KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals, as expected, opted for an advanced college pitcher Monday night when they selected San Francisco right-hander Kyle Zimmer with the fifth overall pick in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.
Zimmer, 20, zoomed up draft boards this spring before tailing off late. Scouts say he possesses clean mechanics and two plus pitches — a fastball, which touches 99 mph, and curveball. His change-up shows potential.
“He has a business-like approach on the mound,” Baseball America reported, “and pitches with a bit of a mean streak, which scouts love. Zimmer’s athleticism also helps him on the mound. He repeats his delivery well and fields his position like an extra infielder.”
Houston opened the draft by surprising most observers and selecting high school shortstop Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico. Minnesota followed by taking outfielder Bryon Buxton, a high school senior from Baxley, Ga.
Seattle selected catcher Mike Zunino from the University of Florida with the third pick before Baltimore chose Louisiana State right-handed pitcher Kevin Gausman.
The draft’s first day consisted of only the first 60 selections — the first round and the first compensation round (where teams received additional selections for losing qualified players last winter through free agency).
The second round starts at 11 Tuesday morning Central time via teleconference from Major League Baseball’s corporate offices in New York. Tuesday’s selections will conclude with the 15th round. The draft concludes Wednesday with rounds 16 through 40.
This year’s draft is the first conducted since baseball overhauled the rules last winter as part of its new labor agreement. Clubs now operate with a hard cap on bonuses covering all picks through the first 10 rounds.
The new procedure sets a prescribed dollar amount for all picks through the first 10 rounds. The accumulative total for those picks is the club’s bonus pool.
Clubs may spend that amount in any manner as long as they don’t exceed the total. The penalties for spending beyond the allotted pool range from penalty taxes on the overage to the loss of future picks.
The Royals have a bonus pool of $6,101,500 for their 10 picks through the first 10 rounds – or roughly $1.4 million less than the franchise-record $7.5 million that outfielder Bubba Starling received last year as the fifth overall pick.
The slotted amount this year for Zimmer, as the fifth overall pick, is $3.5 million, although he and the Royals can reach agreement on any amount prior to the 4 p.m. signing deadline on July 13. (That deadline is also roughly a month earlier than previous years.)
For example: The Royals could sign Zimmer for, say, $4 million and not be subject to a penalty as long as they trim that $500,000 overage from the slotted amounts of other drafted players in the first 10 rounds.
They could also sign Zimmer for less than the slotted $3.5 million and use the extra amount on other players.
“Just because our slot is $3.5 million,” GM Dayton Moore admitted, “that doesn’t mean we’re going to pay the fifth player in the country $3.5 million. We might pay more, or we might pay less.”
There are two caveats to remember:
A club loses the slotted bonus for any player it fails to sign through the first 10 rounds. For example: the Royals’ fifth-round pick is slotted for a $259,500 bonus. If he doesn’t sign, the Royals lose that amount from their pool.
Bonus amounts exceeding $100,000 for any player selected after the 10th round count against a club’s pool total.
How the new system will play out is anybody’s guess, but there is speculation that clubs might select college seniors, who have minimal negotiating leverage, in the eighth-through-10th rounds – and underpay them to create greater flexibility with higher picks.
“We’re not going to try to beat the system,” Moore said. “We’re going to work within the system. There certainly is a ceiling on the finances in this current CBA, but we’re going to continue to put the dollar sign on the player.
“The Glasses (owner David Glass and club president Dan Glass) have shown and proven they’re willing to pay for talent, and it’s our job to decide what the particular player is worth. That’s why we’re here. That’s what we’ll continue to do.”