Forget any potential hacking penalties to be assessed by Major League Baseball to the St. Louis Cardinals. Even without them, Randy Flores is definitely going to be challenged during 2017, his second year leading the team’s efforts in the First-Year Player Draft.
Not only will St. Louis’ amateur scouting director be unable to make a first-round selection this June after having three early picks the year before, he will be constrained by a signing pool that has been reduced by over 57 percent compared to 2017.
The Cardinals have been awarded a pool of $3,925,500 for the first 10 rounds this year, compared to $9,143,300 in 2016, according to Baseball America. St. Louis' 2017 total is the second-lowest among the 30 teams in MLB.
There are multiple factors in the huge decline.
St. Louis forfeited its initial 2017 pick, which would have been 18th overall, due to the free agent signing of center fielder Dexter Fowler. In addition, the Cardinals did not add two selections between the first and second rounds for the loss of their free agents as they received the year before (in compensation for John Lackey and Jason Heyward).
On the positive side of the ledger, St. Louis was awarded a competitive balance selection between the second and third rounds in 2017. These are given to qualifying clubs in the bottom-10 markets or bottom-10 in local revenue.
While the overall year-to-year change is a drop of 12 picks to 10 in the first 10 rounds, the dollar impact is much greater because the earliest picks are allocated proportionally more money.
When all is said and done, the Cardinals had three selections among the first 34 in 2016, picks that had $6 million in associated pool money. In contrast, this year, their first pick does not occur until the 56th overall, carrying slightly more than $1.2 million of budget. Those 2016 selections netted the Cardinals Delvin Perez, Dylan Carlson and Dakota Hudson, with Perez and Hudson immediately ranking among the system’s top six prospects, according to The Cardinal Nation.
Another negative impact on the Cardinals’ 2017 pool total is a change made by MLB to reduce slot values after pick number 54 compared to 2016. This change was made to reduce teams’ flexibility to sign top 10-round players for under-slot bonuses and redistribute their bonus pools elsewhere.
That approach has been used successfully by the Cardinals in recent years. Last year, by paying four of their top 10 round picks less than their slot values, St. Louis saved $850,000. Over $600,000 of it was shifted to four harder-to-sign top 10 round draftees, with another $230,000 used to help sign four above 10th-round selections. The Cardinals also took advantage of the opportunity to overspend by up to five percent and absorb a lesser financial penalty of 100 percent of the spending overage.
Flores is especially proud of the signing of Vanderbilt left-hander John Kilichowski in the 11th round, which was made possible by some of this excess pool money.
"We are excited with some of the depth we were able to get across the board just from the draft side," Flores said. "It is not often that in the 11th round you get a left-hander with size out of a big SEC school who is ready to play pro ball and then goes to a full season club (Peoria) his first year in John Kilichowski."
The scouting director provided additional background on the ground work that preceded the signing.
"Kilichowski battled injuries his junior year," Flores noted. "So anytime that you are in your junior year and have his potential, you have his upside and you play at a big powerhouse school, your dollar value, your signability - you probably want more than you would have got.
"That being said, what I love is that he wanted to play. Because he wanted to play and because we had some flexibility because of the size of our pool, along with Dylan Carlson's (below-slot) signing, we were able to grab him... It just came together nicely because of the trust that he wanted to play."
With considerably less flexibility in 2017, the Cardinals will have to work even harder to surface and sign the next Kilichowski.
Putting it all together, here are the Cardinals’ 2017 and 2016 numbers side-by-side.
|Round||Pick value||Round||Name||Pick value||Signed||plus/minus|
|>10 rdrs||>$125,000||>10 rdrs||>$100,000||Max allow||Signed||plus/minus|
The amount above which any players selected after the 10th round before their bonus counts against their team’s pool has been increased to $125,000 from $100,000, per the new labor agreement.
Also, starting this year, the signing deadline has been moved up. Previously July 15, the new date by which draftees must be signed is now 5 p.m. on the first Friday following July 5. This year, that date is July 7.
As is has turned out, the Cardinals will have two fewer draftees to select and a lot less money to spend over that shorter signing window here in 2017.
Make sure you continue to follow The Cardinal Nation for our 2017 Cardinals draft coverage as well as Scout’s 2017 MLB Draft Central – teaming up for comprehensive information leading up to and following the June 12-14 First-Year Player Draft.
January 30 update
With the announcement of the loss of the 56th and 75th overall selections as part of the punishment in the Chris Correa Houston Astros hacking scandal, the Cardinals' 2017 draft pool, covering rounds 3-10, is down to $2,072,300, the least among the 30 MLB organizations by a considerable margin. On a year-to-year basis, St. Louis' is down four picks and over 77 percent of the pool allocation compared to 2016.
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