The Rays’ 2011 Draft

The Rays will select eleven players before the Tigers choose once in this year’s amateur draft. It seems like Detroit’s at a colossal disadvantage, but the Tigers have shown that teams can draft well without first round selections.

They have spent big on players who price themsleves off of other teams’ draft boards in recent years. Detroit paid up for Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner after other teams shied away from their demands. This year, the Tigers spent $3.45MM on prep third baseman Nick Castellanos, a potential star who slipped out of the first round.

“I don’t think spending has anything to do with it at all,” Tigers executive David Chadd said after locking up Castellanos, Chance Ruffin and Drew Smyly last summer. “You have to take the right players. It comes down to the players, not the money.”

But one National League executive told MLBTR last month that it would be naive to leave money out of the equation. As the Tigers have shown, teams with more draft picks don't necessarily emerge with more talent.

“You’ve got to think about it like what’s your draft budget,” the executive said. "You have a finite amount of money that you can spend on the draft. And you can spend $15MM on 50 picks or you can spend $15MM on 55 picks.”

With ten selections before the beginning of the second round, the Rays will have the chance to infuse their highly-regarded farm system with even more high-upside players.

But like every team, they operate on a budget and in 2010 they allotted $7.15MM for draft bonuses. This year, it would cost $9.1MM for the Rays to spend slot money on the picks they have in the first, supplementary and second rounds alone.* So the picks themselves are not enough to assure the Rays of a strong draft.

“The way you get extra talent in the draft is either having extra picks that you paid slot for or by going over-slot for fewer picks,” the executive said. “But it’s really all about money you spend.”

The Rays will be picking early and often this June, an advantage that will give them more choice than any other team. But to fully take advantage of the many early picks, the team will have to spend more than it did in 2009 or 2010.

*Unless Felipe Lopez signs a major league deal. In that case the figure drops to $9MM. Thanks to MLBTR’s Mike Axisa for the calculations.

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