The 2012 MLB Draft begins tonight with the first round and first compensation round televised on MLB Network. Coverage begins at 6 PM, with the first pick scheduled to take place a little after 7 PM.
This draft is a sort of transition between the old and new rules. The old compensation rules still apply, so there will be 29 selections in the compensation (or sandwich round). These picks were gained by having a player ranked as a Type A or Type B player leave via free agency. The new CBA, signed last November, will in effect do away with these relatively easy compensation picks. A club can still gain a compensation pick, but the rules are a lot more stringent:
1. The player has to be with the former club the entire season.
This means that a contending team can't acquire a pending free agent before the July 31 trading deadline and get a compensation pick for him the following draft. This will have some effect on trade negotiations this season, but only for top-tier players (for reasons discussed below).
2. The former club has to offer the player a 1-year deal worth the average salary of the highest paid players from the previous season.
No longer where arbitration alone be enough to gain a compensation pick; clubs will have to offer a flat 1-year contract worth the same whether the player is one of the best or worst free agents on the market. This will clear out many of the "Type B" free agent compensation picks of years past.
3. The signing club would give up their first pick (unless it falls in the top 10, then they'd give up their second-highest pick). This forfeited pick would not go directly to the team that lost the free agent; instead the pick would be distributed through a lottery. The team who lost the eligible player would receive a compensation pick between the first and second rounds; selection order would be determined by reverse order of winning percentage.
It remains to be seen how this will affect deadline trades and free agent signings, but I do think this new rule will reduce compensation picks, as the club who lost the free agent won't gain that much. Previously a club who lost a Type A free agent would gain the signing club's first round pick in addition to the sandwich pick.
The compensation rules may not take effect until 2013, but there are several key changes that will be in effect for this year's draft:
- A Signing Bonus Cap based on each individual club's selections through the first 10 rounds. It's not a hard cap, but the penalties are fairly severe if a club exceeds it. If a club exceeds the cap, they'll incur at least a 75% tax on any spending over their cap. If they exceed more than 5% of their cap, they'll lose future draft picks. I think this has enough teeth to prevent a club from drafting a player in a lower round and giving him a first round-level signing bonus. This however will probably reduce the number of high-school prospects willing to forego college.
- Only minor-league contracts are allowed to be signed by draftees. So no more Jeremy Guthrie-type deals.
- The signing deadline is now in July instead of August. This will shorten the team-agent signing dance, and allow a signed draft pick to play that season in the minors.
Because the Indians didn't lose any Type A or B free agents, their second selection won't take place until pick 79, as there are 29 compensation picks between the first and second rounds.
Baseball America has the Indians taking Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer with the 15th overall pick. Shaffer has excellent power, but has some holes in his swing and may not stick at third base. So he's more likely to end up as a right fielder (thanks to a good throwing arm) or first base.
John Sickels has the Indians taking Oklahoma State LHP Andrew Heaney. Heaney has a low-90s fastball and three good major-league pitches plus a good idea how to use them, so he shouldn't take long to get to the majors.