosby RHP Chapman University $125,000 $125,000
15 452 Milan Walla CF Tivy HS (Texas) $125,000
16 482 Kyle Hinton RHP University of Delaware $125,000 $125,000
17 512 Noah Bryant RHP Georgia Highlands College $125,000 $125,000
18 542 R.J. Dabovich RHP Central Arizona College $125,000
19 572 Hunter Wolfe SS Walters State Comm. College $125,000
20 602 Josh Hendrickson LHP Barton County Comm. College $125,000
21 632 Nathan Eaton C Virginia Military Institute $125,000 $85,000
22 662 Bryce Hensley LHP UNC-Greensboro $125,000 $1,000
23 692 Josh Dye LHP Florida Gulf Coast University $125,000 $60,000
24 722 Gage Hughes 2B Greenup County HS (Kentucky) $125,000 $125,000
25 752 Hunter Strong OF University of Central Arkansas $125,000 $60,000
26 782 Daniel James RHP University of Texas-Arlington $125,000 $1,000
27 812 Derrick Adams LHP Jacksonville State University $125,000 $100,000
28 842 Rhett Aplin OF Florida State University $125,000 Signed
29 872 Andres Nunes RHP Florida International University $125,000 Signed
30 902 Kyle Kasser SS University of Oregon $125,000 Signed
31 932 William Hancock C University of Central Arkansas $125,000 Signed
32 962 Bhret Bewley 3B University of San Diego $125,000 Signed
33 992 Ted Cillis LHP Hofstra University $125,000 Signed
34 1022 Ty Madden RHP Cypress Ranch HS (Texas) $125,000
35 1052 Kody Hoese 3B Tulane University $125,000
36 1082 Elijah Pleasants RHP Rossview HS (Tennessee) $125,000
37 1112 David Hollie OF Cross Creek HS (Georgia) $125,000 $125,000 $0
38 1142 Trae Robertson LHP Hickman HS (Missouri) $125,000
39 1172 Adam Hackenberg C Miller School of Abermarle (VA) $125,000
40 1202 Ky Bush LHP Fremont HS (Utah) $125,000
Subtotal $2,027,000 $720,000
Complete Totals $14,564,700 $475,800