The Major League Rule 4 Draft has changed substantially over the past few years. While teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates cannot compete on big name free agents, they used to fill their spending deficit on draft and international spending. Their past tendencies to spend big have allowed them to draft prospects that have fallen due to concerns over their bonus demands. The days of over-spending on the MLB Draft, however, are over. With new “salary caps” on draft bonus spending – which is the sum of the expected slot bonuses for the first ten round picks – the Pirates are going to be limited on the amount that they can spend.
The Pirates, however, do have a chance this season to manipulate their bonus money. After failing to sign first round pick Mark Appel with the eighth pick in the 2012 draft, they have the 9th pick in this year’s draft, along with their own 14th overall pick. The addition of the allocated bonus money for the 9th pick adds to the total pool of money the Pirates can spend. If they draft a player who will not demand the entire allocated bonus for the pick with either of their first two picks, they can use the extra money to draft a prospect who falls in the draft.
ESPN’s Keith Law predicted that the Pirates may underspend on both of their first two picks, in an effort to draft Sean Manaea. Manaea was by all accounts a top-5 pick before the college season, only dropping due to a hip injury. His potential still remains just as bright, and he figures to demand a substantially over-slot bonus. Law does not have Manaea projected in the first round, but he insists that the prospect will demand a high bonus.
Manaea has a plus fastball with two more above average pitches. If the Pirates could get two college bats, which many believe that they will do, they could save substantially early on. If they were able to grab Manaea in the second or third round while maintaining relatively normal slot bonuses for the remainder of their picks, the Pirates could emerge as huge winners from the upcoming Rule 4 draft.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.