Say what you will about the new way of doing business when it comes to the MLB Draft, but it doesn’t take a genius to tell that most of these kids who were drafted in the first-round are incredibly excited about the prospect of starting their professional career.
More than half of the first-round picks have agreed to deals, leaving only 15 selections unsigned. Let’s take a look at those remaining and see if we can figure out what it’s going to take for them to get their name on the dotted line.
Mike Zunino, C, Florida (3rd overall), James Ramsey, OF, Florida State (23rd), Brian Johnson, LHP, Florida (31st)
These three players are still fighting the good fight in this year’s College World Series. No contract negotiations are officially allowed to begin with said players until their teams are eliminated or crowned CWS champion. Considering how quickly the top two pick (Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton) signed, it shouldn’t take more than a week for Zunino to agree to a deal. Ramsey (pictured) was a bit of an over-draft at No. 23, so he too should sign quickly, and likely for less than slot. Johnson could be the wild-card. Before the season, the lefty was touted as a top-15 pick, so slipping all the way to the final pick of the first-round isn’t exactly what he had in mind. Still, he shouldn’t be considered a candidate to forgo signing.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU (4th overall)
With LSU’s season over, ended in the unlikeliest of circumstances by upstart Stony Brook, the Orioles are now free to begin negotiations with the right-hander who was the first pitcher selected this year. According to Gary Rajsich, the O’s scouting director, the team is “going to give him a few days’ rest to get home and get things sorted out. Then we’ll go ahead and commence negotiations later this week, I hope.” So far, the highest bonus given to any pitcher has been the $3 million the Royals gave to Kyle Zimmer, drafted one spot after the O’s took Gausman. Zimmer actually took a cut from the recommended slot of $3.5 million. Even if Gausman does the same, expect him to get something in the range of $3.5 to $4.2 million, with the later number representing the bonus recommendation.
Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy (6th overall), Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (7th)
The top two unsigned high school picks, Almora and Fried don’t appear to be any closer to signing than they were a week ago. While the Cubs and president of operations Theo Epstein were busy tying up the loose ends on the Jorge Soler deal, Almora and his advisor, the ever-challenging Scott Boras, were staying true to the line that the oufielder was busy focusing on his committment to the University of Miami. As quoted in the Chicago Tribune, Almora stated, “my main priority now is college. I just graduated high school and I have a full scholarship to the University of Miami, and that’s all I’m looking forward to right now.” The recommended bonus for Almora’s spot is $3.25 million, and as it stands right now, the Cubs are likely going to have to come north of that number in order to get a deal done.
As for Fried, the seventh-overall pick and the first first-round foray into the high school ranks since 2009, things are much quieter. All the Padres are willing to say on the subject is that they have officially signed 23 of their 44 draft selections, but none of the six players they chose in the first, supplemental-first, or second rounds. Fried’s slot is $3 million even.
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State (9th overall)
The Marlins saw two things in Heaney, besides a quality pitcher who should get to the Majors quickly. One, he was a Oklahoma native, just like the team’s scouting director, Stan Meek. Meek and the organization have been incredibly attuned to the talent in the Sooner State, and Heaney is the second first-round pick the team has used on the state since 2009. Current Marlin Josh Johnson and former player Brad Penny also hailed from Oklahoma. Second, Heaney was expected to sign quickly. Yet, here we are, nine days after the draft and while 15 players have agreed to deals, the Oklahoma State lefty isn’t one of them. Unfortunately, the Marlins are playing things very close to the chest, and there’s not even any whispers of when the two sides might come to an agreement. When he does sign, however, expect it to be for less than the recommended $2.8 million.
Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M (15th overall)
Like Ramsey, Naquin was a borderline first-rounder, which means the Indians are likely to save some money by signing the former A&M slugger to an underslot deal. His recommended slot is $2.25 million. As for when to expect him to sign, there appears to be no deal forthcoming anytime soon.
Corey Seager, 3B, Northwest Cabarrus HS (18th overall)
Seager’s negotiations could be the most laborious of any pitcher not named Giolito or Appel. The power-hitting shortstop-soon-to-be-third-baseman has a commitment to South Carolina, who just so happens to be gunning for their third consecutive CWS title this weekend, and he’ll likely be looking for more than the Dodgers’ recommended slot of $1.95 million in order to get him to turn pro. While he bides his time waiting for serious negotiations to begin, Seager has been playing with a local American Legion club in order to keep his skills sharp.
Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke (22nd overall)
Mere seconds after the Jays pulled the trigger on Stroman, there was word that he was in the team’s plans this season. Having served previously at Duke and last summer for Team USA, the undersized Stroman has all the makings of a dynamic reliever. And according to Toronto’s director of amatuer scouting, Andrew Tinnish, Stroman is on the fast track to the Majors. Still, words mean nothing considering, and heading into the second week after the draft Stroman remains unsigned. The team has come to an agreement with their first pick, D.J. Davis, and will have to step up their game to get the rest of their ducks (Matt Smoral included). Stroman’s slot is $1.8 million.
Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State (24th overall)
Marrero came into the 2012 season with grand expectations. Some publications pegged him as one of the top five prospects, but on the field he produced his second consecutive underwhelming season. His offense took a giant step back last year and the slide continued in 2012. In the end, he slid all the way to the bottom of the first-round, where the Red Sox, a shortstop-starved franchise, scooped him up. Signing him shouldn’t necessarily be a difficult thing, but there haven’t been any whispers of progression in talks, so this too could be one that goes down to the wire.
Richie Shaffer, 1B, Clemson (25th overall)
The former Clemson slugger hasn’t made any public statements other than how excited he is to begin his professional career with Tampa, but that doesn’t change the fact that there hasn’t been any mention of the two sides coming to an agreement anytime soon. The Rays currently lack a player with Shaffer’s tools in their system, so they know how important it is to get him signed. And they will, likely for close to, or just under his slot of $1.725 million.
Ty Hensley, RHP, Santa Fe HS (30th overall)
Hensley made his intentions public mere hours after being selected by the Yankees with the second-to-last pick of the first-round. “My goal is to definitely be there by the time I’m 21 years old, which would have been my junior year in college,” Hensley said. “I think it’s realistic. I know I have a long way to go but I’m definitely not going to stop working until I get there — and after that.” Both sides seem likely to come to a deal sometime within the next week, although the Yankees track-record with first-round pitchers suggests otherwise. Their last pick from this high school ranks in the first-round was Gerrit Cole, back in 2008.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS (16th overall), Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford (8th)
Expect these to be the deals that go down to the wire. Giolito’s injury suffered this spring has put a major dent in his signability, and combined with his commitment to UCLA, he could be the only player from the first-round to forgo signing in favor of college. For a player who expected to be under consideration with the number one overall pick, it will take a lot of humility to swallow a recommended signing bonus of $2.125 million.
As for Appel, if his spurning of his post-draft conference call is any indication, the two sides could be in for a long battle that lasts right up to the July 13th signing deadline…and possibly beyond. Appel seems like a smart kid, and we wouldn’t put it past him to go back to Stanford for his senior year, just like his teammate Brett Mooneyham did last season. Of course, there’s always the possibility of independent ball, although that path didn’t work out too well for the last big-names, Aaron Crow and Luke Hochevar. Either way, it’s hard to envision him signing for the Pirates recommended slot of $2.9 million.
Like Giolito, Appel expected to be the number one pick, even in the hours leading up to the event. Does he really want to take a $4.3 million pay cut?