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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Exactly what compensatory picks will the Cardinals receive?

In a surprisingly bold move by the St. Louis Cardinals, they offered arbitration to their top three free agents, Matt Holliday, Joel Pineiro and Mark DeRosa before Tuesday’s deadline.

Despite the risk of the latter two players accepting and returning to St. Louis on a one-year, arbitration-driven contract, the club rolled the dice. The potential gain is considerable – a total of four extra draft picks. Three will be between the first and second rounds of the 2010 draft and the other will be in either the first or second round.

The Cardinals can either take all four and help rebuild their farm system, decimated by trading five top picks for Holliday and DeRosa or perhaps use them to offset the loss of one or two of their own top picks if they decide to sign any Type A free agents themselves.

Matt Holliday (AP photo/Tom Mihalek)Because Holliday is the top-scored free agent available in the Elias Rankings, he is guaranteed to fetch either the first- or second-round pick from the club that signs him. (Assuming he does not return to St. Louis.) The exact pick depends on the 2009 finish of the signing team. The worst 15 teams last season would only forfeit their second-round selection, while the best 15 teams would lose their first-rounder.

The Cardinals will also receive three “sandwich” picks between the first and second rounds of the 2010 draft, one each for Holliday, DeRosa and Pineiro, if the players do not accept the Cards’ arbitration offer.

But exactly where in the 2010 draft would these compensatory picks be?

We currently have no way of telling.

All we know is that 23 of 70 eligible players were offered arbitration, 10 Type A and 13 Type B. That means as many as ten first or second-round picks could be changing hands and up to 23 extra picks will be added between rounds one and two of the 2010 draft.

To determine the precise order of the compensation-round picks, we need to know the comparative detailed Elias score of each free agent. This information has not yet been released by the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), though the Type A free agent scores only have apparently been leaked.

In past years, not only have the Type designations of each free agent been released, they were made available for all players, free agent or not. Here is the full list from one year ago: link

This year, all that has been formally published is the simple A/B designation of the free agents only with no 1) relative scores, 2) position detail, or 3) information on the non-free agents. The first is most important to answer the questions posed above.

I wonder if the MLBPA is being more tight-lipped since the Elias Ranking system has been under increasing fire due to several factors, including an overly-high value placed on relievers and some very odd placements of players.

Some have tried to crack the Elias scoring algorithms, which include stats such as batting average, home runs and RBI for hitters, and innings, ERA, saves and strikeouts for pitchers, but have been only partially successful.

I have some inquiries out and hope to be able to shed more light soon on where in the comp round the Cardinals three picks will be. Certainly Holliday’s will be up front. That much we know.

Note: In related recent posts, I highlighted both the Cardinals recent compensatory picks and those they may have passed up.

Major update: I did some additional research today and have learned my assumption above is incorrect. Here is how the supplemental round is actually ordered:

(All picks are in reverse order of 2009 standings just like the regular rounds)

  • All teams losing Type A’s get one pick
  • All teams losing a second Type A get their second pick, etc.
  • All teams losing Type Bs get one pick
  • All teams losing a second Type B get their second pick, etc.

So what this means for the Cardinals is that the comp pick for Holliday will not be first. His top Elias Ranking is immaterial. My application of the process above would put the Cardinals’ supplemental picks like the following. This assumes all players decline arbitration and do not re-sign with their current team, so this order may not be final.

  • Holliday pick: #4 in the comp round, 36th overall
  • DeRosa/Pineiro pick: #19 (first Type B pass), 51st overall
  • Pineiro/DeRosa pick: #24 (last comp player – second Type B pass), 56th overall

Between DeRosa and Pineiro, I am still not sure which pick is labeled for which player and how the “tie” is broken, as both are Type B. For this exercise, it doesn’t matter. (Update: If I understand the system correctly, the first B comp pick will be for DeRosa (70.33) and the second for Pineiro (67.302) due to their relative Elias scores.)

The above spots had to be adjusted for three unsigned players from the 2009 draft, two in the first round and one in the comp round. The latter falls after Holliday’s comp pick and prior to the first DeRosa/Pineiro selection.

Bottom line, the Cardinals currently have (subject to change due to caveats noted above) at least four picks in the first 56 selections in the 2010 draft and potentially five, if another top 15 club (based on 2009 wins) signs Holliday. Current course and speed, they will have six in the first 83, including their own second-rounder. (Note there are two other clubs with second-round comp picks ahead of the Cardinals.)

The location of the other Holliday pick remains the major open question. Because Holliday is a Type A free agent, the signing team actually forfeits their first -or second-round pick and St. Louis receives it. This is in addition to the comp selection discussed above. It can be anywhere from the last half of the first round to the end of the first half of the second round.

For the 2010 draft, it should be between #17 and #31 overall or between #57 and #71 overall. The former is more likely since that is tied to a winning 2009 team signing Holliday such as the Red Sox (pick #29) or the Yankees (pick #31). Obviously, if Holliday instead re-signs with the Cardinals, they would not receive any compensatory selections since in that case, they would not have lost him.

December 7 update: Because three MLB players accepted arbitration, the DeRosa and Pineiro comp picks each move up three places from the places listed above.

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