The CBA Effect and Draft Strategy
Much was made of the fact that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement completed over the off-season would have a drastic impact on the annual draft. That was born out even more as the rounds passed and trends emerged.
With harsh punishments in place for teams that may consider exceeding MLB's signing bonus pool for their slot in the draft, some deft maneuvering was required to ensure picks were made while juggling a host of factors.
"In the past we have been able to focus almost exclusively on ability," said Tigers vice president, amateur scouting David Chadd. "This year there had to be more emphasis on signability. We still lined it up on ability, but we had to talk signability this year too."
That necessity forced many teams to the phones as their pick approached, trying to gage the bonus requirements of players they were considering, particularly in the first ten rounds. As has been detailed by many outlets, several teams "went cheap" in the latter half of the top ten rounds, hoping to save some bonus money to spend on picks outside those rounds. That strategy wasn't in the cards for the Tigers.
"There certainly were some teams that did that," said Chadd. "That was not our plan. That's not the way we do things. We weren't going to save money in the top ten rounds to spend later. There's a lot of risk involved in that strategy."
The risk Chadd refers to centers on the chance a team is taking that a player worth that money will still be on the board when their later picks come around.
"In my mind, if you start negotiating money to keep a guy away from something, you're not really negotiating for the right reasons," noted Chadd. "It needs to be based on ability, not buying them out of something else."
The Tigers have taken plenty of heat from fans over the last 14 months for not spending big money in the draft while teams like the Blue Jays, Nationals and Pirates have chosen to throw huge sums of money at young players.
"I will be as aggressive as I have to be when the talent dictates it," said Chadd emphatically. "I've proven that with Rick Porcello and Nick Castellanos. We did it with Jacob Turner. Casey Crosby is another example of that. When the talent warrants the money, we aren't afraid to do what it takes, but just because you spend money doesn't guarantee you a big league player."
Regardless of any outsider's opinion of the Tigers' draft strategy or their execution on draft day, the Tigers, and namely Chadd, remain firmly convinced that they are doing what is right for the future of the organization.
"Whether people want to believe it or not, we took player that we liked and wanted. That's it," said Chadd.
There are always a wealth of opinions floating around on every player picked in the draft. Those opinions range from scouting reports to casual observations, and from perusing statistics to quotes from media outlets.
In the end, the teams that pick the players almost always have more information about them than anyone else. Given that, it's important to understand what stood out to the team as they made their decisions on draft day.
"It was interesting," said Chadd curiously. "There were a lot of college juniors willing to sign and go out this year. Instead of saying they wanted $200,000 or they were going back to school, a lot more expressed a willingness to turn pro. We went a lot deeper picking prospects off our board instead of roster-fillers this year than we typically do."
The Tigers were clearly thrilled that Jake Thompson was on the board late in the second round. Some within the industry rated him highly enough to be considered a supplemental round pick. The case is similar for third round pick Austin Schotts, who is a very good athlete with a chance to play up the middle.
Beyond the top couple of picks, several of the perceived lower ceiling players really stood out to the Tigers, and the organization believes they shouldn't be overlooked, regardless of the warts some will identify.
"You know, Jordan John, the right-handed pitcher out of Oklahoma stood out for me and piqued my interest," commented the Tigers' scouting director. "He's a good one. Hudson Randall is a known name that's had a lot of success in college. Devon Travis is an exciting, athletic second baseman, Jordan Dean put up some really good numbers in the summer playing with wood bats. Kirskey didn't play all the time, but he's a left-handed bat that put up power numbers in college."
While fans and analysts, myself included, continue to scour over every pick and come to our own conclusions, the Tigers maintain their initial optimism about this draft class.
"You're always happy and excited about your picks in the days and weeks right after the draft," said Chadd in closing. "We are extremely happy with how things went without a first round pick. Now all we can do is wait and see how it all plays out."