Nationals Arm Race

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Nats 2016 Draft Status: Where do we stand now that Dunning has signed?


Dane Dunning headlines the 2016 draft class.

Dane Dunning headlines the 2016 draft class.

On Thursday 6/30/16, the big domino in our 2016 draft class Dane Dunning finally signed, which brought the Nats draft dollar shell game into more acute focus.

For those unfamiliar, here’s how the MLB draft now works with the new CBA-driven draft slotting and bonus system:  Every pick in the first 10 rounds is assigned a slot figure (here’s the 2016 slot figures directly pick by pick).  But you don’t have to spend all those dollars on each of those individual picks; if you “save” $100 by signing your (say) 4th rounder for $100 less than the slot value, that gives you $100 “extra” dollars to spend on someone else.  Any pick made above the 10th round can be paid up to $100,000 without having to count against the total bonus figure, which is important because if you give a 11th rounder $500k, that’s $400k that has to be counted against your top 10 budget.

So, the more important figure to keep in mind is this: $7,635,500.  That’s the sum of all the slot values of the 11 picks in the first 10 rounds that the Nats had this year.  An even more important figure is this: $8,017,275: that is precisely 5% above the $7.6M number, which is the “buffer” that MLB gives teams so as to go above their total slot values (along with a dollar-for-dollar tax penalty) without being penalized with lost future draft picks.

So, that being said, upon the Dunning signing, the Nats (by my calculations) had spent exactly $8,095,000 in bonus money, or $22,275 less than their upper end figure before getting penalized.

Here’s a list of those signees with dollar figures:

RoundOverallName/PositionBonus AmtSlot ValueSavings off of Slot?
1-S28Carter Kieboom2000000206590065900
1-S29Dane Dunning2000000203460034600
258Sheldon Neuse9000001107000207000
394Jesus Nuzardo1400000635800-764200
4124Nick Banks500000473300-26700
5154Daniel Johnson32500035430029300
6184Tres Barrera21000026540055400
7214Jacob Noll1900001989008900
8244A.J. Bogucki15000017770027700
9274Joey Harris10000166000156000
10304Paul Panaccione10000156600146600
11334Armand Upshaw400000100000-300000

The team went way over slot to sign third rounder Jesus Nuzardo, paying him the equivalent of mid 2nd round money to buy him out of his Miami commitment and get him into the fold.  That seems like good value; he was projecting as a 1st rounder out of HS earlier in the year before hurting his arm.   The team went slightly over budget to get Nick Banks, a nominal amount in the end for a US collegiate National team guy who also projected as a first rounder at the beginning of the year.  Lastly they dropped $400k ($300k over slot) on their 11th rounder Armand Upshaw, a move that has been somewhat questioned based on his Juco Stats (he did have a 4-year commitment to Missouri that had to be bought out).  These two big over-slot deals means club basically ended up with an extra 2nd rounder and an extra 5th rounder.  That’s pretty good value.

The team went under slot (as has now become the custom) with a number of its round 6-10 guys to save the money needed for these overslot deals: they got their 9th and 10th rounders for just $10k each (Joey Harris and Paul Panaccione); with all due respect to these two guys, don’t expect much out of them beyond this year.  Surprisingly to me, they got 2nd rounder Sheldon Neuse to sign for more than $200k underslot; this was a guy who was named the Big 12 player of the year this year, was Louisville Slugger 2nd team all-american, was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes award and was just give the 2016 “Brooks Wallace” award for best college shortstop.  Basically, he had a great year this year and I like this pick.

The side effect of their spending thus far is this: there probably are no more deals to be made.  Here’s a list of the rest of the draft class ( from round 12 to 40) with a quick yes/no flag as to whether they’re signed yet:

RoundOverallName/PositionPositionCol/HSCollege or CmtmSigned?
12364Hayden HowardLHPCol Sr.Texas TechYes
13394Conner Simonetti1BCol Jr.Kent StateYes
14424Kyle SimondsRHPCol Sr.Texas A&MYes
15454Ryan WilliamsonLHPCol Jr.North Carolina StateYes
16484Phil MorseRHPCol Sr.Shenandoah (Va.)Yes
17514Tyler BeckwithSSCol Sr.RichmondYes
18544Ben BraymerLHPCol Jr.AuburnYes
19574Jarrett GonzalesCHSGrayson Junior College
20604Jake BarnettLHPCol Jr.Lewis-Clark State (Idaho)Yes
21634Jacob HowellRHPCol Jr.Delta State (Miss.)Yes
22664Sterling SharpRHPCol Jr.Drury (Mo.)Yes
23694Michael RishwainRHPCol Sr.Westmont (Calif.)Yes
24724Joseph BaltripRHPJ2Wharton County (Texas) JCYes
25754Branden BoggettoSSCol Sr.Southeast Missouri StateYes
26784Jack SundbergOFCol Sr.ConnecticutYes
27814Jeremy McDonaldLHPCol Sr.California BaptistYes
28844Jonny ReidLHPCol Jr.Azusa Pacific (Calif.)Yes
29874Sam HeldRHPCol Sr.NevadaYes
30904Tristan ClarkeOFJ2Eastern Oklahoma State JC
31934C.J. PicerniCCol Sr.New YorkYes
32964Garrett Gonzales3BHSIncarnate Word
33994Ryan WetzelSSHSPitt State
341024Morgan CooperRHPCol Jr.Texas
351054Tristan BaylessLHPHS??
361084Jordan McFarlandOFHSArkansas
371114Cory VossCJ2McLennan (Texas) CC
381144Noah MurdockRHPHSUVA
391174Matt Mervis1BHSDuke
401204Sean CookRHPHSMaryland walk-on?

So who is left unsigned at this point?  It is a fair assumption that any HS player drafted in the 12-40 range is not going to sign at this point; there’s just no additional dollars to incentivize them and they’ve all got college commitments.  So lets talk about the college players left on a case by case basis:

(Note; in-between the original writing of this post and the publication, both 12th rounder Hayden Howard  and 15th rounder Ryan Williamson signed; the signing of Howard came as somewhat of a surprise to me because he still had some eligibility.  Apologies if I forgot to update a spreadsheet or table somewhere).

  • 30th rounder Tristan Clarke: twitter handle is but its protected, so no  hints as to his intentions.  He’s at a Juco now, but has committed to attend “UNO” which I can only assume is the University of Nebraska-Omaha and not the University of New Orleans.  It does not seem like he’s going to sign.
  • 34th rounder Morgan Cooper: twitter handle is he missed all of 2015 with TJ, was Texas’ mid-week starter in 2016 and put up mediocre numbers.  He could end up with two more years of eligibility if I read his history correctly, so he makes sense to return to Texas, get into the weekend rotation and improve his draft stock.
  • 37th rounder Cory Voss: no idea what his twitter handle is, nor if he’s signed with a 4-year program out of his current Juco.  Tough one to find information on.

Of the HS draft picks:

  • 19th rounder Jarrett Gonzales: I cannot find his twitter, nor much information; he’s apparently committed to Grayson Junior College, which would make him draft eligible again next year, so why not roll the dice and play a year of Juco to increase value?
  • 32nd rounder Garrett Gonzales, the cousin of Jarrett and they’re both related to a Nats scout in the area.  Committed to Incarnate Ward.  Twitter handle : this seems like a “favor draft pick” to an area scout who may not have gotten another guy drafted.
  • 33rd rounder Ryan Wetzel, committed to Pitt State, twitter  Does not seem likely to sign.
  • 35th rounder  Tristan Bayless, LHP out of a Texas HS.  Can’t find twitter, can’t find his commitment, not in  An enigma.
  • 36th rounder  Jordan McFarland, an OF out of an Illinois HS committed to Arkansas.  No Twitter, little hope of signing.
  • 38-40th rounders: the Nats take three local kids Noah Murdock, Matt Mervis and Sean Cook.  Murdock was the Virginia 3-A East Regional player of the year from Colonial Heights HS south of Richmond and is a UVA commit and has already announced he’s going to school.  Mervis is from Georgetown Prep, was 2nd team all-Met in 2015 and in 2016 and is committed to Duke; he was one of the marquee Maryland Prep players in this class.  So both of these were “good” picks.  Sean Cook was a 2nd-team All-Met ins 2016 but doesn’t have a rich pedigree in the scouting circles (he has no Perfect Game profile), and has been quoted as wanting to “walk on” at Maryland.  No offense to the kid, but this sounds like a “favor” draft pick as well to someone connected with the team.   We’ll have more detail on these local-connected drafted kids after the 7/15/16 signing deadline, summarizing everyone with local connections who was drafted.

Summary: I’ll be shocked if any of the remaining un-signed guys signs, so it looks like the class is complete.

Draft Class Stats (SpringfieldFan’s Draft Tracker has all of this data plus its own summarized data too)

  • 41 players drafted
  • 30 signed, 11 unsigned
  • Breakdown of draftees: 10 high schoolers, 4 Juco players, 12 college seniors and 15 college juniors (counting Howard as a “college junior”)
  • Breakdown by position: 21 non-pitchers, 20 pitchers.  Of the pitchers, 12 right handers, 8 lefties
  • Breakdown by State: 9 of the 41 drafted kids are from Texas.  Another 3 from Oklahoma; this continues a trend we’ve seen where the Nats really, really focus on this SW area of the country.  Other states with multiple players picked: Florida (4), California (3), and Virginia (3).

Of those 30 who signed:

  • 2 high schoolers, 2 jucos, 14 college juniors and 12 college seniors
  • 14 position players, 16 pitchers.  Of the pitchers, 9 righties, 7 lefties.

If you have any information on guys that I don’t please chime in with a comment.


One additional comment; as we’ve now seen, the Nats have been  highly active in the 7/2 international market, blowing well past their allotted IFA bonus money to sign.  According to Baseball America’s rankings, the Nats signed the #3 prospect in the IFA market this year in Dominican SS Luis Garcia, the #14 player in Dominican SS Yasel Antuna, the #30 player in Venezuelan OF Ricardo Mendez, and another Venezuelan C named Israel Pineda (you know, since they’ve had such great luck so far with Catchers from Venezuela).  I don’t know anything about these players and neither does anyone else besides a handful of hard-core scouting pundits who actually travel to these countries to eyeball these players.  Still, they’re mostly 16 yr olds; HS sophomores.  It could be money down a rat hole, or they could strike gold.  We won’t know for several years in any case.  Its one of the reasons I stopped tracking the Dominican Summer League (and one of the reasons Luke Erickson stopped hyper-tracking the daily machinations of both the DSL and the GCL); call me when they get to the states in a couple of years and we’ll see  how they’re doing.



10 Responses to 'Nats 2016 Draft Status: Where do we stand now that Dunning has signed?'

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  1. I haven’t heard about anyone else signing, and like you, think its unlikely at this point. Seems like a pretty good crop, and they have gotten some praise from other quarters on their draft/strategy. For instance, yesterday there was a question put to the Fangraphs prospect guy about the Phillies draft (meaning, why didn’t they do more?), and one of the explanations was that the Nat’s strategy thwarted them to a degree on some of their later picks.

    Also heard almost universal praise for Garcia, one of the J2 guys, and mixed reviews on Antuna, the big $4m signing. Apparently he is a polarizing guy, and you either love him or hate him. Also heard that the Nats had him rated as the #2 guy behind Maitan (who KLaw says the Nats tried to steal from the Braves).


    5 Jul 16 at 11:25 am

  2. On Maitan, story I heard was that Nats had him initially, Braves ‘stole’ him from nats and the Nats were trying to steal him back. Sounds like the wild west down there. An Int’l draft will end the hijinks, but it does make you wonder why is it ok for this sh*t to go on for 16yr olds in a foreign country but 18yr olds in this country have their draft bonuses capped under an un-capitalistic system designed to thwart the free market?

    Todd Boss

    5 Jul 16 at 11:54 am

  3. No wonder there – its all what the powers that be can get away with.

    The bigger travesty is the minor league wage scale. Those guys should be making much more.


    5 Jul 16 at 1:09 pm

  4. The minor league wage thing is patently ridiculous. How can anyone make the claim that paying minor league players a minimum wage is somehow going to ruin baseball?

    If you paid every guy a wage of $50k in a minor league system’s domestic leagues you’d be talking 6 levels with 30 guys each approximately; that’s $9M. 9M to pay every player “just” $50k for their service. If that number was somehow unpalatable then you could make an argument to pro-rate it to the 6months in season and halve it … but lets be honest. $9M isn’t going to break the banks for any team or owner in the league. So you can buy one less middle of the road FA.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jul 16 at 1:58 pm

  5. I agree about the Latin players. A few readers on Luke’s site follow them closely, but they don’t usually appear on my radar until Hagerstown or so, unless they’re a “chosen one” like Robles.

    I didn’t get the Gonzales picks if they weren’t going to sign, particularly the one at 19. Wetzel is also the son of someone in the Nats’ front office.

    By the way, we have the first 2016 draftee to make it to Hagerstown: Jacob Howell, the 21st rounder. He struck out six in five IP at Auburn. The hottest among the everyday players is probably Daniel Johnson (5th). He was said to be raw, so I was a little surprised he went to Auburn, but he’s more than holding his own. Tres Barrera (6th) is also hitting well at Auburn. Connor Simonetti (13th), perhaps the biggest power bat in the Nats’ draft class, has 2 HRs in his first five GCL games. Neuse and Banks (at Auburn) and Kieboom (at GCL) are all around the Mendoza line, but it’s early.

    I’ve already prattled on about the HS picks, so I won’t repeat myself. The better talent in this draft was supposed to be among the HS kids, and the Nats bought into that narrative. One report compared Kieboom to Alex Bregman, the 2d overall pick in 2015. The difference is that Bregman will probably be called up this year, Kieboom maybe by 2021.

    I was pining for a college OF so felt much better when Banks fell to the Nats in the 4th, all the more so when he signed close to slot. There wasn’t that much difference between him and several guys who went a lot higher.


    5 Jul 16 at 2:10 pm

  6. on the minor leaguers, I think they get $1100 month during the season at the lowest levels. It really is ludicrous, and ultimately counter productive for MLB itself: the more you make it possible for someone to pursue this dream economically, the more guys you get wanting to play and therefore the pool of talent to make it to the pros is higher. I think that’s just math.

    As for the current draftees, honestly I put no stock in how they perform now. Long season already, leaving college/HS and first time in pro ball, and some of them (like Banks) need some adjustments. Getting reports out of instructs is the very first time I’d even bother paying attention, because that is when the Nats’ development guys will start working with them.


    5 Jul 16 at 3:06 pm

  7. Those two congresscritters (one from each party–figures!) who are sponsoring a bill to prevent minor leaguers from being paid more are pretty scummy, even by the low standards of that awful institution. The owners saved themselves from spending too much on draft bonuses and now look to do the same internationally, so there is no excuse for not paying the minor leaguers a living wage. Disgraceful all around.

    Karl Kolchak

    5 Jul 16 at 4:47 pm

  8. One of them about-faced about 24 hours after the bill hit the news, and I read some inside-baseball type analysis from a political type who said he’d never seen such a quick reversal of course from a congressperson. She was the one who’se dad was a scout or something, and clearly hadn’t read the bill.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jul 16 at 4:57 pm

  9. I hope she heard it from a bunch of her constituents. A lot of people attend minor league games, and to be seen as the Uncle (or Aunt) Scrooge who wants to screw them over would hardly be a political winner with them.

    Karl Kolchack

    5 Jul 16 at 11:16 pm

  10. Different topic–it may only be the GCL and it is an admittedly very small sample size, but last year’s big Dominican bonus baby, Juan Soto, is absolutely ripping the cover off the ball. Seems the Nats clearly did their homework on him.

    Karl Kolchack

    5 Jul 16 at 11:25 pm

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