2015 Amateur Draft Rumors

AL Central Notes: White Sox, Hagadone, Twins

The White Sox haven’t made any determinations on which direction they’ll take as the trade deadline nears, GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including the Chicago Tribune’s Colleen Kane. As Kane notes, the South Siders closed out the first half on a 9-3 run, giving the club a bit more optimism about its chances. “Certainly if I did it from an emotional or fan standpoint, we want to be aggressive we want to add,” said Hahn prior to yesterday’s double-header versus the Royals (the two sides came away from the twin bill with an even split). “However, it’s part of the responsibility of this position to be objective and look at the long-term benefit of the club and do what makes the most sense objectively given the situation that we’ve played ourselves in.” Jeff Samardzija‘s name, at present, is the most commonly mentioned as a possible trade chip for Chicago.

Here’s more from the AL Central…

  • Indians left-hander Nick Hagadone suffered what appears to be a serious elbow injury when pitching in a rehab assignment for Class-A Mahoning Valley this week, writes Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel. Hagadone, who was rehabbing from a minor back injury that landed him on the DL, had Tommy John surgery in 2008. “It looks like he did it again,” Cleveland skipper Terry Francona told Meisel. “…This isn’t something that’s [just] a week with no throwing.” Hagadone will seek a second opinion on his elbow before any determination is made, though the present outlook certainly appears to be grim.
  • Twins general manager Terry Ryan expressed disappointment that the team wasn’t able to reach an agreement with second-round pick Kyle Cody, who will return to Kentucky for his senior season, writes MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. There’s been some speculation that health concerns impacted the negotiation, but Ryan said otherwise: “That wasn’t the most important thing. We just couldn’t come to a conclusion, is all. He’s healthy. It’s not a factor.”
  • Also from Bollinger, Twins right-hander Ricky Nolasco underwent his ankle surgery as planned on Monday during the All-Star break. Nolasco has a bone fragment removed from his right ankle and will be fitted with a walking boot. The team won’t know until the boot is removed whether or not Nolasco will be able to pitch again in 2015, and Bollinger characterized that evaluation as “weeks away.” Whether he pitches again this season or not, 2015 will mark a second straight disappointing season for Nolasco, who signed a four-year, $49MM contract with Minnesota prior to the 2014 season.

Rays’ Second-Round Pick Betts Requires Tommy John

JULY 18: Betts will require Tommy John surgery, reports MLB.com’s Bill Chastain (via Twitter). As Law notes (also on Twitter), there were some rumors circulating prior to the draft that Betts had an issue in his throwing elbow, which would explain the reason that he slipped to the mid-second round despite being regarded as one of the best catching prospects in this year’s draft.

Betts becomes the second top pick in the past 24 hours to require Tommy John surgery, as Dodgers first-rounder Walker Buehler, who signed yesterday shortly before the deadline, also reportedly needs the operation. Of course, the two will have different paths to recovery; Betts is a catcher while Buehler is a pitcher.

JULY 16: The Rays have agreed to terms with second-round selection Chris Betts, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). ESPN’s Keith Law reports (on Twitter) that Betts will receive a $1.485MM signing bonus, which comes in above his No. 52 slot’s value of $1,160,500. Betts, a high school catcher out of California, is being advised by MVP Sports Group.

Yesterday, MLB.com’s Jim Callis wrote that Betts had first-round aspirations entering the draft and, as such, may have had a higher price tag than his slot, which now looks to indeed be the case. Even by going over slot for Betts, however, the Rays will avoid forfeiting a future first-round pick as well as incurring any luxury taxes on the deal. As Callis noted, the team had saved $448K on other picks, so Betts’ additional $324,500 will keep the Rays in the confines of their allotted pool.

Heading into the draft, Betts rated 16th on the respective rankings of ESPN’s Keith Law and Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel. Callis and MLB.com colleague Jonathan Mayo ranked Betts 25th, and the staff at Baseball America ranked him 28th on their Top 500.

In his writeup, Law noted that fellow prep catcher Tyler Stephenson had more impressive all-around tools, but Betts is presently a more advanced hitter/receiver. Both Law and McDaniel note similarities between Betts and Brian McCann — a bat-first catcher — though clearly there’s a long way to go before Betts realizes that type of ceiling. Callis and Mayo note that he makes consistently hard contact with a left-handed swing that can eventually produce above-average power, and he’s slimmed down this year. BA writes that his receiving improved this offseason after working out with Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki (coincidentally, a teammate of Aaron Hicks — another first-rounder to come out of Betts’ Woodrow Wilson High School).

Now that Betts has come to terms with the Rays, seven players selected in the top two rounds remain unsigned. Most notable of course, is No. 1 overall selection Dansby Swanson, although there’s been little to indicate that the D-Backs are in serious jeopardy of not signing the Vanderbilt shortstop. Others that have yet to sign include Dodgers’ top picks Walker Buehler (No. 24) and Kyle Funkhouser (No. 35); Brewers Competitive Balance (A) pick Nathan Kirby (No. 40); Blue Jays second-rounder Brady Singer (No. 56); Orioles second-rounder Jonathan Hughes (No. 68); and Twins Competitive Balance (B) pick Kyle Cody (No. 73).

Dodgers’ First-Round Signing Buehler Requires Tommy John

4:58pm: Buehler will require Tommy John surgery, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. While it’s impossible to guess exactly how much the injury cost Buehler, the slot value for the No. 24 pick was $2,094,400. He signed for $314,400 under-slot.

4:24pm: Buehler will receive a $1.78MM bonus, tweets Jim Callis of MLB.com. As previously noted, his physical revealed some concerns about his arm health which affected his bonus.

3:03pm: Buehler is said to have an issue in his elbow, according to Heyman (Twitter link), which may explain both the delay in his signing and the under-slot bonus.

2:29pm: The Dodgers and first-round pick Walker Buehler have agreed to terms on a contract that is below the Vanderbilt right-hander’s No. 24 slot value of $2,094,400, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Buehler was advised by Excel Sports Management.

The Dodgers learned earlier today that No. 35 overall pick Kyle Funkhouser will return to Louisville for his senior season, making it all the more important for the club to secure Buehler’s services. Buehler was mentioned as a potential Top 10 pick in various mock drafts leading up to the actual draft but slipped to the Dodgers at 24th overall due to concerns surrounding his durability, according to Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill.

Buehler entered the draft ranked 11th, 12th, 17th and 22nd on the respective lists of MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo/Jim Callis), the Baseball America staff, ESPN (Keith Law) and Fangraphs (Kiley McDaniel). Callis and Mayo praise his 90-96 mph heater but note that he has some inconsistencies in terms of his curve, slider and changeup, though all three can be above-average at times. Buehler’s 6’2″, 170-pound frame has some question his ability to remain a starter, but the MLB.com duo likes his chances. So, too, does Baseball America, who cite his athleticism, clean delivery and deep arsenal as reasons that he can remain in the rotation. Law likes the manner in which he attacks hitters, while McDaniel puts future grades of 60, 55+ and 50 (on the 20-80 scale) on Buehler’s fastball, curveball and changeup, respectively.

Diamondbacks Sign Dansby Swanson

The Diamondbacks and No. 1 overall draft pick Dansby Swanson have agreed to terms on a contract with about two minutes to go until the signing deadline, reports MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert (via Twitter). Swanson, who was advised by and is now a client of Excel Sports Management, was said by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports to have an offer of $6.5MM+ on the table, and Baseball America’s John Manuel now reports (via Twitter) that Swanson signed for $6.5MM on the dot. The Diamondbacks have now officially announced the signing (Twitter link).

Dansby Swanson

Swanson, a shortstop out of Vanderbilt, ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the draft in the eyes of Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, while both Baseball America and MLB.com ranked him second, and ESPN’s Keith Law ranked him third. The right-handed hitter batted .335/.423/.623 with 15 home runs, 24 doubles, six triples and 16 steals (in 18 tries) during his junior season with the Commodores.

McDaniel feels that Swanson has plus speed and a plus arm to go along with what will eventually be an above-average glove, an above-average hit tool and average power. BA notes that he smoothly transitioned from playing second base as a sophomore to shortstop as a junior. Their report also praises his all-fields approach at the plate as well as his patience, two-strike approach, work ethic and makeup. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com feel that he can stick at shortstop and use his strong on-base skills and plus speed to profile as a leadoff hitter with some home run pop and plenty of gap power. Law projects him as an above-average regular at shortstop who can hit for some power while posting above-average marks in terms of both batting average and on-base percentage.

The expectation had been that Swanson would sign, although negotiations between the D-Backs and Swanson’s now-agents at Excel Sports Management appear to have gone down to the wire. Despite the fact that Swanson hadn’t signed at the time Law published his midseason Top 50 prospects list, Law was confident enough in a deal getting done that he ranked Swanson as the No. 22 prospect in all of Major League Baseball.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top Picks Funkhouser, Singer, Hughes, Cody Do Not Sign

The deadline for 2015 draft picks to sign is today at 5pm ET, and entering Friday, there were seven players from the top two rounds that remained unsigned: No. 1 overall pick Dansby Swanson; Dodgers top picks Walker Buehler (No. 24) and Kyle Funkhouser (No. 35); Brewers Competitive Balance (A) pick Nathan Kirby (No. 40); Blue Jays second-rounder Brady Singer (No. 56); Orioles second-rounder Jonathan Hughes (No. 68); and Twins Competitive Balance (B) pick Kyle Cody (No. 73).

SwansonBuehler and Kirby have reportedly agreed to sign, but we’ll run down the list of top picks that have elected not to sign right here…

  • Baseball America’s John Manuel reports (on Twitter) that Cody will not sign with the Twins and will instead return to Kentucky for his senior season. Minnesota will receive the No. 74 pick in this year’s draft.
  • Singer will indeed attend college rather than sign with the Blue Jays, tweets Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. As Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets, this marks the third time in five seasons that the Blue Jays have failed to sign a first- or second-round pick. Toronto will receive the No. 57 pick in next year’s draft.

Earlier Updates

  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the D-Backs have offered Swanson a bonus of $6.5MM or more, but he’s yet to decide on whether or not to accept. That’s about $2.116MM below the slot value at No. 1 overall. Swanson is reportedly being advised by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management.
  • It “looks like” Singer will attend Florida rather than sign with the Blue Jays, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (Twitter links). That’s not the same definitive type of report listed below, however, so there would at least appear to be room for the two sides to strike a last-minute deal in the final hour. The Blue Jays would receive the 57th pick in next year’s draft if the high-school righty elects college over pro ball.
  • Funkhouser tweeted today that he will not sign with the Dodgers and will instead return to Louisville for his senior season. The college right-hander was at one point thought to be a potential Top 10 pick, but as Baseball America’s Teddy Cahill wrote last night, attrition of Funkhouser’s stuff as the draft approached caused his stock to slip. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the Dodgers offered Funkhouser roughly $2MM, which was above his $1.756MM slot, though also considerably lower than the amount he’d have gotten without the late dip in his draft stock. The Dodgers will receive the No. 36 pick in the 2016 draft as compensation, and they’ll now turn their focus to signing Buehler, a right-hander out of Vanderbilt. Because Funkhouser did not sign, however, his $1.756MM slot value will be subtracted from the Dodgers’ allotted draft pool.
  • MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports that Hughes will not sign with the Orioles and will instead Georgia Tech. A high school righty out of Georgia, Hughes’ No. 68 overall slot came with a value of $907K, though it’s not clear what sort of offer the Orioles made. Baltimore will be awarded the 69th pick in next year’s draft as compensation for failure to sign Hughes. Still, the loss of a top pick just one year after not picking until the third round (the Orioles forfeited draft picks to sign both Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez) and just months after trading a Competitive Balance pick to the Dodgers to relieve themselves of Ryan Webb‘s salary is a tough blow for the Baltimore farm system. They did, however, net an extra pick when Cruz, who had received a qualifying offer, signed in Seattle.

Brewers To Sign Comp Pick Nathan Kirby

The Brewers have signed left-hander Nathan Kirby, reports ESPN’s Keith Law (via Twitter). Kirby, who was selected with the 40th pick in this year’s draft, will receive a signing bonus of $1.25MM, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (also on Twitter). That figure comes in a ways below his slot value of $1.548MM. According to a second tweet from Heyman, Kirby at one point had an above-slot offer from Milwaukee, but a new medical concern caused the team to drop its offer.

Kirby was once looked as a potential top five pick but slipped down draft rankings rapidly due to a lat strain. The final edition of draft rankings from Law, Baseball America, MLB.com and Fangraphs placed Kirby 20th, 26th, 26th and 29th, respectively.

Law felt that Kirby represented a value pick in the late first round or Competitive Balance round, which is where Milwaukee selected him. Per Law, he has the upside of a mid-rotation starter if everything comes together, and Baseball America agrees. BA has his fastball in the low 90s, noting that he touched 94 frequently and made significant strides with a changeup this season. BA notes that he battled command in 2015, but some scouts think his issues are correctable, and he could move quickly to the Majors. Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com note that his command may have suffered in 2015 from throwing too many sliders, though they also call the slider is a plus pitch for Kirby.

NL Central Notes: Pirates Targets, Soriano, Kirby

The Pirates would like to add a player or two prior the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, writes Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. First base and right field are the two most obvious areas of need, where the Bucs could at the very least use platoon partners for Pedro Alvarez and Gregory Polanco. Biertempfel again mentions both Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur as potential fits, though Revere would seem more likely to supplant Polanco than platoon with him (both are left-handed, although Revere does actually hit lefties better than righties). In addition to those two offensive positions, the Pirates have been scouting big league starters and bullpen depth. Pittsburgh has “checked out” the Diamondbacks, writes Biertempfel, noting that both Addison Reed and Jeremy Hellickson are known to be available. (He does not, seemingly, indicate that there have been any actual discussions regarding those players, however.) Biertempfel also notes that the Pirates have previously had interest in Adam Lind, Scott Kazmir and Dan Haren, each of whom could be on the block.

Here’s more on the Pirates and their division…

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington feels that his team is in a good position because it doesn’t have one glaring hole and a subsequent need to overpay in order to fill that hole, writes Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. However, upgrading the back end of the rotation may come with the risk, if not the likelihood of losing Vance Worley or Jeff Locke. Brink feels that the team is unlikely to move either starter to the bullpen if an upgrade is acquired — he points out that the Bucs elected to trade Clayton Richard rather than place him in the ‘pen — and since both Worley and Locke are out of options, they’d have to be exposed to waivers.
  • The Cubs have promoted right-hander Rafael Soriano to Triple-A as he continues to ramp up and prepare to join the team in the second half, writes MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat. Soriano debuted with Triple-A Iowa last night, allowing one hit but striking out the side. The strong performance continued a nice run through the team’s minor league system; Soriano has fired six scoreless innings with a 7-to-3 K/BB ratio between Double-A and Triple-A. Signed to a minor league deal with a $4MM base salary (he’ll receive the pro-rated version of that for time spent on the MLB roster) plus incentives, Soriano could be a factor in the Cubs’ bullpen in the near future.
  • Today is the deadline to sign picks from the 2015 draft, and while there’s been no reported agreement between the Brewers and No. 40 overall selection Nathan Kirby, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel hears (Twitter link) that the team still expects to sign the Virgina left-hander. Kirby was at one time a consideration to go in the top five to 10 picks, but a severe lat strain submarined his stock.
  • Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently penned an overview of the NL Central as we prepare to enter peak trade season. Miklasz runs down each club’s needs, as well as their most desirable trade chips (looking at prospects, among the buying clubs and Major Leaguers among the sellers).

Yankees Sign First-Rounder James Kaprielian

2:32pm: New York has announced the signing.

12:52pm: The Yankees have agreed to an above-slot bonus with first-round pick James Kaprielian, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. The 16th overall selection will earn a $2.65MM payday to forego his final season at UCLA if and when he passes his physical.

Heading into the draft, ESPN.com’s Keith Law had the highest grade on the power right-hander, ranking him 13th among draft-eligible players. Law profiles Kaprielian as a mid-rotation starter in future outlook, saying he has a chance to deliver four solid offerings that will play up if he can harness his command to his full potential.

Other draft observers ranked Kaprielian slightly further down their lists, but all saw him as a clear first-round pick. MLB.com placed him 22nd, praising his “pitchability,” while Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs put him in the 21st slot and Baseball America ranked him 19th.

Callis had calculated that the Yankees had up to $2,676,450 to use on Kaprielian, but the team was able to get things done for slightly less. That won’t leave much left over to use on other picks, of course. The slot value for his selection was $2,543,300.

Draft Signings: Josh Rogers

Here are the day’s notable draft signings:

  • The Yankees have signed 11th rounder Josh Rogers to a $485K deal, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis (Twitter links). Devan Fink was first on the precise dollar value. Rogers, a lefty out of Louisville, placed inside Baseball America’s top 500 list at #342. To sign the draft-eligible sophomore, New York was forced to commit $385K against its overall pool. (For players taken in the 11th round or later, the amount of any bonus over $100K counts against a team’s draft allocation.) Per another Callis tweet, that leaves the club capable of paying first-round pick James Kaprielian up to a $2,676,450 bonus before it would be forced to sacrifice a future selection.

Draft Signings: Tyler Watson, Josh Rogers

Here are today’s notable draft signings, with all slot information courtesy of Baseball America…

  • The Nationals have signed 34th-rounder Tyler Watson to a contract with a $400K bonus, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports (Twitter link).  As with any draft pick past the 10th round who signs for more than $100K, the excess (in this case $300K) will count against the club’s draft pool.  Washington had room to spare in its approximately $4.120MM draft pool after signing its prospects from the first 10 rounds to just under $3.350MM.  Watson is a left-handed high schooler described by Callis as possessing a 91mph fastball and a curveball that “shows promise.”
  • The Yankees went roughly $400K above slot to sign 11th-rounder Josh Rogers, a left-handed sophomore from Louisville.  Callis reports Rogers signed for “early fourth-round money,” which would indicate a bonus in the $500K-$538K range.  Rogers has a fastball can touch the 92mph mark and he can throw three pitches for strikes, according to Callis.  As noted in a follow-up tweet from Callis, this leaves New York with around $2.7MM in remaining pool money to sign first-rounder James Kaprielian, who carries a $2.543MM slot value as the 16th overall pick.