2015 Amateur Draft Rumors

Red Sox To Sign First-Rounder Andrew Benintendi

The Red Sox have agreed to terms with No. 7 overall draft pick Andrew Benintendi, reports MLB.com’s Jim Callis (via Twitter). The lefty-swinging outfielder out of the University of Arkansas will receive the full slot bonus of $3,590,400, per Callis, who feels that Benintendi possessed the best all-around tools of any college hitter in this year’s draft class.

Andrew Benintendi

Callis and colleague Jonathan Mayo ranked Benintendi eighth among draft prospects, while Benintendi ranked ninth per Baseball America and per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs. ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Benintendi a bit lower at No. 21, though he noted that, “No one has improved his stock this spring more than the sophomore draft-eligible Benintendi…” which is lofty but likely deserved praise after Benintendi led the SEC in OBP, homers and slugging percentage.

Callis and Mayo praised Benintendi’s smooth swing and ability to consistently barrel up the ball. That’s complemented by plus speed, the MLB.com duo notes, giving Benintendi a chance to be a base-stealing threat and to stick in center field. BA notes that Benintendi didn’t play summer ball last year and wasn’t even on some clubs’ radars entering the season, but he quickly caused a “who’s-who of scouting directors and front-office officials” to fly in to watch his performance as the season progressed. McDaniel pegs the potential of each of Benintendi’s five tools as solid-average or better, and BA notes that the only real knocks on the 5’10” outfielder are his size and lack of a lengthier track record.

With Benintendi’s agreement in place, eight of the Top 10 picks in this year’s draft have either signed or agreed to terms, though just three have signed for the full slot value of their pick. (Minnesota’s Tyler Jay and Philadelphia’s Cornelius Randolph are the others.)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Signings: Abdullah, Simcox, Pruitt

We’ll keep tabs on the day’s notable draft signings here, with slot values via Baseball America.

  • Dodgers eleventh rounder Imani Abdullah will sign for $647,500, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com tweets. SB Nation’s Eric Stephen has done some digging on the young hurler, who is fairly new to the mound and did not earn placement on any major prospect lists. He had been set to play for San Diego State University. All but $100K of L.A.’s spending on the projectable righty must be accounted for from its overall bonus allocation. The Dodgers have yet to agree to terms with many of their picks from the first ten rounds, including four of their first five selections (three of whom just finished playing in the finals of the College World Series).
  • The Tigers have agreed to a $600K bonus to land 14th-round pick A.J. Simcox, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter. A half-million of that payday will count towards the club’s overall pool limits. The University of Tennessee product is said to be a slick defensive shortstop. Baseball America graded him the 217th-best player available, saying that Simcox has a “line-drive swing” but has shown little in the way of power potential.
  • Another $500K bonus is set to hit the books, this one going from the Blue Jays to 24th-round pick Reggie Pruitt, Callis tweets. The Vanderbilt commit drew some relatively high grades entering the draft, with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs placing him 146th on his list. MLB.com had the outfielder in the 189th slot on its board, crediting him with outstanding speed while noting that his swing mechanics need work.

Indians Agree To Over-Slot Bonus With Triston McKenzie

The Indians and No. 42 overall pick Triston McKenzie have agreed to a bonus of $2.3MM, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). As Heyman notes, that bonus comes in significantly higher than the slot value of $1.468MM.

Heading into the draft, some felt that McKenzie’s commitment to Vanderbilt would make him a tough sign, but his tantalizing arm led Cleveland to select him at No. 42 anyhow. McKenzie rated 44th, 46th, 51st and 53rd on the respective prospect lists of Fangraphs, ESPN, Baseball America and MLB.com.

As Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs notes, McKenzie is, at present, an incredibly thin 6’5″ and 165 pounds without great velocity. However, he projects to add a good deal of size and strength and also possesses advanced command with the potential for three above-average pitches. McKenzie won’t turn 18 until August, giving him additional time to fill out what ESPN calls “one of the most projectable arms most scouts have ever seen.” There’s some concern that McKenzie will always be on the thin side, but BA notes that if he does fill out well, “there’s plenty to dream on.”

The Indians have gone over slot to sign both top pick Brady Aiken and McKenzie, but they’ve made up for it further down the board, perhaps most notably with a pair of $5,000 senior signs in the ninth and tenth rounds of the draft.

Astros, Daz Cameron Agree To $4MM Bonus

2:20pm: Cameron’s bonus will indeed come in right at $4MM, reports Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter).

2:04pm: The Astros and No. 37 overall selection Daz Cameron have an agreement in place, and Cameron is in Houston to sign his contract, reports Mark Berman of FOX Houston. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets that an introductory press conference will be held tomorrow at Minute Maid Park. Cameron, a Scott Boras client and the son of former Major Leaguer Mike Cameron, has been widely expected to require a significantly over-slot bonus in order to forgo his commitment to Florida State.

Cameron, a high school outfielder from Georgia, was rated by most as a Top 15 talent in this year’s draft, but signability issues caused him to slip to the Astros with the 37th selection. Baseball America ranked Cameron as the fifth-best prospect in this year’s draft, while Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com ranked him sixth on their Top 200. Both ESPN’s Keith Law and Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel rated Cameron as the No. 12 prospect in this year’s draft, and many mock drafts leading up to the actual event had him going in the top five or six picks.

BA’s scouting report notes that Cameron is a divisive player, as some scouts are put off by the fact that he doesn’t always perform against premium pitching. However, BA notes that he has elite bat speed and hand-eye coordination, which position him well to make necessary adjustments down the line. BA notes that he could have average-or-better tools across the board and can stick in center field as a regular at the position. Both Law and McDaniel agree that Cameron could one day be a big league center fielder, although his tools didn’t develop into the potential No. 1 overall type of talent that some had expected earlier in his high school career.

As I noted when the Astros signed No. 2 pick Alex Bregman, the team has saved $2.3MM on other picks, which it can put toward offering Cameron a well above-slot bonus. The No. 37 pick’s slot bonus is $1.669MM, so the Astros could reasonably offer roughly $4MM to Cameron in order to sign him.

Orioles Sign First-Round Pick DJ Stewart

The Orioles announced that they have signed first-round pick DJ Stewart. The outfielder was selected with the No. 25 overall pick.  Stewart’s deal calls for him to earn $2,064,500, full slot for his draft position, according to Jim Callis of MLB.com (on Twitter).  Callis adds that he considers Stewart to be one of the best bats in the 2015 class.

Stewart, an FSU product, slashed .318/.500/.593 with 15 homers in 64 games last season. As a sophomore, the 21-year old was the ACC Player of the Year and an All-ACC First Team selection after leading the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage.

Stewart was ranked No. 26 by Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, No. 30 by of Baseball America, No. 36 by and Jonathan Mayo/Jim Callis of MLB.com, and No. 70 by Keith Law of ESPN.com.  Originally chosen by the Yankees in the 28th round of the 2012 draft, Stewart has improved his stock tremendously over the last three years.  In their scouting report, BA was highly complimentary of Stewart’s quick swing and plate discipline.  With an adjustment to his stance, some scouts believe that he’ll be able to hit for more power going forward.

Giants Sign Phil Bickford

SATURDAY: The Giants have officially announced the signing.

FRIDAY: The Giants have agreed to an at-slot, $2,333,800 bonus with first-rounder Phil Bickford, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports on Twitter. The righty was taken 18th overall.

Bickford previously went unsigned by the Blue Jays as the tenth overall selection back in 2013. He spent a year with Cal State Fullerton, but then moved to the Community College of Southern Nevada to advance his draft eligibility by a season.

The right-hander was rated as high as 21st among prospects heading into the draft, with MLB.com placing that mark on him. Mayo & Co. were impressed with Bickford’s big fastball, which runs into the upper nineties in a relief capacity, along with his improving slider.

While MLB.com likes Bickford to stick as a starter, ESPN.com’s Keith Law noted that some scouts who saw him recently believe he’s a pen arm in the long run. The issue seems to be one of consistency and of developing a third pitch, as Bickford has a lot of work left on his changeup. Law ranked Bickford 38th on his board and called him “the most volatile prospect in the draft,” with ambiguous health and personality issues also factoring in.

Obviously, San Francisco felt comfortable taking a chance on Bickford’s significant upside. As Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area notes on Twitter, Bickford becomes the last of the club’s first dozen picks to agree to terms.

Orioles Sign First-Rounder DJ Stewart

JUNE 27: Stewart himself announced today (via Instagram) that he has officially signed with the Orioles.

JUNE 26: The Orioles are nearing an at-slot deal with first-round selection DJ Stewart, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com reports (Twitter links). Stewart is in Baltimore for his physical, so it appears that the finishing touches will be in place shortly.

Stewart, an outfielder from Florida State, was taken 25th overall. That slot came with a $2,064,500 allocation, and Melewski says that he’s expected to receive that amount for signing.

The industry consensus had Stewart as a first-round talent, with Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs rating him the 26th-best available prospect. Baseball America (30th) and MLB.com (36th) also placed him in that range, while ESPN.com’s Keith Law valued the overall package somewhat lower, rating Stewart 70th on his board.

Stewart’s best attributes are featured at the plate, where he presents strong hit and power tools, as evidenced by a lengthy track record of major college success. Though Stewart has yet to tap into his full power potential, he is said to deliver an advanced approach that made him a reliable on-base threat at FSU.

In spite of his stocky build, Stewart is considered a good athlete with average speed. Scouts say he possesses below-average arm strength, but he figures to be a reasonable option in left.

Baltimore is still juggling its draft spending after handing seventh-rounder Gray Fenter a well-above-slot $1MM bonus that will require the club to come up with over $800K in extra pool space. However, in addition to some other savings from later selections, the O’s freed $411,900 in capacity in agreeing to terms with 36th-overall selection Ryan Mountcastle. The club has agreed to terms with all of the selections from the top ten rounds except for second-round pick Jonathan Hughes, a high school righty.

Cardinals Sign Second-Rounder Denton For $1.2MM

Yesterday, we noted (via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that the Cardinals have signed third baseman and second-round pick Bryce Denton. Today, MLB.com’s Jim Callis tweets that Denton will receive $1.2MM, significantly above the $935,400 pool value for the No. 66 pick. Denton had been committed to Vanderbilt.

ESPN’s Keith Law ranked Denton the No. 67 prospect in the draft, while MLB.com rated him 74th. Baseball America ranked him 95th, noting that he has good raw power and bat speed but could eventually move to one of the corner outfield positions.

Via MLB.com’s Signing and Bonus Tracker, Denton is the fourth over-slot signing the Cardinals have made in the first ten rounds, also reaching for Comp Round A pick Jake Woodford, supplemental pick Jordan Hicks and eighth-rounder Ian Oxnevad. Cardinals top pick Nick Plummer‘s bonus fell right in line with MLB’s recommendations, with the Cards instead finding dollars for their over-slot signings in part by drafting three college seniors elsewhere in the top ten rounds.

Draft Signings: Lambert, Eshelman, Ferrell, Denton

Let’s wrap up some notable recent draft signings to close out the day. Slot values, as always, are courtesy of Baseball America.

  • We already noted that Rockies second-rounder Peter Lambert had signed, and now Jim Callis of MLB.com tweets that he’ll earn $1,495,000 to forego his commitment to UCLA. That’s just shy of a full $100K above the slot value for the 44th choice. A projectable right-hander, Lambert was rated a top-fifty draft-eligible player by both Baseball America and MLB.com.
  • The Astros have agreed to terms with second-round choice and 46th overall pick Thomas Eshelman, Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston reports on Twitter. The Cal State-Fullerton righty says he’ll formally sign next week. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs had Eshelman as the 54th player on his pre-draft board, while others were somewhat less optimistic. Baseball America rated him 126th, explaining that Eshelman has exceptional command but lacks outstanding pure stuff.
  • The Astros have also announced the signing of TCU righty Riley Ferrell, as Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle first reported on Twitter. He’ll get a $1MM bonus from the club, per Jim Callis of MLB.com (via Twitter). MLB.com liked him as the 45th-best draft prospect, noting that the TCU closer has a big fastball-slider combination that could make him a big league contributor from the pen in short order.
  • The Cardinals are in agreement with second-round pick Bryce Denton, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Denton had been committed to Vanderbilt, but is just a physical away from becoming a professional. ESPN.com’s Keith Law rated Denton 68th coming into the draft, noting that he has enhanced his outlook with improved strength and conditioning. Law says that the Tennessee high schooler is likely to play in the corner outfield as a pro, and could ultimately possess both a high-contact and powerful bat if he develops.
  • Rays third-round second baseman Brandon Lowe has agreed to terms on an unspecified bonus, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Tribune reports on Twitter. Lowe was taken 87th overall, which came with a $676,900 slot value. The University of Maryland product ranked as high as 92nd in pre-draft rankings, with that tab coming from Law, who profiles him as a very good hitter with below-average power and solid-but-not-spectacular overall defensive ability.
  • The Nationals have agreed to a $500K bonus with 13th-round pick Max Schrock, Callis tweets, That’s the highest bonus yet given to a post-tenth-round selection, Callis adds. As I noted recently, Washington had freed a significant amount of cash with its previously reported signings, and $400K of that will go to add the South Carolina second baseman, who Baseball America rated 282nd overall based on his strong bat.

Marlins Nearing Deal With First-Rounder Josh Naylor

3:34pm: Naylor has agreed to a $2.25MM bonus, Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun reports on Twitter.

8:43am: The Marlins are close to signing first-round pick Josh Naylor, reports MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. The left-handed-hitting first baseman out of Ontario graduated from high school yesterday, meaning that he’s now officially able to sign a contract with Miami. While the slot value for Naylor’s No. 12 overall selection is $3,051,800, Frisaro hears that Naylor will sign for a bonus between $2MM and $2.5MM.

Naylor’s selection was the first big surprise of the 2015 draft. While some had expected the powerful teenager to go perhaps in the late first round, Miami’s selection of him was unexpected at the time. Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel rated Naylor as the 28th prospect in this year’s class, and he was more optimistic than many other rankings. Naylor placed 49th on Keith Law’s Top 100 at ESPN, 59th on the Top 200 of Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, and 61st on Baseball America’s Top 500.

Listed at 6’1″ and 225 pounds, Naylor’s calling card is his raw power, which receives grades of 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale from ESPN, MLB.com and Fangraphs in the linked reports, with BA labeling it plus-plus (70). ESPN feels that Naylor has a plus-plus arm that scouts would love to use in right field, but he lacks the foot speed to adequately cover the outfield. Naylor’s speed grades range from 20 to 35, which is enough for him to be labeled a first-base-only prospect. As such, he’ll likely have to tap into that huge raw power in order for him to become a regular player for the Marlins down the line.

According to Frisaro, Naylor will begin his pro career with the Marlins Gulf Coast League affiliate. An official announcement of the signing from the Marlins could come as soon as today, he adds.