With no clear-cut No. 1 pick, the two Vanderbilt pitchers are in the mix with Louisville catcher Henry Davis
The 2021 MLB amateur draft is a little more than four weeks away. In an effort to better market the event, MLB has pushed the draft back to the All-Star break this season, rather than its usual first week of June. The three-day event begins Sunday, July 11.
MLB and the MLBPA resolved several pandemic-related issues last March, including those involving the annual amateur draft. Last year’s draft was shortened to five rounds (from 40) to cut costs. This year’s draft will be 20 rounds, the minimum allowed under last March’s agreement, and bonus pools will remain at 2020 levels, which were the same as 2019.
Thanks to their 19-41 record during the shortened 60-game 2020 season, the Pirates hold the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft. MLB does not have a draft lottery. The draft order is set in the reverse order of the previous year’s standings. This is the fifth time the Pirates have held the No. 1 pick, joining 1986 (Jeff King), 1996 (Kris Benson), 2002 (Bryan Bullington), and 2011 (Gerrit Cole).
“The truth is, we don’t know (who we’re going to take),” Pirates GM Ben Cherington said during an MLB.com podcast appearance in December. “We know there’s a lot of good, talented players who will be eligible for the draft next year. We’re going to take the time that we have to get to know them as well as we possibly can. Excited for that process.”
These days all first-round picks are protected from free-agent compensation. Teams instead give up later draft picks (and international bonus money) to sign qualified free agents. Despite that, the Astros do not have a first- or second-round pick this year. They were stripped of their top two picks this year and last as part of their punishment for the sign-stealing scandal.
Each team is given a set bonus pool for draft spending each summer. The penalties for excessive spending are harsh enough (tax on overage, forfeiting a future first rounder, etc.) that the bonus pool effectively acts as a hard cap. The bonus pools are tied to picks in the top 10 rounds, and if you give one player a below-slot bonus, you can give the savings to another player(s).
Here are the five largest bonus pools going into this year’s draft:
- Pirates: $14,394,000
- Tigers: $14,253,800
- Rangers: $12,641,000
- Reds: $11,905,700
- Orioles: $11,829,300
The Rangers hold the No. 2 pick but have a smaller bonus pool than the Tigers, who hold the No. 3 pick, because Detroit received the No. 32 pick in the competitive balance lottery. Texas does not receive a competitive balance pick, which are extra picks given to lower revenue teams. The Astros have the smallest bonus pool at $2,940,600 as a result of their forfeited picks.
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Here are R.J. Anderson’s preseason top 50 draft prospect rankings and his April update of the top 10 prospects.
Below is our first 2021 MLB amateur mock draft. We’ll have mock draft updates every other Friday between now and draft day with the latest chatter, speculation, and rumors.
2021 MLB Mock Draft: June 11