Pirates: Looking at the 2021 Potential Draft Bonus Pools

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /

As of now, the Pittsburgh Pirates have ownership of the first overall pick in the 2021 Draft. This brings more advantages than just having the top option.

Other than the breakout out of rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes, there was not much to be excited about for the 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates.  The team was not very good, and quite frankly, no one expected them to be very good.  However, there is a benefit to them being really bad, and that is that they will have the top selection in the 2021 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

This is obviously good news for a rebuilding team.  Ben Cherington is in a great position to add a future all-star by having the top selection.  Right now, it looks as if Vanderbilt ace Kumar Rocker will be the name to take with the top pick.  Obviously, there is a lot of time between now and next summer, but there is definitely at least some light at the end of this 2020 season.

However, there is another advantage to the Pittsburgh Pirates gaining the top overall pick.  Back in 2012, Major League Baseball implemented a new draft bonus system that essentially capped how much teams could spend on players in the draft. This has altered the draft in many ways with there being some limitations, however it also added some strategic decision making in trying to accumulate the best talent under a mandated budget constraint.

Every year each team is given a figure that is referred to as their Draft Bonus Pool. This figure is formulated by Major League Baseball based on a value they come up for each pick.  They started this in 2012 and since have added an annual percentage increase each season.  With that being said, this figure is only a suggestion, teams can spend more or less than the suggested number.

In doing so, they can save money to spend on other prospects who may want over their suggested price.  Teams can actually spend up to five percent over their Bonus Pool before having to pay any draft pick compensation for the following year’s draft.  Any team within that five percent just has to pay a tax on the overage.

So having the number one overall pick in the 2020 Draft will set the Bucs up to have a big bonus pool to use towards their draft class.  Based on how this year’s draft was setup, it is safe to assume that the 2021 Draft will also be adapted in someway.  This past year saw the draft go from 40 rounds to just five rounds, which obviously then limited team’s overall bonus pools. On the players side of things, the suggested amounts for the picks remained consistent to the 2019 suggestions.

For the 2020 Draft, the Detroit Tigers owned the top selection, coming with a suggest slot value of $8,420,000, which is exactly what top selection Spencer Torkelson signed for.  This was the same suggested amount for the top pick in 2018.  The Orioles had the top selection that year and used it on catcher Adley Rutschman, who actually took just below the slot-value at $8,100,000.  In doing so, the Orioles saved nearly $300K which they then used to sign their second pick to an over-slot deal.

Now every team has this advantage, but the fact that the Pittsburgh Pirates have the top pick will naturally give them one of, if not the, highest bonus amounts.  For instance, while the Orioles had the top pick in 2019, they did not have the top spending amount due to other teams picking up compensation picks.  Still, they had over $13 million to spend, which was good for the second most in baseball.

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The Bucs will add at least one more draft pick being they will get a Competitive Balance pick.  This nets teams additional bonus pool money to use.  So the Bucs should be in a spot to really grab multiple top prospects not just because of where they will be drafting, but also because their bonus pool will allow them to be more aggressive than other teams.