SECAUCUS, N.J. -- In theory, the idea of the First-Year Player Draft is for the best talent to go at the top of the Draft. Over the years, it hasn't always been borne out that way, with things like signability getting in the way of the teams who need help the most from taking the players they should based on ability.
That's slowly changed over the past few years, albeit with some exceptions, as teams at the top of the Draft especially are taking the player they felt was the best available and not worrying about what the bonus would have to be to get it done. That's led to more teams being willing to go over-slot, but it's also led to clubs like the Pirates and Royals going for the guy on the top of their board rather than reach for someone they knew they could sign. That's why Pedro Alvarez is wearing black and gold and Eric Hosmer is playing first base in Kansas City these days, just to name two examples.
What about in 2011? Did the top talent go off the board when it should have based solely on ability? For the most part, yes. A grand total of 35 of MLB.com's Top 50 Draft prospects went in the top 60 picks. A couple -- Matthew Purke and Josh Osich -- have injury concerns keeping them still on the board. Some -- Anthony Meo, Alex Dickerson, Peter O'Brien, Jason Esposito and Ricky Oropesa in particular -- were college players whose play dropped off a bit this spring or who teams probably felt could easily be picked up during day two.
As college heavy as the top of the Draft was -- 13 of the top 20, 19 of 33 -- it evened out and then some. By the time the supplemental first round was over the prepsters had taken over, with 32 of the 60 selections.
"It's not surprising that high school kids went more than college," said one scouting director whose team had multiple picks on Day 1 of the Draft. "The college guys can be had and signed later in the Draft, so the push was to get the 'signable' high school kids early and often."
A look at the top remaining players from MLB.com's Top 50 Draft Prospects list:
Science Hill HS
Jesuit College Prep
Juniper Serra HS
Cedar Crest HS
New Trier HS (Ill)
Not all high school kids were signable, of course. The first 14 in the Top 50 were selected, but No. 15 Daniel Norris is still very much available. The Tennessee high school product has a commitment to Clemson and had put out a very hefty price tag. Whether he gets close to that amount remains to be seen, but one scouting director contacted after the night's activity had concluded thought that Norris will either find a team to come close to his bonus demand early on Tuesday or he'll go on to school.
Josh Bell is another player who went unselected, though he was clearly a first-round talent (rated No. 23 overall). But Bell had sent out a letter to teams saying he didn't want to be drafted because he wanted to go to the University of Texas. There was an industry debate over whether it was a ploy to push him to a specific team that would meet bonus demands or a sincere request. Undoubtedly, someone will draft him at some point on Tuesday or Wednesday, but it seems more and more likely that Bell will be a Longhorn in the fall.
Then there's Austin Hedges at No. 31. An advanced backstop defensively, scouts feel he'd be an everyday catcher just based on his glove work. If the bat develops, he could even be an All-Star. But Hedges has a strong commitment to UCLA, and it was believed he would need an above-slot deal to get him to walk away from that.
Where players such as Norris, Bell and Hedges -- as well as Top 50 players like Andrew Susac -- go in the Draft will be one of the more intriguing story lines in the following 48 rounds of the Draft. Certain teams -- the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers come to mind -- are often associated with such Day 2 selections.
This isn't ideal, obviously. Those young players, in a perfect world, should have gone among the top 60 picks if all was fair and equal. Perhaps a new system that includes slotting will take care of that in 2012, but for now this is the system teams have to work with. The good news is that even with these fairly big examples, for the most part teams got it right with the 60 names that were announced on Monday night.
"You line up your board, you see a big chunk of your board missing, you know that [players went when they should]," another scouting director said. "We ranked guys, then you sit there. You have a guy ranked 15th on your board and you start thinking, 'Man, it would be great if that guy was there when you picked next.' Then he goes and you try not to react to what other guys pick because you don't have time."
"There were a few guys that went a little deeper than they might have if signability would have been more in line," the first scouting director said. "But yes. I think for the most part it went where it was supposed to go."