Around the MinorsAugust 14, 2008
The Clock is Ticking
By Marc Hulet

Major League Baseball (MLB) teams, including scouts, scouting directors and general managers, are no doubt buzzing like a bee hive in a hurricane. The deadline for signing 2008 amateur draft picks expires on this Friday, Aug. 15.

Because many of the remaining players are expected to sign above-slot deals, MLB has 'encouraged' teams to delay the announcements until right before the deadline in hopes of limiting the effect those would have on other negotiations. What is most surprising is the lack of whispers regarding pre-arranged deals that are just waiting for MLB's seal of approval to make them public; there is a lot we don't know this year as the time ticks down.

Here is what we don't know (Unsigned Players):
2. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh (college selection)
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City (high school selection)
4. Brian Matusz, LHP, Baltimore Orioles (college selection)
5. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants (college selection)
7. Yonder Alonso, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (college selection)
9. Aaron Crow, RHP, Washington Nationals (college selection)

Six of the Top 10 picks remain unsigned, which I personally hate to see as it doesn't help these players' developments. Hosmer, like fellow prepster Cole, is advised by the Scott Boras Corporation so they will likely sign as long as they get ridiculous amounts of money to play a game they 'love.' Hosmer offers an exciting future and could pair beautifully with 2007 first round draft pick and third baseman Mike Moustakas.

The moment Alvarez signs with Pittsburgh he could become the organization's franchise player and will give fans a lot to talk about (finally - although the Manny Ramirez trade has helped too). Matusz and Crow, by far the top college arms in the draft, are expected to get Major League contracts, although Crow's discussions with Washington have not gone well and there is an outside shot he will not sign.

Posey and Alonso will get done, with the backstop offering much-needed prospect polish to a system mostly void of impact bats. Alonso could be Major League ready in two years but is currently blocked at first base by youngster Joey Votto.

11. Justin Smoak, 1B, Texas Rangers (college selection)
20. Josh Fields, RHP, Seattle Mariners (college selection)
23. Allan Dykstra, 1B, San Diego Padres (college selection)
28. Gerrit Cole, RHP, New York Yankees (high school selection)

Smoak is one of my favorite players in the draft so I would like to see him take the field before the end of the year, but that may not happen. And what is Fields waiting for? Already a senior, he does not have the option to return to college but he could theoretically threaten to hold out until the just before the 2009 draft if he isn't given a Major League contract. Dykstra is the most likely first rounder not to sign due to a questionable physical that unearthed some concerns about his hip, which was injured in high school. If the Yankees can't get Cole signed, nobody can.

Here is what we know so far (Signed Players):

1. Tim Beckham, IF, Tampa Bay Rays (high school selection)
6. Kyle Skipworth, C, Florida Marlins (high school selection)
8. Gordon Beckham, SS, Chicago White Sox (college selection)
10. Jason Castro, C, Houston Astros (college selection)

Tim Beckham shocked everyone by signing quickly but his adjustment to pro ball has been slow - which is not a concern at this point given his age. Skipworth is also struggling. Castro's .270/.365/.351 line in 74 at-bats is OK, but not great given that it is in Short Season ball. I am a little surprised Gordon Beckham did not sign until last night given that he had such a great season and surely would not repeat such a feat in his senior season. The White Sox could also use the middle infield depth.

12. Jemile Weeks, 2B, Oakland Athletics (college selection)
13. Brett Wallace, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals (college selection)
14. Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins (high school selection)
15. Ethan Martin, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (high school selection)
16. Brett Lawrie, C, Milwaukee Brewers (high school selection)
17. David Cooper, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays (college selection)
18. Ike Davis, 1B, New York Mets (college selection)
19. Andrew Cashner, Chicago Cub (college selection)

College hitters Weeks, Wallace, and Cooper are off to fast starts. Weeks is hitting .297/.422/.405 in 74 A-ball at-bats. Wallace is hitting .344/.427/.534 in 131 A-ball at-bats. Cooper has been the fastest mover, having played at three levels and topping out in High-A ball. Currently, he is hitting .343/.409/.531 overall in 207 at-bats and was the second first rounder to sign a pro contract. Martin has been sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

New York fans have to be disappointed with Davis' start, which includes a line of .235/.289/.307 and zero homers in 153 Short Season at-bats. Hicks is doing his best Ben Revere impression and is trying to make the Twins look brilliant yet again. His line, albeit in Rookie Ball, is currently .312/.412/.478 in 138 at-bats with 11 stolen bases to go along with 25 walks and 27 strikeouts. Lawrie recently signed and is currently in China playing for Canada's Olympic squad. Cashner has been brutal for the Cubs while making three starts in four appearances. He has a 10.80 ERA with 12 walks and five strikeouts in 5.2 innings.

21. Ryan Perry, RHP, Detroit Tigers (college selection)
22. Reese Havens, IF, New York Mets (college selection)
24. Anthony Hewitt, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (high school selection)
25. Christian Friedrich, LHP, Colorado Rockies (college selection)
26. Daniel Schlereth, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (college selection)
27. Carlos Gutierrez, RHP, Minnesota Twins (college selection)
29. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians (college selection)
30. Casey Kelly, RHP/SS, Boston Red Sox (high school selection)

Havens is currently playing in Short Season ball and is hitting .263/.359/.500 with three homers in 80 at-bats. Hewitt is hitting .235/.298/.376 in 85 Rookie Ball at-bats. He also has just five walks and 39 strikeouts. Fellow high school pick Kelly is struggling in Rookie Ball with a line of .169/.200/.246 in 65 at-bats. Chisenhall is doing well in Short Season ball with a line of .272/.333/.426 and four homers in 195 at-bats.

Perry has struggled with consistency so far in his pro career and has a 4.26 ERA in six High-A ball games as Detroit attempts to rush him through the system. He has allowed six hits and four walks in 6.1 innings. Friedrich has looked good for Colorado in the Northwest League with 27 hits and eight walks allowed in 31 innings. He has also struck out 42 batters. Surprise first round pick Gutierrez is doing just OK in High-A ball with 19 hits and six walks allowed in 16.2 innings. He has struck out just 11 batters but is inducing two groundball outs for each flyball out. Schlereth has yet to allow an earned run in three relief appearances.

With time running out, what rumors are you hearing about unsigned selections?