Friday August 12, 2011
Rob Bland (Intern- MLB Reports): With the August 15 deadline for all 2011 MLB draftees to sign, players and teams are getting down to the wire with negotiations. Only two of the top ten picks have been signed, right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer, and second baseman Cory Spangenberg by the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres, respectively. Of the 33 first round picks, 9 have signed, as well as 14 of the 27 picks in the supplemental first round. It is expected that most of the picks from the first round will go down to the last hour, if not minute. However, there is a lot of speculation about who will not sign, and the fans of each team are hoping and praying their team will get their guy. Some players come into the draft with lofty expectations and high estimates of signing bonus money. As a result, many of the lower budget franchises stay away from these players, and draft “safe” players, who will sign for a more reasonable price.
The Oakland Athletics’ GM Billy Beane was made famous through the book “Moneyball”, which portrayed the club as a bottom feeder organization financially. They had to pick lesser talents in order to sign all their draft picks. They shied away from the big “sexy” names on draft boards and targeted players with specific skill sets. Other teams who have done this in the past to varying degrees of success are the Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals. In the last couple of years, these organizations have turned their philosophies around, drafting tough to sign players with higher ceilings, and ending up signing most of them. Today will highlight a few of the players drafted who will be tougher than others to sign.
From this year’s draft, one of the players who was known to be extremely difficult to sign was Josh Bell. On talent alone, he was rated as an early first round pick, yet dropped to the second round to the Pittsburgh Pirates. He had sent a letter to Major League Baseball advising teams not to draft him on account that he wanted to attend the University of Texas. Some have said this was just a bargaining tool to simply add more leverage to his situation, while others think he will not sign under any circumstances. It has been predicted that it will take a minimum of $10M and a Major League contract in order to sign him. I feel that the Pirates are an extreme long shot to sign Bell, and he will attend U of T and be a Longhorn for the next three years.
High school right-handed pitcher Tyler Beede could have been a top 10 pick, with his 95 mph fastball and devastating change-up. Beede was widely known to be seeking a bonus upwards of $3-4M. The Toronto Blue Jays and their new management have made it a point to take the best player available when they it is their turn to select a player in the draft. So, when it came to their turn as the 21st selection, the Jays did not hesitate to choose Beede, who has said it will come down to money in the long run. I believe the Jays will sign him in the final minutes for close to $3M.
With the 5th overall pick, the Kansas City Royals had a tough decision to make. Outfielder Bubba Starling, a hometown kid from Kansas, was widely considered the top prep offensive talent in the draft was still on the board. Starling has a scholarship to the University of Nebraska to play both football and baseball. It is very likely that a bonus upwards of $8M will be what it takes for Starling to sign with KC on August 15. Expect this deal to get done.
Gerrit Cole, the flame throwing right-handed pitcher from UCLA was taken by the Pirates first overall in the draft. Cole has reached 102 mph on radar guns and routinely hits triple digits. Cole has yet to sign, but is widely expected to join the Pirates. A Major League deal for 4 years and $8M or so is likely.
Rice University has been known to producing top talent, as witnessed by having eight first round picks in the last 11 years, most notably when Phil Humber and Jeff Niemann went 3rd and 4th overall in the 2004 draft. Another first rounder from Rice was Lance Berkman in 1997. So when one of the top three candidates for the first overall pick came down to an infielder from Rice, who just happened to win the Dick Howser Trophy, (essentially the Heisman Award for college baseball players), nobody was surprised. Anthony Rendon may not have above average speed or the best glove, but he has an above average arm and was considered by most to be the best hitter in the country. Rendon dropped to #6 to the Washington Nationals due to signability concerns but should sign for $4M plus.
Shortstops with ultra talent often get huge signing bonuses and Cleveland Indians’ first pick (8th overall), Francisco Lindor will be no exception. Lindor has the talent to warrant a $3M bonus, but should hold out for more. The Indians tend to shy away from this kind of pick, but the talent speaks for itself and I believe the Indians will go as high as $3.5M to sign the talented shortstop.
There has arguably not been a better high school pitcher in the last decade than flame throwing Dylan Bundy. The right-hander has reached 100 mph and has 2 plus secondary pitches. His high school pitching numbers are straight out of a video game. 71 innings, 2 earned runs. TWO! He also had 158 strikeouts to 5 walks. FIVE WALKS! Good for a 31.6:1 K:BB ratio. Oh, and the fact that he can also hit, as evidenced by his 11 home runs and 54 RBI in only 105 at-bats doesn’t hurt. The University of Texas commit could command a Major League contract and $6-8M. He should sign; my guess is $6.5M.
Here is the breakdown of the entire 2011 first round of picks, with players in bold having already signed:
1 Gerrit Cole RHP Pittsburgh Pirates
2 Danny Hultzen LHP Seattle Mariners
3 Trevor Bauer RHP Arizona Diamondbacks – ML deal 4/$7M
4 Dylan Bundy RHP Baltimore Orioles
5 Bubba Starling OF Kansas City Royals
6 Anthony Rendon 3B Washington Nationals
7 Archie Bradley RHP Arizona Diamondbacks
8 Francisco Lindor SS Cleveland Indians
9 Javier Baez SS Chicago Cubs
10 Cory Spangenberg 2B San Diego Padres – $1.86M
11 George Springer OF Houston Astros
12 Taylor Jungmann RHP Milwaukee Brewers
13 Brandon Nimmo OF New York Mets
14 Jose Fernandez RHP Florida Marlins
15 Jed Bradley LHP Milwaukee Brewers
16 Chris Reed LHP LA Dodgers
17 C.J. Cron Jr. 1B LA Angels – $1.467M
18 Sonny Gray RHP Oakland Athletics – $1.54M
19 Matt Barnes RHP Boston Red Sox
20 Tyler Anderson LHP Colorado Rockies
21 Tyler Beede RHP Toronto Blue Jays
22 Kolten Wong 2B St. Louis Cardinals – $1.3M
23 Alex Meyer RHP Washington Nationals
24 Taylor Guerrieri RHP Tampa Bay Rays
25 Joe Ross RHP San Diego Padres
26 Blake Swihart C Boston Red Sox
27 Robert Stephenson RHP Cincinnati Reds
28 Sean Gilmartin LHP Atlanta Braves – $1.13M
29 Joe Panik SS San Francisco Giants – $1.116M
30 Levi Michael SS Minnesota Twins
31 Mikie Mahtook OF Tampa Bay Rays
32 Jake Hager SS Tampa Bay Rays – $963K
33 Kevin Matthews LHP Texas Rangers – $936K
I think that although you can’t be sure about these kinds of things, my gut feeling is that every first rounder this year will actually sign by August 15th. I also predict that at least one signing will come minutes after the deadline, probably a Scott Boras client, and the league will allow the deal to pass.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Rob Bland. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***
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