NEW YORK —
Major League Baseball teams can spend a little more money on amateur draft picks this year.
The signing bonus values for the selections in next month's draft will increase by 8.2 percent, players and owners agreed this week.
Under their memorandum of understanding in November 2010 for a five-year labor contract, the sides said signing bonus values will increase each year at the same rate as industry revenue.
The value for the No. 1 pick, held for the second straight year by the Houston Astros, increased to $7,790,400 from $7.2 million.
Stanford right-hander Mark Appel was projected as the top pick last year but the Astros instead selected Carlos Correa and signed the 17-year-old shortstop for $4.8 million, the smallest amount for a No. 1 pick since 2006. Appel was selected by Pittsburgh with the eighth pick, which had a value of $2.9 million, and didn't sign.
Baseball America projects Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray as the top selection this year and Appel as second. The Chicago Cubs pick second, which has a slot value of $6,708,400 and Colorado is third ($5,626,400).
The uptick in signing bonus values could make a difference for Cullman High ace Keegan Thompson, who is expected to be an early-round selection when the First-Year Player Draft begins on June 6.
As of Thursday night, the Bearcat senior said he’ll most likely stay true to his commitment to Auburn. Thompson did leave himself plenty of breathing room, though, adding his ultimate decision will depend on how high he is drafted.
Cullman’s national prospect has spoken with representatives from the Cleveland Indians and St. Louis Cardinals since the Black and Gold’s season wrapped up last month. According to Thompson, both big-league ballclubs said they were “really interested” in him.
St. Louis has the 19th and 28th picks in the first round, as well as the 57th in the second. Cleveland will select fifth overall and again in the third round in the 79th slot.
“I’m excited to see how things turn out,” Thompson said. “It’s going to be pretty cool if I get drafted.”
Baseball's labor contract assigns the slot value to all picks in the first 10 rounds, with the amount decreasing to $135,300 this year for the final selections of the 10th round. A club exceeding its total faces escalating penalties, starting with a 75 percent tax on the overage, graduating to a 100 percent tax and the loss of its next two first-round picks. For the 11th through 40th rounds, the amounts of bonuses exceeding $100,000 per pick are added to a team's total for calculating the tax.
According to figures compiled by MLB last summer, teams allocated $207.8 million to draft picks, down 11 percent from $233.6 million in 2011 though still the second-highest annual total. Just 10 teams exceeded their signing bonus pool, incurring a total luxury tax of $1.6 million. No team reached the second level of the tax.
% Associated Press sports writer Ronald Blum and The Times’ sports editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.