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Brady Aiken Rumors
JUNE 22: The bonus is for $2,513,280, Callis tweets.
JUNE 19: 5:25pm: The precise bonus value is not yet known but will be above the slot allotment, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports on Twitter.
11:10am: The Indians announced the signing of Aiken, noting that he’s already completed a medical evaluation with the team and is rehabbing at the club’s Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
11:00am: The Indians have signed left-hander Brady Aiken, the No. 17 overall pick in this year’s draft, reports Jordan Bastian of MLB.com (on Twitter). Terms of the bonus are unknown, although the 17th overall slot comes with a value of $2,393,600, according to Baseball America.
Aiken, of course, has been in baseball headlines for more than a year. Selected with the first overall pick by the Astros in the 2014 draft, Aiken was widely expected to sign and even headed to Houston to take a physical and finalize his contract. However, the Astros came away from the physical feeling uneasy about the status of the ulnar collateral ligament in Aiken’s left elbow and reduced their bonus offer from roughly $6.5MM to $5MM. Aiken elected not to sign and in the offseason enrolled at the IMG Academy in Florida in order to be eligible again for the 2015 draft.
Aiken’s season at IMG didn’t last long, however. He left his first start of the season, stating afterward that “something felt a little wrong” in his throwing elbow, and further tests revealed that he had torn the UCL that had given the Astros pause. Aiken underwent Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter.
The injury naturally caused Aiken’s draft stock to drop a bit, but the mystery surrounding his elbow may have caused his stock to slip a bit further. Multiple reports headed into the draft indicated that there was general concern surrounding Aiken’s elbow because his Tommy John surgery and UCL were both said to be abnormal. Houston was said last summer to be concerned by general size of Aiken’s UCL — said to be smaller than a standard elbow ligament — and the difference from that of a straightforward Tommy John case created genuine befuddlement among draft experts as to where he might be selected and which team might take the gamble on Aiken’s highly talented left arm.
Cleveland stepped up and took that gamble, and the potential reward they face if Aiken is fully healthy and can have a normal career moving forward is sizable. Aiken was widely labeled as one of the top talents in each of the past two draft classes. Despite the injury, Aiken was ranked 17th in this year’s draft by Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, 22nd by Baseball America, 24th by MLB.com (Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis) and 27th by Keith Law of ESPN.com.
Aiken sits in the low 90s with his fastball and has topped out at 96-97 mph, and McDaniel labels three of his pitches — fastball, curveball and changeup — as future plus pitches, giving each an average-or-better grade at present despite his age. Mayo and Callis praised his advanced command and a curveball that added more power and depth late in Aiken’s prep career. BA termed Aiken a “standout athlete,” noting that the former high school quarterback also comes with an ideal 6’3″, 210-pound frame. ESPN noted that as good as Aiken’s pure stuff is, his delivery is one of the cleanest they’ve seen out of a high school pitcher in quite some time (making the injury concerns all the more confounding).
Unless someone blows the Reds away with an offer, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer could see them rolling the dice, effectively staying pat, and hoping for a second-half turnaround. There are people in the organization willing to blow it all up, but Fay writes that owner Bob Castellini is an optimist. Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Aroldis Chapman could yield great returns for the Reds, but their owner might not be ready to call it quits on 2015. The Reds are 32-36 following today’s 5-2 win over the Marlins.
- Since signing Brady Aiken, the Indians have kept the size of his bonus “on top-secret lockdown for some reason,” MLB.com’s Jim Callis writes (all Twitter links). Callis predicts that Aiken will receive the “max of what [the] Indians can pay without crossing 105% pool threshold,” so roughly a bonus of $2.7 to $2.75MM, which would top his slot value as the 17th overall pick by over $300K. Aiken’s bonus has been the source of speculation given how he was both the first player taken in 2014 and a recent Tommy John patient. As Jason Lukehart of the Let’s Go Tribe blog recently noted, Cleveland has saved a lot of money in their draft pool to go significantly over slot to sign Aiken and 42nd overall pick Triston McKenzie.
- The Rays have long been able to deliver winning teams on small payrolls, yet Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times observes that the 2015 season may be the club’s most impressive feat yet. The Rays are in first place in the AL East despite paying almost $36MM of their $72MM Opening Day payroll to players who are either on the DL, in the minors or no longer with the organization.
- It will be tough for the Brewers to receive good prospect value back on the trade market since so many of their high-priced veterans are struggling, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. Dealing controllable pieces like Jonathan Lucroy, Wily Peralta or Jimmy Nelson wouldn’t make sense, so Haudricourt thinks Carlos Gomez or Jean Segura would have to be the ones to go in order for Milwaukee to get some quality minor league talent.
- Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson have become big parts of the Yankees bullpen, though Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that the Bombers paid a surprisingly hefty price. Ex-top prospect Manny Banuelos (dealt for Shreve and the released David Carpenter) is pitching well for the Braves’ Triple-A team while Francisco Cervelli (traded for Wilson) has emerged as a huge help behind the plate for the Pirates.
- While the chances of the White Sox trading Chris Sale are remote, ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider-only piece) opines that the Sox should at least consider dealing Sale since the return would be so enormous for a 26-year-old ace who is controllable through 2019 on a team-friendly contract. White Sox sources told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe that the club isn’t making Sale available, which is understandable, though Olney is right in noting that Sale would instantly become the biggest trade chip on the market.
With the final countdown on, here are a few last-minute draft rumors making the rounds. There remains little clarity — except, perhaps, at the very top.
- Late updates to mock drafts show a clear consensus that the Diamondbacks will take Vandy shortstop Dansby Swanson first overall. Check them out if you’re interested in final prognostications: MLB.com, Baseball America, Fangraphs. It is still possible that Arizona is holding negotiations with a few other players of interest, as multiple reports suggest, to keep open the possibility of freeing additional cash for later selections.
- Last year’s first overall choice, Brady Aiken, has obviously seen a major value drop but still has ample talent. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets that Aiken has interest from the Cubs, who are unlikely to reach for him with their first pick, as well as the Rays (who choose 13th overall) and Dodgers (picking 24th).
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says that his team intends to spend all of its $17MM+ draft pool money, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports on Twitter. Houston has the most cash to spend in large part due to its failure to sign Aiken, of course, which left the club with both the second and fifth overall selections.
- The time for speculation is over now anyway, of course … the draft is about to start!
Jason Motte recorded a league-best 42 saves as the Cardinals’ closer in 2012, but thanks to Tommy John surgery and other injuries, he hadn’t saved a game since. That changed today, when Motte handled the ninth inning in the Cubs’ 6-3 win over the Nationals. Hector Rondon had already been brought in to pitch the eighth inning (and a tougher part of Washington’s lineup) and Pedro Strop was unavailable, leaving Motte to finish things off. Motte entered Sunday with a 3.98 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 1.63 K/BB rate over 20 1/3 relief innings this season. Here’s some more from Wrigleyville…
- The Cubs announced that prospect Javier Baez suffered a non-displaced fracture in his ring finger and will miss 4-8 weeks of action. Baez was injured while attempting a steal during Triple-A Iowa’s game today. The one-time elite prospect was enjoying a very nice year in the minors (eight homers and a .314/.387/.540 slash line in 155 PA), though this injury, combined with defensive and strikeout concerns, will certainly hamper his chances of a return to the majors.
- The Cubs will require a designated hitter as they have seven games in AL ballparks over the next two weeks, and CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney suggests that calling up top prospect Kyle Schwarber would be a creative way to address this need. Schwarber is having a big year at Double-A, and promoting now would give him a taste of the majors without causing any real service time concerns (as presumably Schwarber would be sent back down once the Cubs are through their road interleague schedule). ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers doubts Schwarber will be called up since the team already has Chris Denorfia on hand, Schwarber has yet to face even Triple-A pitching and there’s obviously no guarantee that the rookie will be able to provide immediate help. “Are the Cubs willing to use 10 days for curiosity or the best chance to win?” Rogers rhetorically asks.
- Some clubs have ruled Brady Aiken out of their draft plans given the prospect’s recent Tommy John surgery, but Cubs amateur scouting director Matt Dorey tells Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times that “it would be really irresponsible not to look at” Aiken’s latest medicals. If Aiken is healthy, the Cubs would potentially land a first-overall caliber talent with the #9 overall pick. On the flip side, Wittenmyer observes that Theo Epstein has drafted position players with his top pick in 10 of the 12 years he has spent running front offices.
As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News discussed with host Jeff Todd on yesterday’s MLBTR podcast, the Rangers are likely to be tempted mostly by high-quality arms at the deadline. Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com opines that Texas may be the Phillies‘ best match in terms of prospects. Seidman speculates that a package centering around Jorge Alfaro and Nomar Mazara — two names previously said by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman to be of interest to Philadelphia — makes sense for Cole Hamels, as the Phillies are “desperate” to add a young catcher and would like an outfielder with some pop. Seidman wonders if including a rejuvenated Aaron Harang or paying a chunk of Jonathan Papelbon‘s contract and including him, too, would entice the Rangers. Of course, all of this boils own to speculation at this juncture, but the Rangers do seem to be a fit given their somewhat unexpectedly strong start. Texas is 28-26 after a win last night, but their ranks 19th in ERA (4.24), 24th in FIP (4.36) and 28th in xFIP (4.51).
More from the AL West to kick off your Friday morning…
- The decision to designate Justin Ruggiano for assignment over Rickie Weeks was not an easy one for the Mariners, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. “The particulars are not something I want to discuss,” manager Lloyd McClendon told Dutton. “Hopefully, this gives (Ruggiano) a chance to catch on with somebody else. It was a very difficult decision.” As Dutton notes, there was going to be an extreme lack of playing time for whoever remained on the roster, following the acquisition of Mark Trumbo. Dutton also points out that McClendon frequently used Dustin Ackley and Willie Bloomquist as late defensive replacements, rather than Ruggiano, perhaps indicating that the Mariners weren’t particularly enamored with his defense.
- Dutton also spoke with Mark Trumbo, the man whose acquisition led to Ruggiano’s DFA. Trumbo said that the news he’d been traded “was a lot to take, initially,” but that when he found out he was headed to Seattle, his mind eased. “I couldn’t have been happier,” said Trumbo. “I’ve loved coming here when I was with the Angels. It’s one of my favorite places in the country — or the world, for that matter.” Trumbo went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles and started at first base in his Mariners debut.
- Astros GM Jeff Luhnow told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle yesterday that he believes Brady Aiken has joined Jacob Nix in not consenting to allow the Astros to draft him again in 2015, as is his right after not signing in 2014. When a Twitter follower asked Drellich whether or not 21st-round pick Mac Marshall, who also did not sign, had done the same, Marshall himself replied on Twitter to say that he had “no hard feelings” toward Houston and has given his consent to be drafted by the Astros again in 2015.
- Josh Hamilton tells Grant that he’s only had a hamstring injury of this significance one other time in his career in 2007 when he put an extreme amount of effort into rehabbing as he first got back into the Majors following four years of drug-related suspensions. Hamilton likely pushed too hard in his rehab in an effort to get back on the field with the Rangers but says he does not regret how he went about his rehab. Grant reports that he has received a platelet rich plasma injection in the injured area that the team hopes will accelerate the healing process.
With less than a week to go before this year’s draft, amateur prospect evaluation is cresting. For those interested in really understanding the broad scope of players available this year, there are a few great resources to check out. And there is an update on a draft candidate who will be more closely-watched than any other this summer.
Let’s have a look in at the latest:
- Baseball America has released its top-500 ranking, which includes just about every player of real relevance at this stage (though no doubt we’ll look back in 10 years and wonder how someone eluded mention). You’ll find links there to scouting reports and video.
- ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider link) remains bullish on University of Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman, who gets the second spot on his list. Indeed, each of the top four players available, in Law’s view, are shortstops, with high schooler Brendan Rogers at the top and Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt) and Alex Bregman (LSU) following behind Newman.
- Kiley McDaniel and Fangraphs have introduced a “sortable draft board” that allows you to take in the various forms of assessment (e.g., present & future value, ranking, mock draft prediction, likely pick range). Check it out and work the columns to get a better sense of what’s out there. As with the BA list, you can access more detailed reports and video of many players.
- Brady Aiken and his medical status still remains something of an enigma, McDaniel writes. The unsigned first-overall pick of a year ago is coming off of Tommy John surgery. Bob Nightengale of USA Today suggested yesterday that the Astros had actually found a small tear in Aiken’s elbow, while earlier reports indicated that he had an unusually narrow UCL. As McDaniel notes, others believe that Houston was scared off by structural issues in the elbow. His current draft status will depend in part on just what issues are there, as well as his progress in the UCL replacement. McDaniel says that Aiken’s camp has released medical information, but done so in an unusually constricted way. All said, it’s impossible to get a read on where he’ll land, though his talent is great enough that he’s expected to land a seven-figure bonus regardless.
The Blue Jays‘ acquisition of Josh Donaldson now appears to be one of GM Alex Anthopoulos’ better moves, Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. The third baseman has 15 homers and an outstanding .312/.372/.604 slash line through his first 227 plate appearances, and Donaldson’s 3.0 fWAR (entering today’s action) is topped only by Bryce Harper. Donaldson is controlled through 2018 and looks to be a cornerstone piece for the Jays both now and in future seasons. Here’s some more from around the American League…
- Adrian Beltre left today’s game with a sprained left thumb and while x-rays were negative, he’ll very likely be placed on the 15-day disabled list, MLB.com’s Dave Sessions writes. The Rangers have enough internal infield options that they aren’t likely to explore outside help unless Beltre is forced to miss an extended period of time. The 36-year-old Beltre has been having a down season (.257/.294/.408 in 221 PA) but was still providing his customary excellent third base defense.
- The much-maligned Tigers bullpen has become a strength for the team, Mlive.com’s James Schmehl writes. Detroit’s relievers entered Sunday with a 2.91 ERA, the seventh-lowest bullpen ERA in baseball. Advanced metrics (3.69 FIP, 4.07 xFIP) paint a more pessimistic view of the bullpen’s performance, yet the Tigers will happily take it after some frustrating relief breakdowns in recent years.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told reporters (including Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press) that his team will make the sixth overall pick in the amateur draft based on talent, and won’t be scared off from taking a player due to injury concerns. This could be a reference to Brady Aiken or Michael Matuella, two top draft prospects who recently underwent Tommy John surgery. ESPN1500’s Darren Wolfson tweets that the Twins and other clubs recently received some new information about Aiken and that Minnesota was “very high on” Aiken last year.
- Rule 5 Draft pick Taylor Featherston is appreciating his time in the majors as a learning experience, though as Fangraphs’ David Laurila points out, having Rule 5 status isn’t necessarily a good thing for a player’s development. Featherston has just one hit in 33 PA with the Angels and has appeared in just 25 games for the club. He must remain on the Halos’ Major League roster all season or else be offered back to his old club (the Rockies) for $25K.
- Also from Laurila’s notes piece, veteran catcher Eddy Rodriguez had more or less called it a career and planning to take a year away from the game before being offered a minor league contract from the Yankees. “When the pinstripes come calling, it’s hard to say no,” Rodriguez said. He is already unofficially working as a player-coach and mentor at the Triple-A level and seems a lock to find a coaching job once he finally hangs up his cleats.
Here’s the latest on the 2015 draft, via a massive post from FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel.
- McDaniel notes that there isn’t much top-level talent in this draft (an opinion shared by many analysts), and says that the industry is unclear what the Diamondbacks will do with, or even how they’re thinking about, the first pick in the draft.
- The Astros, who have the second overall pick, appear to be focused on high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers, UC-Santa Barbara pitcher Dillon Tate, and Vanderbilt infielder Dansby Swanson, who McDaniel ranks the top three prospects in the draft.
- Red Sox GM Ben Cherington was seen on ESPNU last night watching Swanson and Vanderbilt pitcher Carson Fulmer. The Red Sox pick seventh. They’ve also been connected to LSU shortstop Alex Bregman. McDaniel ranks Bregman the fourth-best prospect in the draft, Fulmer the seventh.
- Since the draft lacks much top talent, one possibility is that many teams will draft second-round-type players in the first round and save money against their bonus pools for later picks in the draft.
- McDaniel ranks Astros unsigned 2014 No. 1 pick Brady Aiken the No. 24 prospect in the draft, noting that many in the industry feel that Aiken’s arm issues go beyond Tommy John surgery and that he could have further injury problems later in his career.
In a revealing piece for Sports Illustrated, Stephanie Apstein spoke with 2014 fifth-round pick Jacob Nix, who was selected by the Astros and agreed to a $1.5MM bonus before having the offer pulled following complications with top pick Brady Aiken‘s physical. As most readers remember, the team reached a verbal agreement with Nix before finalizing Aiken’s deal, and once Aiken’s physical revealed troubles with his UCL, his offer had to be reduced. When Aiken didn’t agree to terms, the money for his slot was lost, and the team could no longer fit Nix’s bonus into its draft pool without incurring maximum future penalties. (Aiken, of course, recently underwent Tommy John surgery.) Nix discussed the waiting at length with Apstein, stating, “I’ve never been that kind of guy. I’ve always been out doing something.” Nix waited two weeks after departing Houston before the team contacted him, and he then waited another week to hear if his signing would come together. He was offered a revised $616K offer about an hour before the deadline, Apstein reports, but Nix passed and has since enrolled at IMG Academy in hopes of boosting his stock. It seems to have worked, as ESPN’s Keith Law noted in February that Nix is already showing first-round potential after adding 25 pounds of muscle and flashing average or better changeups and curveballs at times, complementing his solid velocity. Nix is looking forward to his pro career, though he won’t consent to being re-drafted by the Astros. “I hear nothing but good things about 29 teams,” Nix told Apstein. “I just want to get in and start my career.”
More on Nix, the Astros and the AL West…
- Team officials have indicated to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle that the Astros‘ currently reported 2015 draft pool and the amount they spent in 2014 aren’t accurate (Twitter links). It seems, Drellich continues, that someone after the 10th round got more than the allotted $100K in last year’s draft. All rounds following the 10th have a $100K slot, and additional spending over that mark counts against a team’s bonus pool. Drellich notes that this makes it impossible to know what the maximum amount Houston could have offered either Aiken or Nix truly was.
- As much or more than any other team, the Mariners receive a huge portion of their value and income from their television arrangements, as Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times explains. A close bottom-line focus over recent years did not deliver a winner, but did leave the team in position to ramp up its spending. Now, certainly, Seattle enters the 2015 season with postseason expectations.
- The Mariners could use a modified six-man rotation, writes Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune. By slotting in Roenis Elias liberally throughout the year, the club might hope to limit the wear and tear on its five top starters over the course of the regular season.
- That sort of flexibility figures to play an even more prominent role for the Rangers this year, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News explains. Texas may not quite reach the level of impermanence it did last year, when it used a league-record 64 players at the big league level, but the club figures to rely heavily on option years to shuttle players back and forth between the bigs and the upper minors.
Here are some notes out of the game’s western divisions:
- Rule 5 pick Delino DeShields Jr. appears to have a place on the Rangers roster, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Taken from the Astros this winter, DeShields could be a force on the basepaths and would otherwise represent a backup center field and second base option.
- The Astros–Brady Aiken fallout remains too clouded in uncertainty for final judgment, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle writes. While Aiken’s Tommy John procedure has led some to claim that Houston was justified in seeking to drop the price tag on the first overall pick last year, Drellich explains that it is more complicated than just looking at that result. There’s a lot of ground covered in the article, and it is worth a full read for those interested in understanding this complicated situation.
- New Diamondbacks righty Yoan Lopez has shown steady improvement in spite of an unsightly ERA in his first professional action, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Rival scouts have raised some questions about his upside, but D’backs pitching coach Mike Harkey says that he fully expects the 22-year-old to become “a really good pitcher.” Lopez has not brought quite the level of velocity that led the team to sign him, but manager Chip Hale explains that velo isn’t everything: “I think the fastball hasn’t been quite the velocity that we thought, but 92 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when you can make it move and control it, spot it,” said Hale. “The electricity has been in the breaking ball, especially, and the change-up. But I think we do expect a little tick up in the velocity eventually.”