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The Arizona Diamondbacks, The First Overall Pick, And Draft Strategy

Credit: ucsbgauchos.com

Arizona has several decisions to make about who to take first overall.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have the first overall pick in the 2015 draft, which will take place in just under a month. By all accounts, this year’s draft is relatively weak. Compared to past drafts, there is no elite talent available this year. The consensus top players available (Brendan Rodgers, Dillion Tate and Dansby Swanson) are not all that inspiring. Given these circumstances, the Arizona Diamondbacks have interesting options for the first overall pick.

Draft strategies have become more complex since the advent of the draft pool bonus rules. Teams are assigned a signing bonus pool total for players selected in the top 10 rounds and players drafted past the 10th round, who sign for more than $100,000. All teams are allowed to exceed the bonus pool amount by five percent. Exceeding the bonus pool by more than five percent results in the forfeiture of a first round draft pick the following year.

This year, the Arizona Diamondbacks have the first overall pick, the 43rd overall pick, and the 76th overall pick. As a result of these high picks, the Diamondbacks have the third highest bonus pool available at $13,630,400. Most of this comes from the first overall pick, which has a bonus slot value of $8,616,900. 

Given this information, Arizona’s best course of action is to cut an under slot deal for the first overall pick. There is no player available who is clearly worthy of being the first overall pick. There is no reason Arizona should have to pay the retail price for the first overall pick. As a result, Arizona could cut an under slot deal for the first overall pick and use the savings as a way to get players to fall to them at the 43rd and 76th overall picks. 

Arizona has two options for cutting an under slot deal. They can sign a player to a huge discount deal or they can sign a player to a slight discount deal. If they sign a player to a huge discount deal, they would have to draft a player, who likely won’t be picked until after the fifth overall pick which has a $4,188,700 slot value. Signing the first overall pick for fifth overall money would save about $4.5 million to use on their 43rd and 76th overall pick. 

With these savings, Arizona could convince a mid-first round pick to make himself unsignable to teams drafting in the middle of the first round by asking for a signing bonus $1 million higher than the draft slot bonus. In this scenario, Arizona would be able to offer a signing bonus of $3-4 million for the 43rd overall pick and $2 million at the 76th pick. This could present a reality where Arizona would come away with three of the top 50 rated players in this draft.

The problem with this strategy is that even if a player has made unreasonable demands to a team picking in the mid first round, that team could still draft that player and dare him not to sign. It may be difficult to find a player willing to drop to 43rd because there is no way to enforce any promises Arizona makes to players. So while the reward is $3-4 million, the risk is that Arizona reneges on the deal and that player slides into the second round and signs for less than a $1 million. 

The safer strategy for Arizona is to take one of the three best players on the board at a slight discount deal. Auction off the first round pick to the player who will sign for the least. This way they will have $1.5-2.5 million in savings to draft a player who falls or who many consider unsignable at the 43rd pick. This ensures Arizona gets one of the highly regarded players in the draft and puts itself in a good position to draft a more highly rated player at 43rd overall. It’s for this reason that Arizona should take Dillion Tate or Dansby Swanson, both of whom have a lot to lose by returning to college for one more year, first overall.        

Edited by Emily Berman.

SQuiz
Who was the first overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft?
Created 5/13/15
  1. Brady Aiken
  2. Carlos Rodon
  3. Tyler Kolek
  4. Alex Jackson

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