The 2009 Draft: Sign On the Dotted Line
It's been just over a month since the dust settled on the Major League Baseball 2009 amateur draft. The event featured a no-brainer first-overall pick (Stephen Strasburg), a surprise Top 10 selection (Tony Sanchez at No. 4), and a few other interesting first-round choices (Randal Grichuk, LeVon Washington).
Of the 32 picks taken in the first round of the draft, 12 players (37.5%) have signed. There are exactly 31 more days for teams and players to come to an agreement on terms or players will have to wait at least one more year to pursue their MLB aspirations in professional baseball (or at least three more years for prep players entering a college program).
Last season, two players failed to come to terms: Aaron Crow (Ninth overall to Washington) and Gerrit Cole (28th overall to New York AL). Crow returned to the draft this season and went 12th overall to Kansas City.
Of the 2008 players who signed, most appeared in at least a handful of games in the minors during their draft year. Players who failed to sign in time to make their pro debuts in '08 included Pedro Alvarez (Pittsburgh), Brian Matusz (Baltimore), Josh Fields (Seattle), and Brett Lawrie (Milwaukee). The debut for Ethan Martin (Los Angeles NL) was delayed due to injury. Some of the selections who got on to the playing field early have already made their Major League debuts, such as Gordon Beckham (Chicago AL), Ryan Perry (Detroit), and Daniel Schlereth (Arizona). Corner infielders Justin Smoak (Texas) and Brett Wallace (St. Louis) are both in triple-A knocking on the big-league door.
Let's have a look at the 2009 first-round draftees who have signed so far:
4. Pittsburgh: Tony Sanchez | Catcher | Boston College
The highest-drafted pick to have already signed on the dotted line, Sanchez played in four short-season games before moving up to low-A ball. In nine games at that level, he's hitting .405/.522/.622 with one homer in 37 at-bats. Sanchez also has five walks and five Ks. The right-handed hitter is also 6-for-6 (1.000) versus left-handed pitchers.
5. Baltimore: Matt Hobgood | RHP | California high school
Although he's signed, Hobgood has yet to pitch in a professional game.
10. Washington: Drew Storen | RHP | Stanford
The first pick to sign, Washington had to choose someone that was willing to go pro because this pick was compensation for failing to come to terms with Aaron Crow last season. Failure to sign Storen would not have resulted in a 2010 compensation pick. As a result, the right-hander was a bit of a stretch as the 10th overall pick. So far in 2009 while playing in low-A ball, Storen has a 3.95 ERA in 13.2 innings. He's allowed 11 hits, no walks and he's struck out 23 batters.
17. Arizona: A.J. Pollock | Outfielder | Notre Dame
Pollock is holding his own in low-A ball. The former college star is hitting .293/.323/.414 with two steals in five tries over a 13-game span. He has four extra-base hits (including two doubles and a homer).
21. Houston: Jiovanni Mier | Shortstop | California high school
One of the more recent signings, Mier is enjoying professional baseball. The shortstop is currently hitting .308/.416/.492 with four triples and three steals in 65 at-bats. He also has 13 RBI in 17 games; not bad for a player whose strength was supposed to be his glove.
23. Chicago AL: Jared Mitchell | Outfielder | Louisiana State
Mitchell was placed on the disabled list before taking his first pro at-bat.
24. Los Angeles AL: Randal Grichuk | Outfielder | Texas high school
One of the surprise picks of the first round, Grichuk is looking pretty good so far. The outfielder is currently hitting .291/.318/.418 with four doubles and three triples in 79 rookie at-bats. The teenager needs to alter his approach a bit at the plate, though, as he has just three walks to go with 27 Ks.
25. Los Angeles AL: Mike Trout | Outfielder | New Jersey high school
Trout has joined Grichuk in the Arizona rookie league but he's appeared in just four games, but he has nine hits in 17 at-bats (including a double and two triples). He's showing a better approach at the plate with six walks and four Ks.
26. Milwaukee: Eric Arnett | RHP | Indiana
Arnett has made four appearances, including two starts. In 6.2 overall innings, the right-hander has allowed seven hits and five walks. He's also struck out seven batters.
28. Boston: Reymond Fuentes | Outfielder | Puerto Rico high school
The speedy Fuentes has gotten off to a flying start in rookie ball for Boston. The left-handed hitter is currently batting .382/.436/.441 with 13 hits in 34 at-bats. He's taken three base-on-balls and struck out four times. Fuentes has two steals in four attempts.
31. Chicago NL: Brett Jackson | Outfielder | California
This surprise first-round selection began his pro career in rookie ball and hit .455 in three games. He was then moved up to short-season ball where he is hitting .300/.417/.425 with one homer in 40 at-bats. Jackson has walked seven times, while also striking out in 10 at-bats.
32. Colorado: Tim Wheeler | Outfielder | Sacramento State
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Playing in short-season ball, Wheeler is currently hitting .272/.355/.370 with one homer and five doubles in 77 at-bats. He's walked 11 times, with 18 strikeouts. Wheeler has stolen three bases in five attempts.
Overall, seven of the first 12 picks to have signed were college selections, while the other five came from the high school ranks. Seven of the signees are outfielders and three others are right-handed pitchers.
In the supplemental first round, nine of the 17 selections have officially come to terms. High school catcher Steven Baron was the first player taken in the round and he recently signed with Seattle. Also signing were Rex Brothers (Colorado), Matt Davidson (Arizona), Aaron Miller (Los Angeles NL), Josh Phegley (Chicago AL), Mike Belfiore (Arizona), Matt Bashore (Minnesota), Tyler Kehrer (Los Angeles AL), and Victor Black (Pittsburgh).
Both the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies did not have their first selections until the second round (due to free agent signings during the 2008-09 off-season). The Mets chose New York prep lefty Steve Matz 72nd overall, but have yet to come to terms. The Phillies took California high school outfielder Kelly Dugan 75th overall and have already inked the youngster. He is batting .281 in 16 rookie ball games.
Overall, Toronto and Tampa Bay are the only two clubs that have yet to sign at least one of their Top 4 selections. Toronto had five selections in the first three rounds and has yet to come to terms with any of them and media reports suggest none of them are overly close to signing, which is highly unusual for Toronto. The Jays organization is normally one of the most aggressive when it comes to getting its top picks under contract and into the system. The highest drafted player to sign so far is seventh rounder Egan Smith, a left-handed pitcher who was taken out of a Nevada community college. Tampa Bay's highest signee is sixth round selection Devin Fuller, a right-handed pitcher out of an Arizona community college.
Hopefully we'll see the signings start to pick up. Major League Baseball's pressure on teams to avoid announcing over-slot signings prior to the signing deadline takes a little fun out of the post-draft coverage - and it also keeps players from getting much-needed pro experience.