Draft Deadline Looms Large in August
Today is the 31st of July. Why is that important? It means there are only 15 more days left for Major League Baseball teams to lock up their 2007 amateur draft picks.
The deadline is new this year, so it will be interesting to see how teams - and agents - approach Aug. 15. I will also be curious to see if signing bonuses continue along the downward trend, or if teams cave at the last minute in an effort to lock up top amateur talent. Perhaps the most interesting storyline will be how super agent Scott Boras makes out with the new guidelines.
Last week I took a look at the five teams who had, in my humble opinion, the best drafts. Those teams included Texas, Toronto, Arizona, Cincinnati and Washington. Over the next two weeks, I shall break down the remaining 25 teams - beginning with the American League - and take a look at who could be signed by the Aug. 15 deadline.
Currently, 13 of the 30 first round picks remain unsigned, including 10 prep players who could use college or junior college commitments as leverage. Only four supplemental first round picks have yet to sign on the dotted line.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles: With only one pick in the first three rounds, the Baltimore organization knew it had to make an impact with its first round pick and caution was thrown to the wind when Boras client Matt Wieters was selected. His contract will no doubt take until the last possible moment to complete, if it gets done at all. The Orioles organization has been known to walk away from amateur talent (Wade Townsend) when the price tag gets too steep. Fifth round pick Jack Arrieta, another Boras client, also has yet to sign after falling due to signability concerns. North Carolina State hurler Eryk McConnell is the only other unsigned pick in the club's top 10 rounds.
Boston Red Sox: With no first round pick, Boston quickly signed its first pick in the supplemental first round: Washington University lefty Nick Hagadone. The club also signed prep pitcher Brock Huntzinger (3rd round) and Southeastern Louisiana hurler Chris Province (4th round). However, five other top 10 picks remain unsigned, including high school hitters Ryan Dent and Hunter Morris. Dent is most likely signable, while Morris could be headed to Auburn University. Fifth round pick Will Middlebrooks is a player who has reportedly agreed to contract, but the club is waiting until the deadline to announce the over-slot deal.
New York Yankees: The Yankees organization has six of its top 10 picks unsigned, but rumours persist that four or five of the six - which includes Andrew Brackman, Austin Romine, Brad Suttle, Chase Weems, Taylor Grote and Carmen Angelini - may have agreed to over-slot deals. The rich continue to get richer.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Obviously the biggest unsigned name is first overall pick David Price. I don't think there is any doubt that he will sign, but it would benefit the Rays to get it done sooner rather than later, so he can acclimatize himself to pro ball before the minor league season ends in early September. Fourth round pick David Newmann, of Texas A&M, also remains unsigned in the top 10 rounds.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox have locked up the key players, including first round pick Aaron Poreda. The only remaining pick in the top 10 rounds is prep shortstop Brian Guinn, who is likely headed to college in California. The White Sox have signed only four picks after the 20th round.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians locked up first round pick and slugger Beau Mills quite quickly, not surprisingly considering the club lacked second and third round picks. Fourth round pick T.J. McFarland, a prep lefty, could be headed to Missouri unless Cleveland 'shows him the money.' Seventh round pick, and oft-injured college pitcher, Cole St. Clair should be signed away from Rice University with an over-slot contract.
Detroit Tigers: Rick Porcello is perhaps the biggest unsigned name outside of Price, as a prep pitcher with a huge upside. Many though, expect him to follow through on his commitment to North Carolina. Casey Crosby (fifth round) and Cale Iorg (sixth) are unsigned high-ceiling players that fell due to signability concerns. If the Tigers could lock up all three, it would be a major boost to the club's minor league system - but it would be an expensive endeavor.
Kansas City Royals: The Royals seemingly love to take high school players, regardless of the desperate need for advanced pitching to help out at the major league level. As such, the club took prep players with its first four selections. Of those four, only first round pick Mike Moustakas remains unsigned. The Royals organization will do everything in its power to ensure Moustakas does not follow through on his commitment to USC.
Minnesota Twins: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who had the ugliest draft of all? Was it the Minnesota Twins? It may have been, especially after the club went cheap and signed first round pick and outfielder Ben Revere to a below-market contract. Also not promising is the fact the club has yet to sign fourth and fifth round picks Reggie Williams and Nate Stritz. Of its 50 picks, the club has currently signed 17 players.
American League West
Los Angeles Angels: High school hurler, and supplemental first round pick, Jonathan Bachanov is an interesting prospect and has been signed by the organization, but this draft definitely hangs on unsigned Matt Harvey. The prep pitcher fell significantly due to signability concerns and would greatly make up for a lack of first and second round picks. But it will take a significant over-slot deal to steer him away from North Carolina.
Oakland Athletics: The A's have signed up all of the "key" draft picks. The only remaining picks in the first 10 rounds are Daniel Schlereth (eighth round) and Eric Berger (ninth round), both of whom were left-handed pitchers at the University of Arizona. The club made out well with three picks (James Simmons, Sean Doolittle, and Corey Brown) before the second round.
Seattle Mariners: No one looked more surprised than Phillippe Aumont when he was selected by the Mariners and the French Canadian has yet to sign with the organization. Regardless, he should sign on the dotted line by Aug. 15, as he had no strong college commitment. It would be in his best interest as well, due to his raw skills. Second round pick and high school outfielder Denny Almonte is also currently without a contract.
Texas Rangers: The Texas Rangers currently have more talent on the line than any other club in baseball with three unsigned picks before the second round, including first round pick Blake Beavan and supplemental picks college outfielder Julio Borbon and high school hurler Neil Ramirez. On the plus side, the club's second first rounder Michael Main is having a solid start to his career in the Arizona League. Fourth round pick Garrett Nash and fifth round pick (and injured) John Gast also remain unsigned among the picks in the first 10 rounds. Beavan recently committed to a junior college in case a deal does not get done, which will allow him to enter the draft again in 2008. He has made it clear that money is the No. 1 factor for him when it comes to signing a contract.
Be sure to check back next week to see how the National League clubs are making out at signing their top draft picks.