The 2014 MLB draft kicks off tonight, and since not everyone is a total lunatic like myself that's really into this stuff, I thought I'd prepare a primer/FAQ for people who may be gaining interest.
Schedule of events
Preview show: 6 PM (MLB Network)
Rounds 1-2: 7 PM (MLB Network and MLB.com live stream)
Rounds 3-10: 1 PM (MLB.com live stream)
Rounds 11-40: 1 PM (MLB.com live stream)
MLB Network's broadcast will cover the first 74 picks. That includes the first round, the compensation round for teams that lost free agents, the two competitive balance rounds and round two. The Rays have picks in the first and second rounds, and they were also awarded a pick in competitive balance round B. They're pick numbers 20, 60 and 72.
For the final two days, the live stream will feature all pick announcements and some analysis. This gets more and more enjoyable as the players become less recognizable.
Do people actually listen to all 40 rounds?
Why is Dan Wheeler there?
Each team has a representative at the draft to relay the pick from the team's draft room to the commissioner.
Why is Harold Reynolds on the broadcast? He's pretty poor analyzing professional baseball, let alone amateur baseball.
People have wondered this for years, and no one knows the answer.
I wrote four separate preview articles covering different player profiles. In total, I wrote blurbs about 68 players. If the Rays draft one of them, it will be a monumental victory.
If you want to read opinions of professionals who have actually seen these players or have talked to professionals who have seen these players, there's plenty of that too.
Baseball America's top 500 prospects (free videos of many prospects, subscribers have access to scouting reports)
Keith Law's top 100 prospects (ESPN subscribers)
MLB.com's top 200 prospects
Chris Crawford's (ESPN and MLB Draft Insider) top 100 prospects
Matt Garrioch's top 350 prospects
Baseball America's most recent mock draft
Keith Law's most recent mock draft (ESPN subscribers)
MLB.com's most recent mock draft
Chris Crawford's most recent mock draft
Matt Garrioch's most recent mock draft
Who are the top players?
The top high school bats are SS Nick Gordon (Florida) and C Alex Jackson (California). They should both be top five picks. Gordon is the son of former reliever Tom and brother of Dodgers infielder Dee, an athletic shortstop that can hit. Jackson has potential plus hit and power tools, and if he doesn't catch, his bat plays in the outfield too.
The top high school pitchers include LHP Brady Aiken (California), RHP Tyler Kolek (Texas), RHP Grant Holmes (South Carolina) and RHP Touki Toussaint (Florida). Aiken seems to be a near-consensus pick to go to the Astros with the first pick. Kolek could have the best fastball in amateur baseball history. Holmes has good stuff but is on the short side. Toussaint has a great fastball and curveball but has to throw strikes more consistently.
The top college bats include SS Trea Turner (N.C. State), LF Michael Conforto (Oregon State) and OF Bradley Zimmer (San Francisco). Turner has tremendous speed and can stick at shortstop. Conforto has above average power and has been very productive in the Pac 12. Zimmer, the younger brother of Royals pitching prospect Kyle, can hit and play center field despite his big size.
The top college pitchers include LHP Carlos Rodon (N.C. State), RHP Aaron Nola (LSU) and LHP Sean Newcomb (Hartford). Rodon was once compared to David Price, but his spring was inconsistent with control issues and downgraded stuff. Nola has great fastball command and a changeup, and Newcomb has great stuff but has competed against lesser competition.
Pitching is this draft's strength.
Cool story, bro, but the Rays aren't picking in the top five until next year. Who can they actually draft?
Every year, players can fall further than expected because of injuries or concerns that the player won't sign.
ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman was just a step behind Carlos Rodon early in the season at the top of the draft, but he had Tommy John surgery in May, putting his status in flux. He has a huge fastball and potential plus secondary pitches, so there could be a huge reward. He could still fetch at least $3 million, which would eat up a significant part of the Rays' budget.
UNLV RHP Erick Fedde had surgery around the same time as Hoffman. His stock wasn't quite as high with a little less on his fastball, but he still could've been a top 10 pick. He won't get as much as Hoffman, but he could still ask for $2.5 million or more and get it. In a somewhat analogous situation last year, Ryne Stanek received a little over $1.75 million.
Georgia H.S. RHP Dylan Cease hasn't pitched in three months because of an elbow injury. He could have been a first rounder with his impressive fastball, but an elbow problem keeping a pitcher out that long is obviously a red flag. Combined with his commitment to Vanderbilt, and where he goes in the draft is anyone's guess.
High school players committed to Stanford and Vanderbilt tend to be tougher to sign because if they commit there, they tend to actually want to go to the school. Stanford's class of 2014 commitments include RHP Keith Weisenberg, a top 100 prospect, and another member of the Diekroeger family. Vandy's commitments include the aforementioned Toussaint and Cease, LHP Justus Sheffield, LHP Cody Reed and CF Jeren Kendall, all top 100 prospects.
What are the tools and their grades in scouting reports?
These can be found in our prospect primer.
How do the Rays usually approach the draft?
It really depends on the players available.
That's a breakdown of all picks the Rays have made in the top 300 since the current regime took over with the Evan Longoria pick. It's not shocking that it's pretty balanced, because they do need to make sure the organization is filled out. Check out the top 50 picks though:
It becomes pretty clear they have a preference for players early in the draft. This trend really started in 2009 when they stopped picking at the top of the draft every year. That said, a lot of the buzz seems to be around college bats in the first round.
Who is eligible for the draft?
High school graduates from the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico can be taken. That's pretty simple.
College players get tricker. Players attending a Junior College such as St. Petersburg College can be drafted any year. Players attending a four year school such as Florida State or Tampa have to wait until three years after they've graduated high school.
There is an exception though. There can be players drafted after two seasons as draft eligible sophomores. If a player turns 21 within a certain amount of days after the draft, he is eligible. Rays prospect Ryne Stanek missed being one of these players by just days in 2012.
How much money do these players make?
Similar to the NFL, teams have a maximum amount they can spend on bonuses without being penalized, calculated by valuations of picks they have in the first 10 rounds. The Rays have $5,848,400 to spend on draft picks this year. Although the maximum is calculated only using the first 10 rounds, players who sign six-figure bonuses in rounds 11-40 do count against the cap.
So theoretically, a player could sign anywhere from $1,000 to... a lot more than that, but players usually base their demands in reality, which is close to the recommended values for each pick. Talented players can demand more though if they know they have the talent to go higher given the opportunity. Teams can also intentionally over-draft players and offer below the recommended value, knowing that the player knows he's fortunate taken to be sooner than he should have been.
Wait, players don't have to sign?
No, and teams don't have their rights indefinitely either. I'd estimate 25-33% of picks won't sign, mostly coming later in the draft. There are not 1,000 additional players every year ready to play professionally, and many high school picks will follow through on their commitments, some to never be talked about in draft discussions again. College juniors generally sign, but if they think they can improve their stock with one more year, it's not out of the question to return to school.
Teams and players have until July 18th to negotiate their bonuses, and after that, it's back to school or whatever else they want to do. A lot of signings will be announced quickly after the draft because potential bonuses were discussed long beforehand. This happens because if a team fails to sign a pick in the first 10 rounds, they lose that pick's recommended value from their bonus pool. Teams can't afford to mess up those picks.
Now that they signed, where do the players go?
I think one of the reasons this draft never took off like the NFL and NBA's is that after tomorrow night, a lot of people will never hear anything about these players for three years at a minimum. The Rays' pick will not be showing up to practice with Evan Longoria next month like Mike Evans will with Vincent Jackson.
The Rays have three short-season affiliates where these players where these players will go to start their careers. Most of the college players will join Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League. The NYPL mostly features college picks along with a handful of players that still need short-season experience after the previous season.
Most of the high school picks will join the Gulf Coast League Rays. They play at the spring training complex in Charlotte in the afternoons. Drafted players will be joining a lot of players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela playing in the U.S. for the first time. They play home and home series against the GCL Orioles, GCL Red Sox and GCL Twins until the end of time.