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.