2017 Draft: Bonus Pool, Top Prospect Lists, Mock Draft

(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)
(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)

Baseball’s annual three-day amateur draft will begin seven weeks from today. The 2017 draft runs from June 12th to 14th this season and it’s safe to assume MLB Network will again broadcast the first day. Based on previous years, the broadcast will cover 75 picks on Day One, stretching from the First Round to Competitive Balance Round B. Here is the full 2017 draft order.

The Yankees will make two selections on Day One — their first (16th overall) and second (54th overall) round picks — and for the third straight year, they will pick in the top 20. They held the 18th pick last year (OF Blake Rutherford) and the 16th pick (RHP James Kaprielian) the year before. Only once in the previous 19 years did the Yankees have a top 20 pick. They used the 17th pick to take SS C.J. Henry in 2005. He was later traded for Bobby Abreu.

At some point soon, perhaps later this week, I’ll begin profiling draft prospects and potential draft targets for the Yankees. I never did profile Rutherford last summer because I didn’t think he’d fall all the way to 18th. It would be cool if something similar happened this year. Here’s the draft profile I wrote about OF Aaron Judge back in 2013. The profiles will look similar again this year. Here are a few draft notes seven weeks out from the main event.

Yankees will have a $6.91M bonus pool

A few weeks back it was reported the Yankees will have a $6.583M bonus pool, but it turns out that’s low. They’ll actually have a $6,912,800 pool this year, according to Jim Callis. More important than the overall bonus pool are the individual slots. Here are New York’s slot values for the 2017 draft:

  • First Round (16th overall): $3,458,600
  • Second Round (54th): $1,236,000
  • Third Round (92nd): $588,700
  • Fourth Round (122nd): $433, 100
  • Fifth Round (152nd): $323,400
  • Sixth Round (182nd): $247, 600
  • Seventh Round (212nd): $193,700
  • Eighth Round (242nd): $157,200
  • Ninth Round (272nd): $141,200
  • Tenth Round (302nd): $133,300

As a reminder, if the Yankees fail to sign a player in one of those slots, they lose the associated pool money. If they sign a player below the slot value, they can use the savings elsewhere. The Yankees, like many teams, tend to select college seniors in the sixth through tenth rounds, sign them dirt cheap, then spend the savings on other players. That’s the only way you can give out overslot bonuses now.

MLB and the MLBPA agreed to direct more bonus pool money to the top of the draft as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is why the first round slot is so high. Last year the Yankees had a $2,441,600 slot bonus for Rutherford and the 18th pick. Yeah. The money was distributed much more linearly through the top ten rounds. Now it’s top heavy.

Baseball America, MLB.com top draft prospects

In recent weeks both Baseball America (no subs. req’d) and MLB.com released their top draft prospect lists. Baseball America’s list runs 100 players deep at the moment. Eventually that will grow to 500 based on previous years. MLB.com’s list covers 50 players and will eventually expand to 200. As always the MLB.com information is completely free. Scouting reports, video, 20-80 grades, the whole nine. It’s an amazing resource.

The consensus top draft prospect this year is California HS SS/RHP Hunter Greene, who Keith Law recently said has a “chance (to be) a generational talent.” Greene is a legitimate prospect as both a shortstop and a pitcher, though most believe he has more upside on the mound. It’s worth noting a high school right-handed pitcher has never been selected first overall. Greene has a chance to make history this summer. (Don’t miss the Greene vs. Rutherford video above!)

As for potential Yankees targets, I’d start by looking at players from Southern California. That is scouting director Damon Oppenheimer’s wheelhouse. Both high school and college, and if the college guy has had success in the Cape Cod League, that’s a bonus. Rutherford, Kaprielian, LHP Ian Clarkin, RHP Gerrit Cole, RHP Ian Kennedy … all first round picks under Oppenheimer and all SoCal products.

Baseball America’s mock draft v2.0

Last month John Manuel posted his first mock draft of the year, though it only covered the top ten picks, so the Yankees were not included. He had the Twins selecting Greene (as a pitcher) with the No. 1 overall pick. Last week Manuel posted his second mock draft — this time he had the Twins taking Louisville 1B/LHP Brendan McKay — and this one covered the entire first round. He has the Yankees taking California HS 1B/OF Nick Pratto with the 18th overall selection. Here’s the blurb:

Fresh off Blake Rutherford’s strong start, the Yankees could go to the SoCal hitter well again with Pratto, who also has a fallback as a lefthanded pitcher. While the Yankees have had confidence in their ability to draft and develop pitching, the injuries to James Kaprielian and success of homegrown hitters such as Aaron Judge could nudge them back in the hitter direction. Pratto runs well enough to give the outfield corners a shot rather than just being limited to first base.

Even with the draft six weeks away, it’s still a bit too early to start connecting teams to individual players. Lots and lots can and will change between now and draft day. As I said before, Southern California is a safe bet for the Yankees, so I guess that means Pratto fits.

2017 Draft: Yankees expected to have $6.583M bonus pool

(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)
(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)

According to Hudson Belinsky, the Yankees will have a $6.583M bonus pool for the 2017 amateur draft based on the league’s proposed numbers. Those figures are not final, though if they do change, it shouldn’t be substantially. A few bucks here and there, basically.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement has changed the way draft bonus pool money is distributed. The picks at the very top of the draft are closer together — the first and second picks had $9.015M and $7.76M slot values last year, this year it’s $7.4M and $6.85M — and that’s to discourage tanking. Also, more bonus pool money is tied up in the first and second round.

MLB’s thinking is shifting more money to the top two rounds gives teams less flexibility to sign players to overslot bonuses later in the draft. So I guess that’s another concession MLBPA made during CBA talks. This could push some pretty good athletes to college, or even other sports. MLB should be trying to bring them in, not push them out.

Anyway, the overall bonus pool doesn’t mean much in and of itself. The individual slot values are most important. Here is the breakdown for the Yankees, per Belinsky:

  • First Round (16th overall): $3,293,600
  • Second Round (54th overall): $1,177,000
  • Third Round (92nd overall): $560,600
  • Fourth Round (122nd overall): $412,400
  • Fifth Round (152nd overall): $308,000
  • Sixth Round (182nd overall): $235,800
  • Seventh Round (212th overall): $184,500
  • Eighth Round (242nd overall): $149,700
  • Ninth Round (272nd overall): $134,500
  • Tenth Round (302nd overall): $126,900

Last year the Yankees used their seventh through tenth round picks on college seniors and signed them for $10,000 each. They saved $648,900 in bonus pool space by doing that, which was redirected to Blake Rutherford. Based on this year’s proposed slot values, doing the same thing would save the team only $555,600. Like I said, the money has been pushed to the top of the draft.

The 16th overall pick came with a $2,660,800 slot last summer — it was $2,543,300 in 2015, when the Yankees took James Kaprielian with the 16th pick — so this year’s slot is an increase of more than $630,000 from last year’s draft. But again, that’s not because the team has more money to spend. That money was taken from the later rounds. Sucks for the late rounders.

One bit of good news: slot value for every pick after the tenth round is now $125,000, up from $100,000. Anything over $125,000 given to one of those players counts against the bonus pool. Two years ago the Yankees gave 11th rounder Josh Rogers a $485,000 bonus, so $385,000 counted against the bonus pool.

The redistribution of money means the Yankees and every other team will have to be a little more creative when it comes to saving bonus pool space for overslot bonuses. The owners keep trying to push bonuses down and they have more and more success with each new CBA, it seems.

2017 Draft: Yankees hold 16th overall pick

(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)
(Matthew Ziegler/Getty)

Last week, both Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo signed new contracts with their former teams, the Blue Jays and Orioles. That’s a shame. I was hoping those two would leave the AL East. They combined to hit nine home runs against the Yankees last season.

Anyway, Bautista and Trumbo were the last two remaining qualified free agents, so now that they’ve signed, the first round draft order is set. The Yankees moved up one spot this winter and will pick 16th overall in the 2017 draft this June. They moved up when the Rockies forfeited the 11th overall pick to sign Ian Desmond.

The Yankees have a top 18 pick for the third straight season. That hasn’t happened since 1990-93, when they had a top 13 pick in four straight drafts, including the No. 1 pick in 1991 (Brien Taylor). New York selected James Kaprielian with the No. 16 pick two years ago and Blake Rutherford with the No. 18 pick last year.

There have been countless studies (like this one) that have shown once you get outside the top ten selections, the difference in expected value of a draft pick isn’t enormous within the top two rounds or so. But still, that 16th overall pick is juuust high enough to get a kid like Rutherford, who slips due to bonus demands.

The full draft order is right here. It’s worth noting the 14 Competitive Balance picks can be traded during the regular season, so the draft order isn’t truly final. Those 14 picks could still move around. Otherwise the rest of the draft order is set.

Wednesday Notes: IFA cap, Draft MRIs, Tommy John rehab, Under Armour

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

According to Ronald Blum, the owners voted and ratified the new Collective Bargaining Agreement last night. The vote was 29-1. Only Rays owner Stu Sternberg opposed. The MLBPA approved the CBA unanimously, the union announced, it’s a done deal. Officially official. Details of the new CBA are still trickling in, so here’s some big picture news from around the league.

Yankees have $4.75M to spend internationally

The new CBA has implemented a hard cap on international free agents, and according to Ben Badler, the Yankees will have a $4.75M pool during the 2017-18 signing period. That’s what I figured based on everything we heard in the days following the CBA announcement, but now it’s official. The Yankees and every other team can trade for additional 75% in cap space. That works out to an extra $3.5625M. Now they have to find someone willing to trade cap space.

The bonus pools are based on market size now, not reverse order of the standings. Sixteen of the 30 teams have a $4.75M pool. Six get $5.25M and eight get $5.75M. Each team also gets an unlimited number of $10,000 bonuses that do not count against the cap. Between the international hard cap and the draft pools and the stiff luxury tax rates, the Yankees are running out of ways to flex their financial muscle. Each new CBA seems to bring them closer to the rest of the pack in terms of spending capacity.

Draft prospects can now volunteer for MRIs

According to Jon Morosi, the top 50 draft pitching prospects can now undergo a voluntary pre-draft MRI to show teams they’re healthy. (The top 50 are determined by the MLB Scouting Bureau, I assume.) I see this as a good thing for those players, for two reasons. For starters, this will help avoid a Brady Aiken situation, in which a team drafts a player, finds out he’s injured, then walks away and forfeits all that draft pool space. The MRIs help keep that money in play.

Secondly, it gives the player and his agent time to do damage control. If someone has an injury, it’s going to be discovered anyway. Either during the pre-draft MRI, or after the draft during the pre-signing MRI. If a pre-draft MRI shows an injury, it gives the agent time to shop the player around and find a team willing to sign him anyway. Those teams are definitely out there. If the player waits until after the draft to have the MRI, he can only negotiate with that one team. So yeah, it seems like volunteering for a pre-draft MRI carries a lot of risk, but ultimately, I think it’s a good thing for the players. Teams too.

Tommy John rehab stint extended to 60 days

As part of the new CBA, pitchers rehabbing from Tommy John surgery can now spend 60 days on a minor league rehab assignment, reports Jeff Passan. It used to be 30 days, though teams would dance around this by having the pitcher pitch in Extended Spring Training games, which aren’t official minor league games and don’t count against a rehab clock. Problem is there’s no ExST after June, so if your player is rehabbing in, say, August, you’re out of luck.

Once upon a time, the standard Tommy John surgery rehab timetable was 12 months. Not anymore. Nowadays teams are giving their pitchers 14-16 months to rehab, sometimes longer. There was a rash of pitchers needing a second Tommy John surgery a few years ago (Kris Medlen, Daniel Hudson, Brandon Beachy, Jarrod Parker, etc.) and the thought was they came back too soon from the first procedure. A 60-day rehab windows allows teams to be patient and give pitchers even more competitive minor league rehab starts. Good news.

Under Armour to become official uniform provider

At the Winter Meetings last week, MLB announced Under Armour will replace Majestic as the league’s official uniform provider beginning in 2020. It’s a ten-year agreement. “We are excited to build on our partnership with Under Armour, a powerful global brand that continues to grow exponentially … We appreciate Majestic’s many contributions to our clubs, players and fans throughout our partnership,” said commissioner Rob Manfred in a statement.

Okay, great. So MLB has a new uniform provider. Who cares, right? Well, according to Paul Lukas, as part of the agreement, Under Armour will be allowed to slap their logo on the upper right chest of all jerseys, like so:

under-armour-yankees-jersey

If you click through the Lukas link, he has some images of players with the Under Armour logo photoshopped onto their jerseys. The Majestic logo is currently on the sleeves of MLB jerseys. The Yankees were granted an exemption and are the only club without the Majestic logo on their uniform. That won’t be the case with Under Armour though. They’ll have the logo on their chest too.

It’s only a matter of time until full-blown advertisements wind up on MLB jerseys — I have no idea if that’s five years away, or ten, or 30, but they’re coming — and the Under Armour logo is step one. Well, I guess the Majestic logo was step one, but moving them to the front of the jersey is a pretty big deal. The New Era logo will now be displayed on the left side of all caps starting next season, Yankees included, so the #brands are coming. The iconic, untouched Yankees jersey of the last century will soon be no more.

CBA Details: Disabled List, All-Star Game, Luxury Tax, Free Agent Compensation, More

MLBPA chief Tony Clark. (Boston Globe)
MLBPA chief Tony Clark. (Boston Globe)

Last night MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a brand new Collective Bargaining Agreement, meaning teams can finally move forward with their offseason plans. More and more details about the CBA are starting to trickle in, so let’s round ’em all up and analyze. This all comes via Ronald Blum, Ken Rosenthal, Stephen Hawkins, Jon Morosi, Jon Heyman, and Joel Sherman.

Disabled list reduced to 10 days

The 15-day DL is now the 10-day DL. The 7-day DL for concussions and 60-day DL are unchanged. The new 10-day DL means we’ll see fewer teams play shorthanded going forward, which is something the Yankees (and especially the Mets) have done from time to time. We also might see an uptick in “phantom” DL stints. Got a young starter who needs his workload kept in check? Stick him on the 10-day DL with an upset tummy and let him skip a start without playing shorthanded.

All-Star Game no longer tied to World Series

Thankfully, the All-Star Game will no longer determine homefield advantage in the World Series. It’ll instead go to the pennant-winning team with the better regular season record. Hooray for common sense. That’s still not a perfect solution because of unbalanced schedules and all that, but it’s the best possible solution, I think. Certainly better than alternating leagues each year or tying it to the damn All-Star Game.

Rather than homefield advantage in the World Series, players will instead play for a pool of money in the All-Star Game. That’s a pretty good way to get them motivated. No idea what that pool will be, but I hope it’s substantial. Like $1M per player on the winning team. Something like that. Want guys to play hard in the All-Star Game? Putting a million bucks on the table is a good way to do it.

Luxury tax details

The complete details about the luxury tax system … ahem, the competitive balance tax system … are now available. The thresholds the next five years are as reported yesterday: $195M in 2017, then $197M, $206M, $209M, and $210M in subsequent years. Here are the tax brackets:

  • First time offenders: 20% (up from 17.5%)
  • Second time offenders: 30% (remains the same)
  • Third time offenders: 50% (up from 40%)
  • $20M to $40M over threshold: 12% surtax
  • $40M+ over threshold (first time offenders): 42.5% surtax and first round pick moves back ten spots
  • $40M+ over threshold (repeat offender): 45% surtax and first round pick moves back ten spots

So a team over the luxury tax threshold three straight years and at least $40M over the last two years would be taxed at 95% (50% plus 45% surtax). It’s not a hard salary cap but it might as well be. That’s a major deterrent. Come 2019, when the tax threshold is $209M, the “soft” cap will essentially be $249M. Anything over that results in a 62.5% tax for first time offenders.

Also, those tax rates will be phased in next season. Apparently MLB is treating 2017 as something of a transition year for teams at or over the threshold. That doesn’t matter for the Yankees. They’ve been over the luxury tax threshold ever since the system was put in place, so they’re getting hit with a 50% tax right off the bat, plus whatever surtax applies depending on their payroll. My guess is they’re less than $20M over the threshold in 2017, so no surtax.

Free agent compensation and qualifying offer details

The qualifying offer itself remains relatively unchanged. It’s still a one-year contract set at the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, and the player must be with the team the entire season to be eligible for it. There are two changes to the qualifying offer: players can only receive it once in their careers, and now they have ten days to accept or reject the offer rather than seven.

The free agent compensation rules are a bit convoluted now. Here’s how it works:

  • Signing team receives revenue sharing money: Forfeits their third highest draft pick. Keep in mind this is not necessarily their third rounder.
  • Signing team paid luxury tax during most recent season: Forfeits second and fifth highest draft picks, plus $1M in international bonus money.
  • All other teams: Forfeit second highest draft pick plus $500,000 in international bonus money.

Got all that? The Yankees are going to be paying revenue sharing always and forever, so the first bullet point doesn’t apply to them. Once they get under the luxury tax threshold, they’ll only have to give up their second highest pick plus $500,000 in international money to sign a qualifying free agent. I doubt that’s enough to scare them away from top free agents. It shouldn’t be, anyway. Now here are the rules for the team that loses a qualified free agent:

  • Players signs deal worth $50M+: Former team gets a compensation pick after the first round.
  • Players signs deal worth less than $50M: Former team gets compensation pick after Competitive Balance Round B, which is before the third round.
  • Former team pays luxury tax: The compensation pick is after the fourth round regardless of contract size.

This basically means older players like Carlos Beltran will never get the qualifying offer, ditto good but not great relievers. Those guys never sign deals worth $50M+, and the risk of them accepting the qualifying offer is not worth the reward of essentially a third round pick. This system should also eliminate free agents getting hung out to dry like Ian Desmond last year. That’s good for the union.

International free agency

As you know, there is now a hard cap on international spending, which is just awful. That was one of the last places the Yankees could really flex their financial muscle. The spending cap next year will be $4.75M for large market teams like the Yankees, $5.25M for mid-market teams, and $5.75M for small market teams. Well, I guess assigning the bonus limit by market size is better than using regular season record. The hard cap still sucks.

Because a hard cap isn’t enough, international players will now be exempt from the hard cap at age 25, not 23. They pushed it back two years. Jeff Passan confirmed with a team official that this applies to Shohei Otani, who is only 22. Rather than be posted next offseason, as expected, he has to wait until 2019 (!) to come over and not be eligible for the hard cap. So dumb. So, so dumb. Hopefully MLB comes to their senses and makes an exception for him (and other similar players). MLB and the MLBPA should want dudes like Otani playing their game.

(Aside: I wonder whether the hard cap will push some international free agents to play overseas for a few years, where they can make more money, then come over to MLB once they turn 25. Seems like a possible unintended consequence.)

Minimum salary

Reports indicated the minimum salary would increase substantially with the new CBA, and, well, that didn’t happen. The league minimum will rise from $507,500 in 2016 to $535,000 in 2017. That’s a 5.4% increase in year one of the CBA. The last two CBAs had a 16% increase in year one. Womp womp. The minimum salary will increase to $545,000 in 2018 and $555,000 in 2019. The players get cost of living increases in 2020 and 2021. Woof. Swing and a miss, MLBPA. Swing and a miss.

Miscellany

Here are some other miscellaneous details from the new CBA.

  • Players no longer accrue service time while serving drug suspensions. In the past players accrued service time during drug suspensions, but not suspensions under the domestic violence policy.
  • MLB will play regular season games outside the United States and Canada  as early as 2018. London and Mexico are the leading candidates. MLB has played regular season games in Asia and Australia in the past.
  • Roster limits remain the same. Teams will have a 25-man roster from Opening Day through August 31st, then from September 1st onward they can carry up to 40 players. Hooray for that.
  • The Performance Factor of the revenue sharing system has been eliminated. That is going to save the Yankees a boatload of money behind the scenes. Wendy Thurm explained the system a few years ago.
  • Chewing tobacco is banned for new players. Current players are grandfathered in and can still use it. Kinda silly, but whatever.

So, from the looks of things, the owners scored big wins with the luxury tax system, international free agency, and the minimum salary. The players get more lenient draft pick compensation rules and also a shorter disabled list, which means more call-ups through the season. They’ll also benefit from the international hard cap because it ostensibly means less money for amateurs and more money for big leaguers. I dunno, seems like the owners got the best of the players with this one.

The Top Heavy 2016 Draft Haul [2016 Season Review]

Rutherford. (@MiLB)
Rutherford. (@MiLB)

Thanks largely to the trade deadline, the Yankees improved the depth and quality of their farm system substantially over the last six months or so. They added a dozen prospects at the deadline and two more in the recent Brian McCann deal. It sure feels like another trade is inevitable (Brett Gardner?), so chances are more prospects are on the way.

The Yankees also added to their farm system this summer with the annual amateur draft. This year they held a top 20 pick for the second straight year after having only two top 20 picks total from 1994-2014. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement severely limits draft spending, and while it wouldn’t be fair to say the Yankees put all their eggs in one basket, their 2016 draft haul has a clear centerpiece who will essentially make or break this draft class.

The Top Pick

Following the end of the 2015 season, the Yankees held the 22nd overall pick in the 2016 draft. They moved up to 18th when the Diamondbacks (Zack Greinke), Orioles (Yovani Gallardo), Nationals (Daniel Murphy), and Giants (Jeff Samardzija) forfeited their first round picks to sign qualified free agents. That was pretty awesome. Moving up one or two spots happens each year. But four? That rarely happens.

Prior to the draft the Yankees were connected to high school pitchers and college bats, so, naturally, they used that 18th overall selection to take a high school position player. Go figure. That player: outfielder Blake Rutherford from Chaminade College Preparatory School in the Los Angeles suburbs. Rutherford was a consensus top ten draft pick who slipped to the Yankees for reasons we’ll get to in a minute. Here’s a sampling of his pre-draft rankings and write-ups:

  • Baseball Prospectus (4th best draft prospect): “Every tool but the arm is above-average.”
  • Keith Law (6th): “Rutherford has a unique combination of hit and power and has shown an ability to spray well-hit balls to all fields … he projects to be an average or above everyday player in a corner outfield who hits near the middle of a big league lineup.”
  • MLB.com (8th): “Rutherford has the chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average raw power … Some evaluators wish they had seen more from him (before the draft).”
  • Baseball America (9th): “Rutherford has size, strength, athleticism and power potential for scouts to dream on … Some scouts see him as a potential power-hitting center fielder in the Jim Edmonds mold.”

By all accounts, Rutherford was one of the ten best players available in the 2016 draft. The Yankees were able to get him with the 18th pick for two reasons:

1. He was already 19. Rutherford was old for a high school prospect. He turned 19 on May 2nd, a month before the draft, whereas most prep prospects are drafted at 18 or even 17 with their 18th birthday coming in the summer. Rutherford has always been slightly older than his competition, both in high school and in showcase events, which made it difficult to evaluate him. Was it really an above-average hit tool, or just an older kid beating up on younger competition? Based on the draft rankings above, everyone seems to believe it’s the former.

2. He wanted a lot of money. Aside from injury, nothing causes a draft pick to slip more than bonus demands. Rutherford was strongly committed to UCLA and he was expecting top ten money because, well, he was a top ten talent. The Yankees had a $5,831,200 bonus pool this year, so if they were going to pay Rutherford top ten money, they’d have to skim elsewhere. That’s exactly what they did. The Yankees signed Rutherford to a $3,282,000 bonus on June 29th, well above his $2,441,600 slot value. They essentially gave him 11th overall pick money ($3,286,700). When it was all said and done, New York was left with $177 in draft pool space. Not $177,000. $177. The Yankees were like two Xbox games away from forfeiting their 2017 first round pick. They maxed out their spending limit to sign Rutherford.

The Yankees rarely have access to top of the draft caliber talent and they were able to acquire three such players this year by selecting Rutherford and trading for Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier. Acquiring Torres and Frazier took some hard work. There was a lot of luck involved in getting Rutherford. The Yankees had zero control over the 17 selections made before their first round pick. It just so happened those 17 teams passed on Rutherford, giving the Yankees a premium draft talent at a non-premium pick.

Rutherford’s pro debut did nothing to dispel the notion he was a top ten draft talent. The kid hit .351/.415/.570 (171 wRC+) with eight doubles, four triples, and three home runs in 33 rookie ball games before a minor hamstring injury sidelined him for the final week of the regular season. He was healthy enough to participate in Instructional League a few weeks later. Here, via MLB Farm, is Rutherford’s spray chart:

blake-rutherford-spray-chart

Base hits to all fields and over-the-fence power to the pull side as a left-handed hitter. It’s a beautiful thing for a 19-year-old kid in his first few weeks in pro ball. Baseball America recently ranked Rutherford as third best prospect in the farm system behind Torres and Frazier, so all aboard the hype train.

When we look back at the 2016 season in a few years, it’ll be remembered as the year the Yankees traded veterans for prospects at the deadline and rightfully so. They’ve built up one heck of a farm system through those trades. The opportunity (and willingness) to draft Rutherford shouldn’t be overlooked though. The Yankees haven’t selected a draft talent this highly regarded since Gerrit Cole in 2008.

The Other Over-Slot Signee

Because the Yankees needed to rob Peter (other draftees) to pay Paul (Rutherford), they didn’t have much extra draft pool money to throw around. Their only other 2016 draftee to receive an over-slot bonus was third rounder Nolan Martinez, a right-hander from a Southern California high school. Martinez received a $1,150,000 bonus, nearly double his $608,200 slot value.

The Yankees selected Martinez with the 98th pick in the draft, which is essentially where the various scouting publications had him ranked. Baseball America was high on him (67th) while Keith Law (94th), MLB.com (99th), and Baseball America (108th) had Martinez right where New York selected him. He’s the second best prospect the Yankees drafted this year (in my opinion) as a three-pitch righty with some semblance of command. Underwhelmed? Well, that’s the system. The Yankees went with players they knew they could afford after rolling the dice with Rutherford.

The Numbers Prospect

Solak. (Robert M. Pimpsner/RMP Sports Media, Inc.)
Solak. (Robert M. Pimpsner/RMP Sports Media, Inc.)

There is more stat line scouting these days than I can ever remember. That isn’t to say stats aren’t important, because they are, but they only tell you so much of the story. And the further away from MLB you get, the less the stats mean. Nick Solak, a second baseman out of Louisville, figures to be one of those prospects who gets an inordinate amount of attention due to his stats, a la Rob Refsnyder.

Solak, who was selected in the second round by the Yankees, hit .321/.412/.421 (155 wRC+) with three homers, eight steals, and nearly as many walks (10.8%) as strikeouts (14.0%) in his 64-game pro debut with short season Staten Island after signing for a below-slow $950,000 bonus. Solak has contact skills and knows the strike zone, but he doesn’t have much power and his ability to stay at second is questionable at best.

After three excellent years at a major college program, we’re not going to be able to glean much from Solak’s performance until he gets to Double-A, and it’s entirely possible that will happen at some point in 2016. A guy like him should have no trouble with Single-A pitchers. Solak is a good prospect whose long-term outlook will improve drastically if he shows he can handle second full-time. His stats may cause him to get overrated though.

The Best of the Rest

Outside of the top three picks, the two best prospects the Yankees drafted this summer were fourth rounder (duh) Nick Nelson, a JuCo righty from Florida, and 12th rounder Taylor Widener, a righty out of Alabama. Keith Law‘s (subs. req’d) scouting report on Nelson sounds too good to be true — “(Nelson) works with a plus fastball up to 95 and a plus curveball, with good command for his age, and his arm action and delivery point to future plus command as well,” wrote Law — and while I’m not quite that optimistic, he has good velocity and can spin a breaking ball. That works for me.

Widener had an insane pro debut, pitching to a 0.42 ERA (1.41 FIP) with 65 strikeouts and seven walks in 42.2 innings. That’s a 43.9% strikeout rate and a 4.7% walk rate. Widener does it with a low-90s fastball and a wipeout slider out of the bullpen, and while the Yankees could be tempted to move him quickly as a bullpen arm, his changeup and control are good enough that giving him a try in the rotation might be worthwhile. The Yankees have a history of trying college relievers as starters in pro ball, most notably Chance Adams and Jonathan Holder, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Widener is next in line in 2017.

Other notables include 11th rounder Connor Jones, 17th rounder Mandy Alvarez, and 21st rounder Timmy Robinson. Jones is a hard-throwing southpaw likely destined for relief long-term because he lacks quality secondary pitches and command. Alvarez had a solid pro debut and can get the bat on the ball, but he’s short on power and might not remain at third base long-term. Robinson is a tool shed; the former USC standout has legitimate power and good athleticism, which serves him well in the outfield. The holes in his swing will likely limit him to reserve outfielder status.

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Needless to say, Rutherford is the centerpiece of the Yankees’ draft haul this summer. Solak and Martinez can do some things, and I’m interested to see what happens with Nelson and especially Widener from here on out, but Rutherford is the guy. He was a top draft prospect who fell into the team’s lap and prompted them to max out their bonus pool. The Yankees tend to do well in the late rounds of the draft, unearthing players who are used in trades or get a cup of coffee in the show, and hopefully that will happen again this year. Right now, this draft class is all Rutherford. He deserves all the attention.

2017 Draft Order Tracker

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)
(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Just a heads up: Our 2017 Draft Order Tracker page is now live. I put one of these together each offseason and use it to keep track of any changes to the draft order via free agent compensation. Seems to come in handy. The 2017 Draft Order Tracker is accessible at any time via the Resources tab in the nav bar at the top of the site.

Keep in mind the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement may change the draft order rules. It could change the way qualifying offers work, the way the 12 Competitive Balance Picks work, that sort of thing. In fact, MLB has not yet handed out those Competitive Balance Picks. Usually they’re issued at midseason. Instead, MLB is waiting until January because the new CBA is pending.

Ten players received qualifying offers prior to yesterday’s deadline and they have until next Monday to accept or reject. Neil Walker seems like the only serious candidate to accept, in my opinion. He had a nice season with the Mets, but it ended in late-August due to back surgery. I’m guessing Walker and his agent will spend the next few days gauging the market before decided whether to accept the qualifying offer.

The Yankees currently hold the 17th overall pick in next year’s draft. They could always surrender that to sign one of the qualified free agents, though I don’t think that’ll happen. The Yankees will move up in the first round if the Rockies, White Sox, Pirates, Marlins, Royals, and/or Astros sign a qualified free agent. Not sure how likely that is. Maybe the White Sox or Astros will splurge for someone. We’ll see.

So anyway, the 2017 Draft Order Tracker page is up and running. Check back often for updates.