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Big Draft Bonuses: why you should always take the money

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Carter Stewart just turned down more money than he's likely to see even if he's an All american in 3 years time.. photo via PerfectGame

Carter Stewart just turned down more money than he’s likely to see even if he’s an All American in 3 years time.. photo via PerfectGame

The signing deadline for this year’s draft class has passed, and just four players from the top 10 rounds failed to come to terms with their drafting team.  This was slightly higher than the previous couple of seasons, but interesting this year because all four non-signing players were basically the same situation: high-end 1st round prep players with big price tags who in the end each turned down at least $2M each (and in some cases a ton more) to go off to school and lock themselves in for 3 years of playing for unaccountable, arm shredding, self-interested NCAA coaches who often could care less about player development and more about their next conference title and regional hosting bid.

And each of them probably made a huge mistake.

Its a common refrain among pundits in the amateur baseball world (Keith Law in particular) that HS players should “take the money” if they’re drafted high enough.   Certainly any first rounder would be a fool to turn away that kind of money, and mostly any prep player offered something in the upper 6 figure range should give serious consideration.  MLB contracts generally include college tuition … so even if you sign out of HS you still have 4 years fully paid for in case you wash out.  So instead of gambling on your health, or the fickleness of the baseball draft (where one bad start can cost you 30 spots in the draft and millions of dollars), take the cash when its offered.

But, don’t take our word for it.  Lets look at the empirical evidence of every player over the past seven drafts who has forgone the cash to see if there’s any trends.

Here’s a summary of the last few years of players who did not sign from the top 10 rounds.  This only goes back to 2012, since that’s the beginning of the new draft rules.

  • 2018: 4 (all 1st or supp-1st rounders)
  • 2017: 3
  • 2016: 2
  • 2015: 6
  • 2014: 6 (two of which were Nats picks: Andrew Suarez and Austin Byler in that ill-fated draft class, and one more who didn’t sign thanks to Houston’s screwing up the Brady Aiken deal and who was eventually granted free agency).
  • 2013: 8
  • 2012: 8

These are the total non-signings for the top ten ROUNDS of draftees, meaning anywhere between 300 and 350 guys comprising the top 10 rounds and supplementals.  So in the seven years and roughly 2200 players drafted in the top 10 rounds in the last 7 seasons, a grand total of 37 have failed to sign.

Side note: each year we hear about all these players who aren’t going to sign or that negotiations are tough, when in reality the modern CBA rules nearly guarantee 100% signing among drafted players (unless there’s a huge misunderstanding on draft day, or a huge disagreement about medicals).  The draft pools are structured so that the penalties for NOT signing players can cascade and affect your ability to sign other players  (see Houston’s issue in the 2014 draft), so teams are now basically calling players in advance and saying, “If we draft you at X, will you sign for $Y?” … so the only reason players don’t sign is if there’s a serious breakdown or mis-understanding.

So, why do i say that you should always take the money?  Well, lets ask ourselves: out of these 37 players who didn’t sign.. who actually IMPROVED their draft status by not signing?  Lets go year by year and look at the players who failed to sign.

(a caveat here: I did not look at the dollar amounts offered here; this is basically draft round analysis.  Its possible that a 5th rounder in one year went in the 8th the next and got offered more money … but its quite rare with the new draft rules and bonus pools.  Everything changed with the new CBA that went into effect in 2012.  The Nats in particular spent $14.6M on draft bonuses in 2011.  The next  year?  $4.6M, with most of it going to one player in Lucas Giolito).

2018: 4 players did not sign

  • Carter Stewart, RHP Fla HS. 1st/8th overall. Atlanta didn’t like Physical, offered 40% of slot value ($1.9M); going to Mississippi State
  • Matt McLean: 2B Calif HS. 1st/25: Asked $3M, Arizona offered $2.6M didn’t budge, going to UCLA.
  • JT Ginn: RHP Miss HS. 1st/30th: LA dodgers offered $2.4M, asking $2.9M, going to Mississippi State
  • Gunnar Hoglund: LHP Fla HS. 1supp/36: Pittsburgh didn’t like physical, low-balled and he declined. going to Ole Miss.

Obviously its too early for these four players … but all four turned down significant dollars being 1st rounders, and the odds of them improving their bonus amount and/or their draft value (especially Stewart) seems slim.  Why?  Keep on reading.

Its clear though that Mississippi State is going to be STACKED for the next few years though … they’re getting two first rounders to school and into their rotation.  Phew; good luck to the SEC running up against this rotation for the next three years.  That just doesn’t happen very often.

Verdict: 4 too early to tell.

2017: 3 players did not sign

  • Drew Rasmussen, RHP, Oregon State, 1s/31st overall. Failed to sign with Tampa, who (I guess) didn’t like his medicals.  He was coming back from TJ and only had a few weeks of action before the draft. Went 6th round in 2018 to Milwaukee in 2018
  • Jack Conlon, RHP, Clements HS (Sugar Land, Texas). 4th round/128 overall. Failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Texas A&M
  • Jo Jo Booker, RHP, Miller HS (Brewton, Ala.). 5th round/145 overall. failed to sign with LA Angels, with to South Alabama

Two players too early to tell.  Rasmussen didn’t turn down the Rays as much as they refused to tender him a contract … they must have tendered him something because they got a comp pick in 2018 draft.  So he turned down 40% of first round money in 2017 to sign an underslot deal in the 6th round of 2018 ($135k, just $10k more than the non-top 10 rounds minimum).  I’d say this was a bad move by the player unless Tampa flat out refused to pay a dollar.

Verdict: 2 too early, 1 worsened his draft position.

2016: 2 players did not sign

  • Nick Lodolo: 1S/41st overall; LHP from Damien HS in California. failed to sign with Pittsburgh, went to TCU instead, draft eligible in 2019
  • Tyler Buffett: 7th/217 overall; RHP, failed to sign with Houston. returned to Oklahoma State, drafted in 6th round in 2017 and signed with Cincinnati

One guy still too early to tell, but its fair to say that Lodolo is probably pitching his way into the upper 1st round in 2019.  So he’s trending on improving his stock… as long as he doesn’t destroy his arm in the shredder-program at TCU (thought to be fair the notorious coaches who destroyed more than a few arms there, including a Nats pick in Matt Purke, have moved on).  Meanwhile Buffett improved his draft position one round by going back to school.

Verdict: 1 trending good, 1 improved his draft position one round.

2015: 6 guys did not sign.

  • Kyle Funkhouser: 1st/35th overall: RHP from Louisville, failed to sign with LA Dodgers, turning down an above-slot $2M. 4th rounder in 2016, signed with Detroit.
  • Brady Singer, 2nd/56th overall: RHP Florida HS. failed to sign with Toronto, went to Florida and was 1st rounder in 2018, signed with Kansas City
  • Jonathan Hughes, 2nd/68th overall: RHP Georgia HS. failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Georgia Tech and not even drafted in 2018…
  • Kyle Cody, 2nd/73rd overall: RHP U Kentucky. failed to sign with Minnesota, drafted in 6th round in 2016 and signed with Texas
  • Nicholas Shumpert, 7th/220th overall. SS Colorado HS. failed to sign with Detroit. Went to San Jacinto CC, drafted in 28th round 2016 by Atlanta and signed.
  • Kep Brown, 10th/311 overall. RF South Carolina HS, failed to sign with LA Dodgers. went to Juco, then to UNC-Wilmington, not drafted in 2018.

Funkhouser was the biggest “whoops” here; a poor spring took him from his pre-season top 10 draft position all the way out of the first round, but he still demanded upper 1st round money.  He didn’t get it … and then fell to the 4th round the next year.  That was a big fail.  Singer clearly improved on his 2nd round status by going to college.    Cody slipped from being a 2nd rounder to a 6th rounder.  The other three guys drastically fell on draft boards; one of them going from a 10th rounder to not even being drafted.

Verdict: 1 improved, 5 hurt draft stock

2014: 6 failed to sign

  • Brady Aiken: 1/1 overall, RHP from San Diego HS. failed to sign with Houston, went to IMG Academy in FL, drafted 1/17 by Cleveland
  • Andrew Suarez: 2nd/57 overall LHP from UMiami, failed to sign with Washington. Drafted 2nd round/61st overall in 2015 by San Francisco
  • Trevor Megill; 3rd/104th overall RHP from Loyola Marymount. failed to sign with Boston, drafted 7th/207 in 2015 draft and signed with San Diego
  • Jacob Nix: 5th/136 RHP from Los Alomitos HS; couldn’t sign when Tampa lost bonus money, sued, FA, signed with San Diego
  • Zack Zehner: 7th/204 OF from Cal Poly, failed to sign with Toronto. Drafted 18th round 2015 and signed with NYY
  • Austin Byler, 9th/274 1B from nevada-Reno. failed to sign with Washington, drafted 11th round in 2015 and signed with Arizona

Aiken became quite the rarity; the first #1 overall baseball pick to fail to sign in 30  years.    But his lack of signing cascaded and cost the Astros both their 5th rounder Nix and another player later on thanks to the new draft rules on bonus pools; Nix ended up being declared a FA in a face-saving move by MLB so as not to admit that their new bonus cap circumvention rules were BS.  Aiken had no where to go but down from 1-1 so he obviously cost himself money.  The others all fell, if only slightly in Suarez’s case.

Verdict: 1 didn’t count, 5 lowered draft stock

2013: 8 failed to sign

  • Phil Bickford: 1/10 RHP California HS. Toronto failed to sign. went to Southern Nevada juco, drafted 1/18 by SF and signed.
  • Matt Krook 1s/35 LHP calif HS. Miami failed to sign, went to Oregon State, drafted 4th round by SF in 2016
  • Ben DeLuzio 3rd/80 SS from Fla HS. Miami failed to sign. Went to Florida State, played 4 years … undrafted out of college, NDFA with Arizona
  • Ben Holmes, 5th /151 LHP Oregon State. Philly failed to sign. went 9th round in 2014
  • Jason Monda 6th/181 OF Washington State. Philly failed to sign … then accused him of NCAA violations. he wasn’t drafted again and quit to go to Med school
  • Stephen Woods 6th/188 RHP NY HS: Tampa failed to sign, went to Suny-Albany, drafted 8th round 2016 by SF and signed
  • Dustin DeMuth 8th/230 3B from Indiana, Minnesota failed to sign, became 5th rounder in 2014 and signed with Milwaukee
  • Ross Kivett 10th/291 2B from kansas State. Cleveland failed to sign, became 6th rounder in 2014 and signed with Detroit

Bickford fell 8 slots year over  year but still fell.   DeMuth and Kivett both improved their stock.  The rest fell, drastically in some cases.

Verdict: 2 improved, 6 fell

2012: 8 failed to sign

  • Mark Appel 1/8 RHP Stanford by Pittsburg. failed to sign, was 1/1 in 2013 with Houston
  • Teddy Stankiewicz 2/75 RHP from Texas Hs. failed to sign with Mets, went Juco, 2/45 in 2013 by Boston
  • Alec Rash, 2/95 by Philadelphia from IA HS. went to Missouri, 2015 drafted in 23rd round by Washington but still didn’t sign; quit baseball and started playing NCAA basketball
  • Kyle Twomey, 3/106 LHP Calif HS Oakland. Drafted 13th round 3 yrs later out of USC by Chicago Cubs.
  • Brandon Thomas 4/136 OF from Ga Tech; didn’t sign with Pittsburgh, drafted 8th round one year later and signed with NYY
  • Colin Poche 5/162 LHP texas h s. failed to sign with Baltimore, went to Dallas Baptist, undrafted Jr year, drafted 14th round 2016 by Arizona
  • Nick Halamandaris 8/251 1B Calif HS. failed to sign with Seattle, played 4 years at cal, undrafted jr and Sr year, NDFA with Seattle, played one season
  • L.J. Mazzilli 9/280 2B from UConn. 4th rounder in 2013 signed with NY Mets

Appel managed to improve from 8th overall to 1st overall.  Stankiewicz also improved his stock about a round’s worth.  Mazzilli improved from a 9th rounder to a 4th rounder.  The others all fell.

Verdict: 3 up, 5 down.


Summary: of the 37 players who failed to sign:

  • 7 too early to tell yet
  • 22 hurt their draft stock by failing to sign
  • 7 improved their draft stock.  Of those who improved:
    • Two improved one round
    • Two improved slightly within the same round
    • One went from 8th round to 5th round
    • One went from 10th round to 6th round
    • One went from a 9th rounder to a 4th rounder.
  • 1 didn’t really count b/c of the Houston 2014 shenanigans

So there you have it.  7 of 37 turned down money and look like they slightly made out (19%).   22/37 (60%) did not … and in some cases clearly cost themselves millions of dollars.  And even those 7 who did improve their ranking … not one of them in my opinion drastically improved their stock by going to college.  In fact, you can make the argument that getting drafted in the 8th round in one year, playing another year in college and then going in the 5th round probably *hurts* a player’s pro prospects because now he’s a year older versus his peers and has lost a year of pro development time.  A 22 yr old college senior draftee is already “old for the level” until he gets to at least Low-A, which is no guarantee even in his second pro year.

Now, has it ever worked out for a player to turn down significant 1st round money?  Yeah a couple times; Mark Appel gambled and improved his stock just before the new CBA took hold; in fact he managed to go 1-1 despite being a college senior with zero leverage.  Garrett Cole also made out by going to school.  So did a few others in the pre-2012 CBA eras.   But its a rarity; I’ve got another post that goes over these and some of the biggest nightmares for a later date.

Food for thought.

 

 

Will the Nats get Romero signed?

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Sure would like to see him signed so I can get an updated pic... Photo via UHcougars.com

Sure would like to see him signed so I can get an updated pic… Photo via UHcougars.com

Signing deadline is tomorrow, Friday 7/7/17 at 5pm.

A surprisingly large number of top 10 round picks remain unsigned, including our own 1st rounder Seth Romero.  Mlbpipeline reports that as of this writing 6 first rounders and 19 guys in the top 10 rounds have yet to sign.

To put this into context, given the new bonus/slotting rules it is extremely rare to have a top-10 round pick not sign.  Last year there were just two guys out of the 300+ guys picked in the top 10 rounds who did not sign.  We know for sure that at least one 1st rounder won’t sign: Tampa announced they will not be reaching an agreement with their 1st rounder Drew Rasmussen, a RS-sophomore from Oregon State.  Interestingly there’s confusion as to whether Tampa gets a comp pick or if Rasmussen becomes a FA.  I’m not sure where this is coming from; is it because Tampa has announced they’re refusing to even offer him a contract?  I’ve never heard of the “opting to become a FA” out of the draft; I thought he just goes back to school and re-enters next year (or goes to indy ball, where he’d still be draft-eligible next year).   Anyway; point is, if there’s more than 2-3 picks that don’t sign, it’d be a shock.

Which is why Romero in particular seems like an odd case to still have not signed.  He has little leverage; he has no college team to return to.  The other 1st rounders all remain unsigned due to signability issues; for example Ashburn/UNC’s J.B. Bukauskas fell 10 slots from his projection thanks to his last two starts being sub-par (attributed to a blister); he’s probably holding out for a bonus figure closer to #6 overall versus where he got signed.  Is this just a case of his agent Scott Boras trying to make sure he’s in the headlines?  Are they really struggling to come up with a bonus figure at this point?  The Nats and Romero were linked together for many days prior to the draft; its not like a case where they had a surprise player “fall” to them and they didn’t have time to pre-negotiate a bonus figure before picking him.

(coincidentally; the MLBpipeline report still lists Cole Freeman as un-signed; in reality they announced his signing and underslot bonus figure within a couple hours of LSU losing the CWS final).

Odds are that Romero signs, but the delay is curious.  He needs innings so the delay shouldn’t be about holding down his IP limit.  He’s been without a team and without proper training for months, so he stands to stay in XST for a number of weeks, putting him basically at the tail end of the minor league season.  So 2017 is looking like a wash for the most important pick of the draft.

Romero signing prediction: he signs, for a bit more than slot, which costs the nats any remaining chance to sign Bryce Montes de Oca.  But that doesn’t seem like a huge surprise.  It still puts the Nats  in a position where they likely sign 34 of t heir 40 picks, a huge number.  They won’t sign Montes de Oca, nor Dusty’s son Darren Baker (tangent; I agree with prior comments; if that was a legacy signing for show, why so early?).  They also won’t get UVA’s Bennett Sousa who will return to improve his draft stock for his senior year, and they miss out on the three late round HS picks (two of which were also legacy picks).

top 10 signing misses: i’ll guess we’ll see a few more non-signings out of the top 10 rounds, beating last year’s record low of just 2 non-signings.

 

Written by Todd Boss

July 6th, 2017 at 11:44 am

2017 CWS Super-Regionals recap, CWS field and predictions

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CWS-2017_calendar-narrow

Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2017:


Lost in Draft 2017 mania was the finishing of the Super Regionals on Monday evening.  This post is a couple days old but just in time for the CWS to start.

Super Regional Recaps:  I’ve got these ordered by they way they’ll be playing into the CWS field (i.e. by bracket).  And this is the order they’re listed on d1baseball’s Tourney Central, the quickest way to find results.  Rain throughout southeast cancelled half the friday slate of games.

  • #1 Oregon State vs Vanderbilt: Oregon State’s #1 starter Luke Heinrich left the team after some past indiscretions were uncovered by the local paper (you can google the details yourself; the timing of the unveiling couldn’t have come at a worse time for him, his team or his future just days ahead of the draft,  however reprehensible his transgressions were).  Behind #2 starter Jake Thompson they rolled over Vanderbilt nonetheless 8-4 in game one.   They continued the onslaught, destroying one of the best SEC teams 9-2 to go two and out; Oregon State advances to the CWS even without its ace.
  • Cal State Fullerton vs #9 Long Beach State: LBSU blanked CS-F in the first game 3-0, taking the 6th game out of the 7 times they’ve now played this season.  Fullterton came roaring back and destroyed the Dirtbags 12-0 to force the decider.  In a shocker to me, Cal-State Fullerton got a dominant pitching performance from a mid-week starter and won the clincher 2-1 to advance.
  • Sam Houston State v #12 Florida State: FSU rallied to beat Sam Houston in the first game 7-6.  Sam Houston was in control before FSU scored 3 in the 6th to tie it, eventually getting the walk-off in the bottom of the 9th.  In game 2, Florida State scored in each of the first six innings to turn it into a laugher 19-0 and advance to their 22nd CWS.
  • #4 LSU vs Mississippi State: LSU scored 4 in the 8th to rally past Mississippi State in the first.  LSU’s ace Alex Lange was a bit wild; he got relieved by Virginia product Zach Hess, who got the Win.  In Game 2, LSU turned a close game into a laugher as Mississippi State seemed to run out of arms, eventually winning 14-4 to advanced to the CWS.

 

  • Davidson vs TAMU: Texas A&M beat the cinderella story Davidson 7-6 in the first game … in 15 innings (!).  One worry you always have seeing these collegiate long extra inning games is pitcher abuse; TAMU did seem to select a periodic starter to eat up the extra innings, so that’s good to see.  In Game 2, Davidson was ahead into the 8th … and then their lack of pitching depth finally got exposed.  TAMU exploded for 10 runs in the 8th and 9th to blow them away 12-6 and be the second team to punch their ticket to the CWS.
  • #7 Louisville v #10 Kentucky; Lousiville took game one behind their #2 starter, with super star  Brendan McKay going 0-3 at the plate.  McKay got the win in game two to punch Louisville’s ticket to the CWS, the first team to do so.  (Louisville had clinched the super regional before the LSU regional had played an inning thanks to weather).
  • #6 TCU v Missouri State: TCU won a close one 3-2 behind ace Jared Janczak; they scored 2 in the 8th to go ahead.  TCU cruised in game 2 8-1 to advance to their 4th straight CWS.
  • #3 Florida  vs #14 Wake Forest: Florida won game 1 in 11 innings; they threw ace Alex Faedo but he was on 72 pitches through 4 and got pulled.  Wake’s ace Parker Dunshee threw a fantastic game; 8ip, 3hits but Florida won on a walk-off.  Game two was suspended sunday night due to rain; the last regional to finish.  Wake Forest took the suspended game to force the decider, which unfortunately was being played just as the MLB draft started monday night.  There, Florida held serve and advanced 3-0 to finish out the field.

 

My CWS Predictions: Oregon State, TAMU, Florida, LSU, Florida State, TCU, Louisville, Long Beach State.

Actuals: Oregon State, TAMU, Florida, LSU, Florida State, TCU, Louisville, Cal-State Fullerton

I got 7 of 8 right, missing on the Fullerton pick (figuring that Long Beach State would continue to dominate them).


 

CWS Field and Profiles

Top Bracket:

  • #1 Oregon State: 54-4 overall record (27-3 in conference).  1st place Pac12,   Regular season conference champ (no post-season Pac12 tourney)
  • Cal State Fullerton: 39-22 (15-9).  3rd place Big West regular season (no Big West tourney)
  • #12 Florida State 45-21 (14-14): 5th place, Atlantic division ACC regular season.  1st place ACC tournament.
  • #4 LSU: 48-17 (21-9): 1st place, SEC West conference.  SEC tourney champs.

Bottom Bracket

  • Texas A&M: 41-21 (16-14): 5th place SEC West.
  • #7 Louisville: 52-10 (23-6): 1st Place Atlantic division ACC regular season.
  • #6 TCU: 47-16 (16-8): 1st place Big 12.  Lost in Big12 tourney title game.
  • #3 Florida: 46-19 (21-9): 1st Place SEC East regular season.

CWS field review by the numbers

  • Pac12: 1 team
  • Big West: 1 team
  • ACC: 2 teams
  • Big12: 1 team
  • SEC: 3 teams

 


CWS Field thoughts

What a great CWS field.  Several legendary programs (Cal-State Fullerton, Florida State and Florida) with dozens of appearances between them.  The undisputed #1 team in the land (Oregon State).  The undisputed #1 pre-season team in TCU.  Arguably the hottest team in the land in LSU.  The team with the likely #1 overall pick (Louisville).  Great spread amongst the power conference; you have 1st place teams from both SEC divisions, the ACC, the Pac12 and the Big12.  Every team in Omaha this year has been there already this decade, making it a very experienced field.  Should make for great baseball.

Quick predictions: LSU from the top; I’ve always been slightly biased against Pac12 teams and when the #1 team from the west meets the #1 team from the powerhouse SEC conference, something tells me the Tigers will prevail.   TCU from the bottom, though its tough to pick against Louisville.  I think TCU gets a break not having to face Brendan McKay in game one and that might be the difference.

Final: TCU takes the title over LSU and fulfils their #1 pre-season ranking.

Player Star power in this CWS: By team, here’s the guys to look for either for Nats interest or for overall talent/draft position:

  • Oregon State: two dominant starters in Luke Heimlich (possibly not playing) and Jake Thompson.  Also Drew Rasmussen, drafted ahead of either guy.  Max Engelbrekt has the best ERA on the team and was the Nats 40th round pick as a 5th-year senior.
  • TAMU; RHP Corbin Martin
  • Florida: Alex Faedo.
  • LSU Alex Lange their #1 starter plus their clean-up hitter Greg Deichmann, both first day draft picks.  Nats 2017 4th rounder Cole Freeman is their engine.
  • Florida State; none really, despite FSU’s ranking.  They’re a solid and younger team this year with no major 2017 draft prospects.
  • TCU’s Evan Skoug might get drafted relatively highly.
  • Louisville:  led by #4 overall pick Brendan McKay.
  • Cal State Fullerton; no 1st round notables; same as FSU: team depth, not superstars this year.

Nats 2017 Draftees in the CWS: thanks to the Nats strategy of drafting only College players, they drafted a ton of guys who are playing in Omaha.  By team:

  • Oregon State: Max Engelbrekt has the best ERA on the team and was the Nats 40th round pick as a 5th-year senior.  Not sure why he lasted til the 40th round…
  • TAMU: 5th rounder Jr RHP Brigham Hill, 18th rounder OF Nick Choruby.
  • Florida: none
  • LSU  Nats 2017 4th rounder 2B Cole Freeman is their engine.
  • Florida State: none
  • TCU: none this year, last year’s pick Evan Skoug got picked.
  • Louisville: none
  • Cal State Fullerton: 24th rounder sr. SS Tim Richards

 

College CWS tournament references: