2015 Amateur Draft Rumors

Draft Notes: Seniors, Royals, Red Sox, Trout

As we approach the draft, one group of players to watch is college seniors, who have very little leverage to negotiate bonuses, as Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper writes. Seniors selected in the fourth round typically get only $50K-$100K, while seniors picked in the tenth round get as little as $1K. Selections of seniors in the first ten rounds, which are now governed by rules regarding draft spending allotments, can be used to free up money for hard-to-sign players in other rounds.

That only works if those seniors sign, of course — if a team drafts a senior in the first ten rounds and he doesn’t sign, they lose the ability to spend the entire amount associated with his draft position. So, as Cooper notes, a senior’s willingness to sign is even more crucial than his actual talent. “I need to be able to tell the scouting director, ‘I don’t have this guy as a top-10 round talent, but if we need a budget saver, I promise you I will sign him and he will not screw us over,'” as one scout explains. As Cooper notes, the system could give a senior a fair amount of power, in that a senior who expressed willingness to sign cheaply before the draft but changed his mind after being drafted could torpedo a team’s ability to sign other players. But a team could then ruin the player’s career by refusing to let him play in the minors. Here’s more on the draft.

  • In 2003, the Royals took full advantage of senior picks’ lack of leverage, Cooper writes. Faced with an inadequate draft budget, the Royals took several seniors in the early rounds and paid them bonuses of just $1K. Several of them ultimately got to the big leagues, including Mike Aviles, Ryan Braun (the reliever, not the Brewers slugger) and Irving Falu. They also got lefty Dusty Hughes for $3.5K. “We called them all in advance. We told them, if you take this offer, we’ll draft you. They were all willing to do it. They wanted to play,” says then-scouting director Deric Ladnier.
  • More than 20 teams passed on Mike Trout in the 2009 MLB Draft before the Angels took him. The Red Sox weren’t one of those teams, but if he had still been on the board when they had picked at No. 28, they probably would still have selected Puerto Rican outfielder Reymond Fuentes, WEEI’s Rob Bradford explains in a piece that provides an unusually close look into a drafting team’s thought process. Trout had his partisans within the Red Sox organization, and Northeast region scout Ray Fagnant says he was one of them. Then-assistant GM Ben Cherington took Trout seriously, too. But the Red Sox already had a somewhat similar outfield prospect in Ryan Westmoreland who some in the organization liked better, and they saw the speedy Fuentes as a potentially disruptive player in the mold of Jacoby Ellsbury. Westmoreland hit brilliantly in the minors in 2009, but a cavernous malformation in his brain prematurely ended his career. The Red Sox sent Fuentes to the Padres in the first Adrian Gonzalez deal, and he’s played only briefly in the Majors.

Draft Notes: Jay, Kaprielian, Cubs, Bloodlines

The lack of clear front-line talent at the top of this year’s draft means there’s plenty of uncertainty, as John Manuel’s latest mock draft for Baseball America demonstrates. Manuel has the Diamondbacks choosing a new name with the top overall pick: that of Illinois lefty Tyler Jay. That would be a surprising selection, given that Jay is relatively small and a reliever, but many scouts believe he’s capable of starting, and one scouting director tells Manuel that Jay has terrific stuff and an easier delivery than Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer, another potential No. 1 overall pick. Here are more quick notes on the draft.

  • Cubs president Theo Epstein watched UCLA righty James Kaprielian in Oregon last night, FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweets. The Cubs have the No. 9 overall pick. McDaniel notes that Kaprielian is attracting interest from other top-ten teams as well. MLB.com notes that Kaprielian throws a good changeup and likely projects as a mid-rotation type of pitcher.
  • This year’s potential draftees includes Mariano Rivera, Jr., son of the great Yankees closer, Paul Casella of MLB.com writes. The Yankees took the younger Rivera in the 29th round last season, but he headed back to Iona for another season and became the MAAC Pitcher of the Year. He should be drafted significantly earlier in 2015. Several other draft prospects also have pro baseball bloodlines, including outfielder Kyle Tucker (the brother of Preston Tucker of the Astros), outfielder Daz Cameron (Mike Cameron‘s son) and infielder Ke’Bryan Hayes (the son of Charlie Hayes).

Draft Notes: Rodgers, Diamondbacks, Fernandez

A look at recent draft history suggests the Diamondbacks should take shortstop Brendan Rodgers with the No. 1 pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes. Rodgers headed into the season as the consensus top talent in the draft, and teams who have picked No. 1 overall in recent years have avoided consensus top talents at their peril — No. 1 picks like the Rays’ selection of Tim Beckham and the Royals’ selection of Luke Hochevar haven’t worked out as well as they would have if the Rays and Royals had simply picked more straightforwardly. Here’s more on the draft.

  • The Diamondbacks currently appear more likely to take Vanderbilt pitcher Carson Fulmer first overall, according to John Manuel of Baseball America’s latest mock draft. The Diamondbacks seem to want a college pitcher, and Fulmer seems to be gaining a slight edge over UC-Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate. The Astros then take another Commodore, infielder Dansby Swanson, in Manuel’s mock before the Rockies take Rodgers at No. 3. Manuel suggests the collection of injured top pitchers (Brady Aiken, Michael Matuella and Kolby Allard) will fall to the end of the first round.
  • Cuban right-hander Yoandy Fernandez has been declared eligible for the draft, MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports.  Fernandez has far more seasoning than your average draft candidate; he’s 27 and has six years of experience in Cuba’s Serie Nacional league, where he posted a 4.22 ERA, 72 strikeouts and 62 walks over 157 2/3 innings.  Almost all of Fernandez’s work came as a reliever, and Sanchez notes that teams are still figuring out if he projects as a starter or a reliever in MLB.  Perhaps more information will be determined later this month, as Fernandez has several tryouts scheduled for various teams.

NL Notes: D’Backs, Marlins, Herrera, Tulowitzki

None of the top candidates for the first overall pick in the upcoming amateur draft seem likely to command the $8.6MM+ bonus slotted for the #1 pick, MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes as part of a draft mailbag.  Callis notes that the Diamondbacks would likely save a couple of million on whomever they pick first overall, making the team’s explorations of taking a lesser-ranked prospect first to save even more bonus pool money seem rather needless.  “There’s no need to do a discount of $4 million or more, and it’s unlikely there will be enough quality players to spend that much extra money on in later rounds,” Callis writes.

Here’s more from the National League:

  • The Marlins‘ decision not to pursue Rafael Soriano does not indicate that the team is not going to look to spur change in its pen, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes. Nevertheless, the focus is now internal. A.J. Ramos is just beginning his audition in the closer’s role, and should get a fairly long look. Otherwise, righties David Phelps and Tom Koehler could be shifted to full-time bullpen roles. It makes sense for Miami to see how things look with in-house changes now, of course, to gather information before the summer trade market heats up.
  • Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera is headed to the DL with a broken middle finger on this throwing hand, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reports (Twitter links). Third baseman and utilityman Eric Campbell will slide into the mix for the time being. It remains to be seen how long Herrera will be out, but his absence could impact the club in a multitude of ways. For one thing, it reduces (or even eliminates) the possibility that Herrera will seize the everyday job and render Daniel Murphy a trade piece — an admittedly somewhat unlikely scenario to begin with, especially given David Wright‘s prolonged absence. Also of note: the decision to tab Campbell means that the team is not yet ready to bump Wilmer Flores off of shortstop, which was at least a theoretical alternative if Matt Reynolds had received the call. Unless and until Flores can curb his difficulties in the field, the position will remain an area of focus. As Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes, the overall disposition in New York (particularly given the context of a five-game losing streak) is not terribly sunny at present.
  • The Rockies‘ shortstop situation is also going to continue to get press, albeit for somewhat different reasons. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs takes a shot at valuing Troy Tulowitzki, opining that the excellent but oft-injured star would probably command something north of the Jacoby Ellsbury contract. That implies something like $50MM to $60MM in excess value in his contract, says Cameron, indicating that Tulo might bring back a package of very good prospects rather than one headlined by a super-premium young player. (Though, as Cameron notes, we should expect some mark-up for an in-season deal. Last year’s Jeff SamardzijaAddison Russell trade certainly illustrates that point.) The article suggests some possible groups of players that could theoretically be offered to Colorado.

Draft Notes: Rodgers, Braves, Diamondbacks

We’re just over a month away from the 2015 amateur draft, and here’s the latest about some of the players and teams who will be in the news on June 8…

  • Florida high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers tops Baseball America’s latest ranking of the top 100 draft prospects.  Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate, Louisville righty Kyle Funkhouser and LSU shortstop Alex Bregman round out the top five.
  • The ranking aside, this year’s draft class has even more difficult than usual to evaluate, as Baseball America’s John Manuel writes.  Several of the top prospects have thin or unconventional track records, while others have seen their draft stock drop due to injuries.
  • “Expect the Braves [to] buck that [industry] consensus early and often,” Manuel writes.  This will be a big draft for Atlanta, as the Braves have six of the first 89 picks and the fourth-highest draft bonus pool of any club.
  • The Diamondbacks have had discussions with right-hander Garrett Whitley and catcher Tyler Stephenson about making either high schooler the first pick in the 2015 draft, Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reports.  Whitley, Stephenson and outfielder Daz Cameron (another high schooler) are named by McDaniel as the co-favorites to be the #1 pick, with Tate and Swanson as longshot options.  While Whitley, Stephenson and Cameron aren’t at the top of most draft boards, the D’Backs may be looking to take an unconventional choice ifrst overall and then sign the player to a “cut rate” contract at below slot value.  This would free up more draft pool money for Arizona to spend on their later selections.  McDaniel speculates that Whitley or Stephenson could accept a deal worth less than half the $8.616MM slot value for the first overall pick since they otherwise might not be taken in the top seven.
  • Rodgers, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be an option for the D’Backs, as McDaniel reports that the team haven’t scouted many of his games.

Kyler Murray Opts Out Of MLB Draft

High school shortstop/second baseman Kyler Murray tweeted today that he is withdrawing from the MLB draft. Murray was ranked 32nd in this year’s draft class by ESPN’s Keith Law, 34th by MLB.com and 15th by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Rather than enter the draft, Murray will instead head to Texas A&M not only as a highly touted baseball recruit, but also as one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits.

As Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill notes, Murray is expected to compete to be the Aggies’ starter. Multiple reports have noted that a shoulder injury which limited Murray to DH for much of the year made him tough to peg, but the consensus appears to be that he had a shot to go in the first round and, had he been committed solely to baseball, perhaps quite high up in the first round.

Of note is that Murray is not merely telling teams not to draft him, as Josh Bell did in 2011 before signing with the Pirates for $5MM. Rather, he has completely removed himself from the draft pool, as McDaniel tweets, meaning that he will not be eligible to be selected by any club. Murray will likely be eligible for the 2018 draft following his junior season, provided he does not shift his focus entirely to football.

Quick Hits: Myers, Salty, Correa, Appel, Draft

Right-hander Brett Myers, who spent parts of 12 Major League seasons with the Phillies, Astros, White Sox and Indians, said in an interview with Section215.com that he’s enjoying retired life and believes that his playing days are likely over. Myers explained that over the final few years of his playing career, he missed spending time with his children, but he now is enjoying coaching his 10-year-old son’s baseball team. In his career, the former 12th overall pick posted a 4.25 ERA a 97-96 record, 40 saves, 7.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 1710 big league innings spent as both a starter and a closer. His playing days were also marred by off-field issues, including charges of domestic violence that were eventually dropped at his wife’s request, and an expletive-laced tirade aimed at a Phillies beat reporter whom he ultimately threatened with physical violence.

Some more notes from around the league…

  • Though Chris Iannetta has struggled tremendously with the bat in 2015, the Angels don’t consider Jarrod Saltalamacchia a fit, reports MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez. The 30-year-old Saltalamacchia cleared release waivers earlier today and is free to sign with any club. Gonzalez also adds that the Angels are hopeful that fellow catcher Drew Butera will clear waivers, giving them a chance to keep him in the organization following his recent DFA.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow discussed the timelines for prospects Carlos Correa and Mark Appel with Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, and Drellich notes that the 20-year-old Correa could very likely beat the 23-year-old Appel to the Majors. Luhnow acknowledged that Correa has a good chance of being promoted to Triple-A this month, once they see a bit more of how he reacts to facing teams and pitchers for the second time in Double-A. Appel, meanwhile, has struggled a bit at Double-A, and the GM said he’d like to see some consistently dominant outings from Appel before moving him up the Minor League ladder.
  • Brendan Rodgers of Florida’s Lake Mary High School is the first of three shortstops perched atop Keith Law’s list of Top 100 Draft prospects at ESPN.com (Insider subscription required and highly recommended, particularly for draft followers). Arizona’s Kevin Newman and Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson add a pair of college shortstops to the mix, while UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate and prep lefty Kolby Allard round out the top five. Former No. 1 overall consideration Mike Matuella has dropped to 19th, as the Duke right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this spring. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken sits 26th on Law’s list following his own Tommy John surgery.

All Drafted Players Now Eligible To Be Traded After World Series

Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron reports that Major League Baseball emailed all 30 teams today to announce that, effective following this year’s draft, players selected in the amateur draft will be permitted to be traded beginning the day after the conclusion of the World Series.

The change is a much-needed revamp of the previous iteration, which had prohibited clubs from trading players for one year after being drafted. However, because the rules regarding players to be named later (PTBNLs) stated that teams had six months to determine the PTBNL in question, a loophole had been exploited in which prospects from the most recent draft were simply included as a PTBNL in trades that occurred more than six months after the draft in which they were selected.

In order to prevent any further loopholes, MLB has explicitly stated that any PTBNL must be eligible to be traded at the time the trade is agreed upon. In other words, draftees cannot be included as PTBNLs between their draft and the completion of the World Series.

The most recent example of this, of course, is Padres 2014 first-rounder Trea Turner. It’s one of the worst-kept secrets in baseball that Turner, selected 13th overall by the Padres, will be revealed as the PTBNL in the three-team Wil Myers/Steven Souza trade. Turner will be officially eligible to be traded to the Nationals in early June, but he’s spent the entirety of Spring Training and the early portion of the season with the Padres organization due to the previous iteration of rules.

Via Cameron, the official wording of the email sent by the league is as follows:

Please be advised that the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association have agreed to amend the Major League Rules in advance of this year’s Rule 4 Draft with respect to players-to-be-named-later (“PTBNLs”) under Rule 12(e)(2), and the trading of draft picks under Rule 3(b)(6). …commencing with players eligible for the 2015 Rule 4 Draft, (a) players selected in the Draft may be traded beginning on the day following the conclusion of the World Series, and (b) drafted players cannot be PTBNLs unless they otherwise could be traded pursuant to Rule 3(b)(6), as amended, at the time of the trade.

Turner’s situation certainly isn’t the first in which a recent draftee has been used as a PTBNL while waiting for official clearance to be included in a trade. For example, just one year ago, the Pirates acquired Ike Davis from the Mets in exchange for righty Zack Thornton and a PTBNL, who was later (on June 15) revealed to be 2013 second-round left-hander Blake Taylor.

As Cameron notes, the rule change does little for Turner, as it takes effect only in regards to players eligible in the 2015 Rule 4 (June amateur) draft. He’ll remain in development with the Padres until, presumably, June 6 — the day after the one-year anniversary of the 2014 amateur draft.

Amateur Notes: Cuba, Draft

The latest notes on various segments of the amateur market:

  • Baseball America’s Ben Badler has released a new ranking of the top twenty Cuban prospects who still reside on the island (1-10; 11-20). The veterans at the top of the list — Yulieski Gourriel, Alfredo Despaigne, and Jose Fernandez — will be familiar to anyone who has followed player movement out of Cuba. Slotting in after that group are a series of younger players, including Yulieski’s brother Lourdes Gourriel and teenage outfielders Victor Mesa, Jorge Ona, and Julio Pablo Martinez.
  • As MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo explains, this year’s top 100 draft prospect list is heavily influenced by injuries to several top players. There is uncertainty in terms of talent as well, reaching all the way to the top of the class, which is currently led by middle infielders Brendan Rogers and Dansby Swanson along with righty Dillon Tate. What may be lacking in terms of upper echelon ability is made up for, perhaps, in depth. Given those facts, and the role of bonus pools in draft strategy, it could be rather an interesting selection season.
  • If you are already well-acquainted with those players expected to be chosen in the coming summer, then be sure to check out this early 2016-17 draft preview from Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. Towering Oklahoma righty Alec Hansen tops his current list.

Quick Hits: Soriano, Draft, Price, Red Sox

Scott Boras, Rafael Soriano‘s agent, tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that he’s getting an increasing number of calls about his client.  It’s not surprising that interest in Soriano is picking up now that the season has begun and teams are dealing with injuries or ineffective relievers in their bullpens.  The Twins, Tigers and Blue Jays have all been linked to Soriano at various points over the winter, though it’s unknown as to whether any of those teams still have any interest in the veteran.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters (hat tip to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle) that he would like draft prospects’ “medical information to be made available to all clubs before the draft,” but the MLBPA hasn’t accepted this proposed change to the collective bargaining agreement.  Drellich explains the stances of both the league and the union on this issue, which most notably cropped up when the Astros didn’t sign first overall pick Brady Aiken due to concerns about his left UCL last summer.
  • David Price could be more inclined to sign with an NL team next winter since “he loves to hit,” a source tells George A. King III of the New York Post.  While this will likely be a minor factor in what could be a $200MM free agent decision for Price, maybe the desire for more plate appearances could end up being a tiebreaker if he gets otherwise similar offers from an AL and an NL team.  For what it’s worth, Price has an .071/.133/.071 slash line through 30 career PA.
  • With Edward Mujica struggling and his velocity down, CSNNE.com’s Sean McAdam wonders if the Red Sox might eventually release Mujica and eat the roughly $4MM remaining on his contract rather than let the righty continue in an important relief role.  In my opinion, releasing Mujica would be a hasty move this early in the season since his xFIP (2.78) and SIERA (2.50) hint that he isn’t that badly, and his 4.70 ERA or 6.90 FIP are due to a couple of wildly inflated peripherals (most notably, 3.52 HR/9).
  • Several of baseball’s top pitchers were acquired by their current teams before they became so-called “aces,” and Alex Speier of the Boston Globe notes that the Red Sox attempted this strategy by acquiring two pitchers with great stuff (Joe Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez) in the hopes that one or both would develop into a rotation headliner.  This isn’t to say that the Sox might still not try to trade for an established ace in the near future, yet trying to find one in the early stages of his development is sometimes a better strategy than paying a big price to land a proven starter who might already have passed his prime.