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The Year of the Tough Sign

by Steve Garrity on Jun. 13, 2011

Every year teams select players with the hopes of signing them all. Naturally that is never the case. In 2010 three first round picks went unsigned in Barrett Loux, Karsten Whitson, and Dylan Covey. The number one overall pick in this year’s draft, Gerrit Cole, was an unsigned first round draft pick by the New York Yankees in 2008. Failure for a team to sign their first round picks is a regular occurrence in the MLB Draft.

The 2011 MLB Draft is only a week old. With the dust beginning to settle and teams beginning their negotiations with draft picks, the attention naturally turns to those who could be the toughest signs.  The deadline to sign each pick is August 15th. Below is a list of players who could be some of the tougher signs in the class, beginning with the least likely to sign:

Least likely To Sign

1) Michael Kelly RHP, West Boca Raton HS (FL) – San Diego Padres, Supplemental 1st round

- Coming into the 2011 season, Michael Kelly looked like he would be ranked near the top of the prep arms.  He has excellent size at 6’5’’ and tremendous mound presence. However, his season has been inconsistent and a strong college commitment to Florida caused his stock to drop. The Padres selected him in the Supplemental round with hopes that better coaching can work out his mechanics, along with his up and down secondary offerings. But with Kelly falling out of the first round, all signs seem to point to him heading to Gainesville.

2) Josh Bell OF, Jesuit HS (TX) – Pittsburgh Pirates, 2nd round

- The Pirates got day 2 of the 2011 draft started off with a surprise. Bell is a top 15, possibly a top 10 pick on talent alone. Yet a few things knocked him out of the top of the first round. About a week before the draft he sent a letter to the MLB Scouting Bureau asking teams not to draft him. Some thought it was a ploy to get as much money as he can, while others believed that with his mother being a college professor, education would be too important their household, and he would not break his commitment to Texas.  There were rumors that the Tigers would grab him at 76 if he was around and offer him $6 million dollars, but we can only stipulate at this point. Pittsburgh is a team that isn’t afraid to spend, but they have to sign the number one overall pick in Gerrit Cole and spending $6 million on their second rounder could break their draft budget.

3) Dillon Howard RHP, Searcy HS (AK) – Cleveland Indians, 2nd round

- Dillon Howard sits right outside the elite prep arms in the class like Bundy, Bradley, and Guerrieri.  In almost any other class he is probably a no brainer first round pick, but  given the depth of this class, along with signability issues due to his association with Scott Boras, he was knocked down into round two.  Cleveland is already at the mercy of Boras after selecting another client of his in the first round, Francisco Lindor.  It most likely depends on how those negotiations go but Boras tries to get his clients paid what he thinks they’re worth not the slot where they’re picked.  Odds are Lindor signs and Howard heads off to Arkansas.

4) Austin Hedges C, JSerra Catholic HS (CA) – San Diego Padres, 2nd round

- Some say Austin Hedges is the best catching prospect in the entire draft.  He is the most polished behind the plate, projecting to be a gold-glove receiver. He has a plus arm and leadership skills to boot. With the bat, he has 15 homerun potential, but the only question is how consistently he will hit. If he can put it altogether Hedges has all-star potential. Hedges also has one of the stronger commitments in the class, with a scholarship waiting for him at UCLA.  San Diego has already signed first round pick Cory Spangenberg, and they will now have to change focus to fellow first rounder Joe Ross. Most likely they will have to choose between Hedges and Kelly.

5) Daniel Norris LHP, Science Hill HS (TN) – Toronto Blue Jays, 2nd round

- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthropolous has shown in his short time in the position that he is not afraid to take risks. In the 2011 draft he hasn’t changed his tone. In the first round Toronto grabbed prep righty Tyler Beede, one of the tougher signs in the draft. Beede has already claimed that whether he signs or not depends on money.  Daniel Norris is the best prep lefty in the class but with a strong commitment to Clemson and $3.9 million dollar asking price, the Jays took a big risk plucking him in round two after Tyler Beede.  They spent big in the 2010 draft but it may not be worth it to break the bank on only two picks. This one most likely comes down to Beede or Norris.  With Beede being the first rounder look for Daniel Noriss to be the odd man out.

6) Matt Purke LHP, TCU – Washington Nationals, 3rd round

-Matt Purke was in the running for the number one overall pick coming into this season, after a dominant freshman year at TCU. 2011 did not go as well as he had hoped.  With shoulder injuries, velocity dips, and inconsistency from game to game, his stock dropped substantially.  He is a draft-eligible sophomore, which will give him some pretty good leverage in negotiations.  Purke reportedly also still has a high asking price. The Nationals have shown over the last two years that they are not afraid to spend in the draft and will be watching Purke closely in the Cape ala Anthony Ranaudo with Boston in 2010. If he returns to his 2010 form, odds are he returns to TCU and looks to cash in in 2012.

7) Nick Delmonico C, Farragut HS (TN) – Baltimore Orioles, 6th round

- On talent alone, Nick Delmonico is a top 50 talent.  He has the bloodlines that teams love; his dad is a coach, his brother is in the minor leagues, and another brother is playing at Georgia. He knows how to play the game and has one of the sweeter swings in the draft. He is playing catcher now but is still pretty raw at the position, so the bat is the tool that will carry him. However he is athletic enough to still have value as a catcher and that will boost his negotiating stance. Only a couple things will hold the Orioles back. He has a strong commitment to Georgia to play with his brother, and has a $2 million dollar asking price. Baltimore will spend in the draft but first rounder Dylan Bundy will get most of their money. Look for Delmonico to be playing for the Bulldogs next season.

8) Derek Fisher OF, Cedar Crest HS (PA) – Texas Rangers, 6th round

- Another supplemental round talent, Fisher has excellent hit tools that should allow him to hit for average down the road and have big time power-potential.  Naturally as a product from the northeast he fell some in the draft, since teams view these players as raw. Derek Fisher also fell though because of an extremely strong commitment to the University of Virginia. The Rangers pay in the draft and the hit tool is worth it if the money is right here, but with the amount of money it will take to sign him, odds are Fisher is a Cavalier next year.

 

Other Names to Look Out For:

  1. Bubba Starling OF/P, Gardner HS (KS) – Kansas City Royals, 1st round
  • A top quarterback prospect with a scholarship to Nebraska.  He has a $10 million dollar price tag associated with him.
  1. Tyler Beede RHP, Lawrence Academy (MA) – Toronto Blue Jays, 1st round
  • A strong commitment to Vanderbilt had most thinking Beede would go later in the first round or supplemental round. He has already said the decision to sign will come down to money.
  1. Blake Swihart C, Cleveland HS (NM) – Boston Red Sox, 1st round
  • Swihart asked teams not to draft him as he wished to attend the University of Texas. Most thought it was a ploy to slide to a team that will pay. Naturally people think Boston will spend to get the deal done. 

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