For the most part, there’s not a lot that’s interesting about the third day of the MLB draft. The top-tier talent and even middle-tier talent, save for a handful of players anticipated to be tough to sign away from college commitments, have long since been picked and teams blow through rounds 11-40 with as much alacrity as is possible to have for 900 draft picks.
In a couple of recent drafts, the Orioles have managed to find players who have since turned into somewhat interesting prospects out of these double-digit rounds full of players who don’t even crack the thorough 500 best prospects list of Baseball America. What they haven’t done is take a stab at some of the top remaining talent that are believed to be tough signs.
That’s changed in the 2017 draft, as the Orioles took advantage of a couple of day 3 picks to select a couple of talented high schoolers who were on pre-draft top prospect lists but did not get drafted during the first ten rounds, when everyone is expected to sign. In the 16th round, the Orioles drafted Florida lefty Logan Allen, and in the very next round, they drafted North Carolina shortstop Greg Jones.
Allen, not to be mixed up with a Padres prospect of the same name, entered the draft as a recognizable name, if not a top draft prospect. He was ranked at #143 on the BA500 and #184 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 200.
MLB Pipeline on Allen:
Allen succeeds with fringy or average stuff across the board, but all of it plays up because of his control, his feel for pitching, and his competitive nature. While he's touched the low-90s on occasion, he typically sits in the 87-90 mph range. His ability to throw it to both sides of the plate at will is a huge weapon for him. So is his changeup, which should be an above-average pitch for him, one he throws with good arm speed and that has fade and sink to it. He'll throw it to righties and lefties. His curve is average. Allen uses a funky delivery that adds deception, but he repeats it and fills up the strike zone at will.
Jones is an even more interesting prospect, as he was in everybody’s top 100: #65 on ESPN’s Keith Law’s Big Board, #75 on Baseball America, #84 on MLB Pipeline. In mock drafts before the draft, the Orioles were said to be considering Jones with their first round pick because they expected him to be taken before they got a chance to pick again at #60.
MLB Pipeline on Jones:
Jones famously clocked a 3.85 home-to-first time from the left side of the plate in front of several scouts in mid-April and gets running grades from 70 to 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Speed is far from his only intriguing tool, as he's a switch-hitter with surprising bat speed and deceptive wiry strength and also possesses a strong arm. There are some questions with Jones. The UNC Wilmington commit doesn't always play with a lot of energy and some scouts wonder if he has the hands to stick in the infield, though the worst-case scenario is that he'd still be a valuable defender in center field.
Why, if these guys were thought to be interesting draft prospects, did it take this long to draft them? The simple reason is that teams believed that they were asking too much money to buy out college commitments.
The arcana of the draft bonus pool rules will be important to the Orioles this year as they try to sign one or both of these players. They haven’t attempted to take on any tough signs like this before now, so over the past five years, the rules haven’t been that important to the Orioles.
Each pick in the top ten rounds is assigned a dollar value, decreasing from top to bottom. Each team’s pick value is added up to give the total of their draft signing bonus pool. In the case of the Orioles this season, that pool is $6,846,700. That’s among the lower of team draft pools, because the Orioles were good last year and all of their picks are closer to ends of rounds than beginnings.
Beyond the tenth round, teams can sign players for up to $100,000 without that money being counted against their pool. Every dollar above that amount will count against the pool.
Although each specific pick has a value, the money can be spread around as the team desires. If a team spends more on their draft picks than they have in their pool, they will have to pay a penalty. Up to 5% over the pool is a tax on the overage. After that, teams will start forfeiting future draft picks. Practically, if not actually, this represents a hard cap. No team has exceeded the pools to the point of having a lost pick.
If a team doesn’t sign one of the players in its top ten rounds, that amount of money is lost from their total bonus pool. That keeps teams from getting away scot-free if they try to lowball a player.
There is no penalty for not signing a player beyond round 10, so the picks of Allen and Jones are no-risk for the Orioles, in essence. Maybe they can scrape together a deal and get an interesting talent into the system. If not, they lose nothing.
Along with scouting a player’s talent, team scouts are expected to suss out what it will take to actually sign them. Jones going undrafted until the 17th round despite having been seen as a second round talent suggests he had a bonus demand in excess of what the Orioles, who liked him, could offer based on the #60 slot of $1,068,700.
If Jones is still wanting that after the draft, the Orioles won’t be signing him. It seems unlikely that they could come up with a million dollars or more while signing their top ten picks.
Perhaps the O’s hope that Jones will decide, as ESPN’s Law wrote, that the competition in the Colonial Athletic Association won’t have scouts thinking in two years, when Jones is eligible to be drafted again, that he deserves first round money.
The hope will be similar for Allen. It’s tougher to guess what his bonus ask might be. If he sees himself as a fifth round talent, that’s about $350,000. If Allen thinks he deserves third round money, for instance, that would be $550,000-$600,000.
Until the Orioles start signing their other picks, it’s impossible to know how much money might be available for either Allen or Jones. Perhaps they’ll even have to go overslot just to get their first round pick, D.L. Hall, signed, because Hall was expected to be drafted before the Orioles even picked. There will probably be some surplus out of the senior signs in rounds 6-10.
The Orioles might end up signing neither of these guys and all of these words will have been written for nothing. It seems unlikely they could sign both, given the bonus pool constraints, but the fact that the next month of signing news will be worth paying attention to for the Orioles is new and interesting in its own way.
The deadline to sign players is July 15.