Those of us attentive to the 2012 draft season and the prospects towards the top of the board have heard that the prospect lists are all scrambled now that Harvard-Westlake righty and super-prospect Lucas Giolito sprained his ulnar collar ligament in his throwing arm.
I have thought for some time that both Giolito and teammate Max Fried have a high probability of respecting their commitment to play baseball at UCLA (the Bruins have a good track record of convincing their recruits to come to campus) but what if a team drafts him towards the top of the first round and ponies up to pry him away from a Bruins uniform?
What if that team were the Mets?
With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement in the MLB implemented months ago, draft spending will significantly affect the way teams hand out bonuses for the talent they draft. Teams have a certain amount they are allowed to spend in certain sections of the draft (rounds 1-10 are grouped together under a single number, as are rounds 11-20 and 20 onwards), meaning, if a team spends 2 million over slot to grab a player with a strong commitment to college or to return to school, they have to “make up” that two million in the other draft picks in that grouping for risk of violating the cap and getting a heavy tax (along with potential draft picks surrendered in the following year’s draft).
Let’s break this down and say that Lucas Giolito can be had for 4 million. The Mets designated spending allotment is 2.25 million for the #12 slot in the first round. Say Lucas is still around (just humor me for a moment), the Mets have been in discussion with him and know that he can be swayed away from UCLA for a cool four million. The Mets, then, would have some work to do for their next 12 picks until the end of the tenth round. It would mean drafting a number of four-year seniors well under slot. It would mean more college players, likely, and fewer reaches, high-upside guys, or any Philip Evans or Brad Marquez types who fell because of signability concerns but put their name on the dotted line for a well-over-slot signing bonus.
Two questions to consider are: Is Lucas worth this number and change in draft strategy for the first ten rounds? And, if so, is his UCL injury too much of a concern to invest that much in him?
This year, it is not just a top draft pick you risk and not even just the millions of dollars invested in elite talent in the first 50 picks but also a change in draft strategy that will have a rippling effect for that year’s class.
Sandy and company did quite a good job drafting older college talent (cf: Danny Muno, Jack Leathersich, Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett etc) last year and I am sure that they could have a successful day two even if they put a ton of money in the top pick.
I personally do not believe Lucas will be around by the Mets pick. While the injury knocked him out of the running for the first pick overall, I still think some team in the top ten will take a chance that he’ll bounce back quickly and continue his meteoric path towards dominance in the bigs. Most recent mock drafts tend to agree with me but we all know that mock drafts typically are...well...quite wrong when you look back at them.
However, even if Lucas is available, I am not sure that drafting him would be the best decision the Mets could make there. Yes, a talent like Lucas Giolito might be too attractive to pass up on as his ceiling is a true ace and this kid really could be something special. However, his current injury could be just a first in a long line of arm problems that will hinder his progress and keep him from ever reaching his ceiling. He could spurn the Mets and go to UCLA instead. He could ask for more money and make the rest of the draft far less than what it could be, under the new CBA. There is a lot that can go wrong and certainly a lot to consider while going over-slot this year and, in light of this, it makes a player like Giolito very dangerous and risky to a team like the Mets who need to continue building from the draft.
I would rather the Mets invest somewhere around the designated slot for a player like David Dahl, Lance McCullers, Trey Williams, Max Fried, or Carlos Correa (some mocks even have SS Deven Marrero falling to the mid-first round and wouldn’t he be a great shortstop of the future?). It is possible none of them will ever become half the talent of Lucas but the Mets, unfortunately, cannot risk a poor draft at this point in their rebuilding process. There is a ton of talent in late rounds—especially high school talent—and the Mets need to be able to have the flexibility to invest in the back end of the draft as well. A Giolito-esque pick would not allow them to do that or even, if it calls for it, go over-draft late and get a 1-2 round talent deep in day 2.
Just my .02.