The first round of the Major League draft is just a little over three weeks away, and the Houston Astros will select first for the second consecutive year. Right now, the consensus belief is that there are two college pitchers — Mark Appel of Stanford and Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma — who are a step ahead of the rest, though University of San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant is putting on quite the power display and could be an option if the Astros preferred to build around bats rather than arms. However, the decision for the Astros may not be made simply on talent alone.
Last year was the first draft under the new bonus structure, which assigns a fixed amount of dollars to each team based on where they pick in the draft, with some pretty severe penalties for exceeding those limits. Now, if a team is interested in paying over the slot value for a pick, they’ll have to borrow the money for that overpayment from another pick, making the draft as much a game of cost management as it is talent acquisition.