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).