For the second straight year, the Houston Astros have the largest pool of money to work with in order to sign players taken in the First-Year Player Draft.
Owners of the No. 1 pick overall for the second consecutive Draft, the Astros can spend up to $11,698,800 on picks in the top 10 rounds, as per the rules instituted prior to last year's Draft. That's an increase of their pool of $521,100 from 2012.
Draft signing bonus pools
The Washington Nationals, with $2,732,200 have the lowest pool to work with, thanks to the forfeiture of their first-round pick due to their signing of free agent Rafael Soriano, and the fact that they pick at the end of each round.
The overall values -- adding up each team's picks in rounds 1-10 -- have increased just over eight percent, in line with increased revenues across Major League Baseball in 2012.
In addition to the allotted amounts that clubs have for their picks in rounds 1-10, each team can also spend up to $100,000 on each selection after the 10th round. Anything over $100,000 on those picks also counts against the team's pool for the year.
The No. 1 overall spot was given a value of $7,790,400, up from $7.2 million. The No. 2 pick, owned by the Chicago Cubs, is valued at $6,708,400 and the Rockies' pick at No. 3 was given a $5,626,400 value.
The rest of the top 10 descends as follows: The No. 4 pick value (Twins) is $4,544,400, No. 5 (Indians) is $3,787,000, No. 6 (Marlins) is $3,516,500, the No. 7 pick (Red Sox) has a value of $3,246,000, No. 8 (Royals) is $3,137,800, No. 9 (the pick the Pirates get for not signing Mark Appel last year) is $3,029,600 and rounding out the top 10 is the Blue Jays' pick, worth $2,921,400.
Last year was the first go-round for organizations using the new system of Draft pools, where teams were assigned a certain amount of money they could spend without penalty through the first 10 rounds. As the Astros and a few other teams -- including the Blue Jays and Nationals -- proved, it's not just about how much money you have, it's how you spend it. Those teams were very creative in spreading their allotted pools around, stretching their Draft dollars pretty far.
"You have to take advantage of any opportunity to get the most bang for your buck," Astros scouting director Mike Elias said. "It's a case by case thing. What we've been doing this year, we're scouting the entire Draft crop, getting a sense of what's out there and how we might be able to extract the most talent from our Draft."
A year ago, the Astros took Carlos Correa No. 1 overall and were able to sign him for $2.4 million less than the signing bonus value Major League Baseball gave to the top spot. That flexibility helped Houston sign high-end talent like Lance McCullers Jr. and Rio Ruiz later on.
Whether the Astros try to be that creative in 2013 remains to be seen. They seem to be homing in on about a half-dozen candidates for the top pick -- Appel, right-hander Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma, college lefty Sean Manaea from Indiana State, slugging third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant from the University of San Diego and Georgia high school outfielders Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows -- with a couple of other possibilities on the periphery as well.
Don't expect Houston to whittle down that focus any time soon. Especially with the Draft pool rules in effect, keeping things open and flexible might be a key to success.
"I don't think we're going to have any dramatic narrowing until the end," Elias said. "I think it's important to keep scouting them until the very end. We're making sure we're keeping the field as open as we can. We are not going to make that decision when there's no reason to, six weeks before the Draft."