The sometimes euphoric high of draft day often fades by the time day-two of the draft is in the books. On average, you can expect one or two players in the top-ten rounds, from each team, to forgo signing in favor of heading off to college, or sometimes heading back to college.
Here’s a quick look at the players we’d expect to be the most difficult to sign for each team, and what is in store for them if they do.
Arizona Diamondbacks: None
If the Diamondbacks don’t sign every one of the their top ten picks it would come as a surprise. They drafted exclusively from the college ranks (10-of-10), and even grabbed a college senior with their third round pick, increasing the odds that they’re able to stock their farm system with 2015 draftees. This was by design, and a mandate of GM Dave Stewart. Nine of ten of these players have little to gain by going back to school for their senior year and losing their leverage, so expect all of them to sign. If they get all ten to sign, it would be the second year in a row that Arizona signed every player drafted inside the top ten rounds.
Atlanta Braves: A.J. Minter, LHP, Texas A&M University (Comp. Balance B) ($814,300 slot)
Normally we’d be concerned about a guy with Michael Soroka’s profile, but considering they drafted him so early on, it seems like they’re pretty confident the Canadian will sign. That leaves Minter. The slot bonus of $814k seems like a lot for a guy who threw just 21 innings in 2015, and as such, it will be hard for Minter to turn down. If he does, however, he has a decent shot to enhance his draft stock by heading back to college. Yes, he’ll lose any leverage he has going into the 2016 draft as a senior, but he does have the stuff to start, and he looked good in the limited viewing this season. Heading back to college would give him a chance to show teams he can start, and with a strong performance he could be looking at a draft slot somewhere higher than 75th.
Chances of signing: 80%
Baltimore Orioles: Gray Fenter, RHP, West Memphis HS, AR (7th Round) ($178,300 slot)
For the first six rounds, the Orioles had a pretty conservative draft going. They went after some lesser-known prospects in the second (Jonathan Hughes) and sixth (Jay Flaa) rounds, and they took a career-reliever in college, Garrett Cleavinger, who’s destined to be a career-reliever in the pros in the third round. As much as the Orioles claim these were the best players on their board, it all seemed kind of fishy, as in saving money fishy. Then in the seventh round they popped Gray Fenter, a physically mature right-hander who has hit 96-mph with a heavy fastball and complements it with a strong curveball, and their vanilla draft started to make sense. Fenter has a commitment to Mississippi State, and we’d say there’s very little chance he signs for the allotted value of $178k. The O’s are going to have to give Fenter’s camp a number north of $500k in order to get a deal done here, but with the money they’ll save, they just might have the resources to do it.
Chances of signing: 75%
Boston Red Sox: Logan Allen, LHP, IMG Academy, FL (8th Round) ($175,100 slot)
This is what we in the draft business call “punting.” The Red Sox have a bonus pool of just over $6.2 million, and roughly $3 million of that is going to their first-rounder, Andrew Benintendi. Another $1.5 is going to their third, fourth and sixth round picks. They might get some savings from their seventh-rounder, senior Ben Taylor, but at most they’ll have around $1.0-1.3 million to sway Allen from a commitment to South Carolina. With his stuff, Allen could emerge in 2018 as a top pitching prospect, so don’t expect him to sign for anything under $600k. Are the Red Sox willing to sacrifice other parts of their draft class to make that happen? Don’t count on it.
Chances of signing: 25%
Chicago Cubs: Darryl Wilson, OF, Canton South HS, OH (4th Round) ($503,100 slot)
The Cubbies used eight of their first ten picks on college prospects, and of those eight, the final five were seniors. It’s almost as if they are planning ahead to save for something. Enter Bryan Hudson and Darryl Wilson, the team’s third and fourth round picks. Hudson is a pretty raw high school prospect that likely won’t turn down an offer north of $700k to attend Missouri, so let’s focus on the latter. Wilson is headed to Vanderbilt, which is always an obstacle in negotiations. Toss in the fact that he’s a late-riser and we’re already looking at a guy that’s going to be looking for more than his slotted bonus of $503k. With the money they’ll save on their quintet of senior draftees, they should have no problem getting a deal done with Wilson.
Chances of signing: 90%
Chicago White Sox: Corey Zangari, 1B, Carl Albert HS, OK (6th Round) ($284,800 slot)
The White Sox have the sixth-lowest amount of money to play with when it comes to signing their first eight picks. They lost both their second and third round picks through compensation for free-agent signings, so that helps a little. First-rounder Carson Fulmer is a sure-fire signee and he’ll cost the team around the slot value of $3.47 million. That leaves close to $1.9 million to spread around to their remaining seven picks. They did take three seniors, which should save some money, and allow them to take a serious run at Oklahoma high-schooler Corey Zangari. Zangari was a two-way star in high-school and reached 93-mph on the radar gun, but the Sox tabbed him as a hitter. He has tremendous power and impressive bat speed, so the decision might not be that far-fetched. Still, the Oklahoma State commit is going to require a bonus well north of $284k.
Chances of signing: 70%
Cincinnati Reds: None
The Reds splurged on right-hander Antonio Santillan with the 49th pick, and while he is immensely talented, he’s also one of the biggest risks in this draft. When Santillan is throwing strikes he’s as good as there is. Unfortunately, he doesn’t throw strikes with the kind of consistency you’d expect from a collegian, much less a minor leaguer. He’s going to need a massive overhaul of his mechanics, and even then, there’s no way to know for sure whether or not he’ll flame out. At a cost of $1.23 million, it’s a huge gamble for the Reds, who passed up more seasoned prospects. In the end, though, they wouldn’t have taken him so early if they weren’t so confident about his ability, and their ability to get him to sign.
Cleveland Indians: Triston McKenzie, RHP, Royal Palm Beach HS, FL (Comp. Balance A) ($1,468,400)
Many draftniks expected McKenzie to fall much further on draft day. When the Indians stepped up and selected him with their second pick, in the competitive balance round, you could almost hear a pin drop. The Cleveland front-office, however, was probably more ebullient. McKenzie has the perfect combination of size, stuff and projection. His fastball isn’t elite yet, but he could stand to add another 30-40 pounds to his frame, maybe even more. Once he’s physically matured, he’s going to be a beast. Oh, did we mention he has a commitment to Vanderbilt? Don’t they all. You wouldn’t think the Indians would pull the trigger on him unless they could easily exceed the bonus slot of just under $1.5 million, but it might take more than $2 to get McKenzie to sign. They did draft mostly from the college ranks, but we don’t see them finding enough between the couch cushions to make it work.
Chance of signing: 35%
Colorado Rockies: Peter Lambert, RHP, San Dimas HS, California (2nd Round) ($1,395,200 slot)
The Rockies have the second largest bonus pool and 12 picks to split it between. Their first three picks will get the lion’s share (close to $10 million) and the remaining $4 million will be parceled among the remaining nine. They should be able to make it all work, but if anyone is getting cut loose it will be Lambert, a UCLA commit.
Chance of signing: 80%
Detroit Tigers: Nicholas Shumpert, SS, Highlands Ranch HS, Colorado (7th Round) ($179,500 slot)
The Tigers had two of the top 34 picks, and Beau Burrows and Christin Stewart will likely cost $3.9 million of the team’s draft pool. That leaves a good chunk of money left, but it won’t be enough to get Shumpert. He’s a top 100 prospect in his own right, and he has a commitment to Kentucky in his back pocket. The Tigers will save some coin on the eight college players they picked, but it still won’t be enough. A player of his caliber will command at least $750k to forgo the college route.
Chance of signing: 25%
Houston Astros: Dazmon Cameron, OF, Eagle’s Landing HS, GA (Comp. Balance A) ($1,668,600 slot)
As soon as Cameron slid out of the top ten, it became clear that rumors about his bonus demands were legit. The Astros were able to scoop him up with the 37th pick, making him one of the steals of the draft. Unfortunately, those demands are supposedly in the $4-5 million range, making him easily the most interesting player to watch in the coming weeks. The Astros did manage to clear some space by four college seniors in rounds 7-10, but they’re going to need some serious savings in order to afford Cameron.
Chance of signing: 50%
Kansas City Royals: Nolan Watson, RHP, Lawrence North HS, IN (Compensation Round 1) ($1,825,200 slot)
Watson is another Vanderbilt commit, which if you’ve been paying attention, you know now means that the chance to sign is probably under 50%. Unless the player in question is drafted fairly early on, which Watson was. He was the 33rd pick, and while the slotted bonus of $1.825 million likely won’t be enough, the Royals should have enough in their pool to sway Watson.
Chance of signing: 65%
Los Angeles Angels: Jahmai Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS, Georgia (2nd Round) ($879,500 slot)
The Angels knew coming in that they would have just over $5 million to divvy up between their first ten picks, and that really did limit their options when it came to drafting. Their first pick was a smart one. Taylor Ward won’t eat up too much, and he’ll probably sign for less than the slot of $2 million. Their second pick, however, just break the bank. Outfielder Jahmai Jones is an impressive prospect, offering loads of potential at the plate. He also has a commitment to UNC, which means he’ll be expecting more than the $880k. If the Angels manage to get him to sign, it will be a major coup for their draft class.
Chance of signing: 55%
Los Angeles Dodgers: Brendon Davis, 3B, Lakewood HS, California (5th Round) ($313,600 slot)
Davis would have been selected somewhere in the first two rounds had he not fractured his wrist in a freak tractor accident. Yeah, you heard that right. He missed the entire year recovering, and combined with his commitment to Cal State Fullerton, he dropped off the radar in a big way. When he’s healthy, Davis has an impact bat. He’ll head off to college (if he does) as a shortstop, but as he continues to pack on the pounds, he’ll be forced to slide over to third base, where his above-average arm will play just fine. The Dodgers have a draft pool of $7,781,700, and with big dollars committed to Walker Buehler (slot of $2,094,400) and Kyle Funkhouser ($1,756,100), and with the knowledge that it might take more than the slot of $921k to ink second-rounder Mitchell Hansen, the Dodgers probably don’t have the room to sway Davis away from the Titans. There’s virtually no chance he signs for the slotted value of $313k.
Chances of signing: 35%
Miami Marlins: Justin Cohen, C, Riverview HS, Florida (6th Round) ($274,000 slot)
The Marlins shouldn’t have trouble signing their top ten picks, but if any of them will cause a headache it will be Cohen, a Florida State commit. The Seminoles are going to have a devil of a time keeping their 2015 recruiting class together, especially the two catchers in the crop, Cohen and Jackson Lueck. Lueck seems like he’ll be the more difficult sign, so the odds of Cohen turning pro, for a bonus in the range of $270k, seems likely.
Chances of signing: 90%
Milwaukee Brewers: Demi Orimoloye, St. Matthew HS, Canada (4th Round) ($465,600 slot)
Like his Canadian counterpart, Josh Naylor, Demi Orimoloye has insane power. Possibly the best in this draft class after Naylor. He had the talent to be a first round pick, but slipped all the way to the fourth due to concerns about his signablility. He has a commitment to Oregon, and despite his impressive skill, he might benefit from heading off to Eugene. With a little polish he could be a top-20 pick in three years. The chances seem very slim that he’ll turn pro, especially for the $465k signing bonus, especially with the team shelling out slot or higher money to their first three picks.
Chances of signing: 45%
Minnesota Twins: Trey Cabbage, 3B, Grainger HS, Tennessee (4th Round) ($517,900 slot)
The Twins played it relatively safe with their first two picks, LHP Tyler Jay and RHP Kyle Cody. They might even get some savings if they can convince Jay they’ll let him start, something he clearly desires. They’re going to need every penny they can get their hands on in order to sign their third and fourth round picks, infielders Travis Blankenhorn and Trey Cabbage. Blankenhorn should sign for the $750k, but getting Cabbage on board for $517k will be more of a challenge. His commitment to Tennessee isn’t iron clad, but it will take some convincing, possibly in the form of a signing bonus north of $600k.
Chances of signing: 65%
New York Mets: Thomas Szapucki, LHP, Dwyer HS, Florida (5th Round) ($355,500 slot)
The Mets have the smallest bonus pool to work with, and so their draft took a pretty predictable route. They ended up with three college seniors, and a couple of relatively easy signs in fourth-rounder David Thompson and eighth-rounder Patrick Mazeika. That should give them a good chunk of money to play with, but it doesn’t seem that it will be enough to sway Szapucki from a commitment to Florida. With the talent and velocity he has, it would be difficult to imagine him signing for less than $700k.
Chances of signing: 15%
New York Yankees: Drew Finley, RHP, Rancho Bernardo HS, California (3rd Round) ($626,600 slot)
Finley had a lot of helium in the weeks leading up to the draft. Not only does he possess great size, but he also has great velocity and a promising breaking ball. He’s a top-three rounds pick on talent alone, but he also has a strong commitment to USC in his back pocket, and that will come into play in negotiations. The Yankees drafted conservatively early on, so they might have the money to sway Finley but right now they chances seem pretty slim.
Chances of signing: 55%
Oakland Athletics: Dakota Chalmers, RHP, North Forsyth HS, Georgia (3rd Round) ($586,900 slot)
Nine of the A’s first ten picks came from the college ranks, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble to get Chalmers on board, but there’s no doubt he’ll likely be the last of those ten to agree to a deal. His commitment to Georgia, and perceived bonus demands caused him to drop from the first round, all the way to the third, but if the A’s are willing to go north of $750k, they should be able to ink him.
Chances of signing: 70%
Philadelphia Phillies: Greg Pickett, OF, Legend HS, Colorado (8th Round) ($173,900 slot)
Pickett has ranked pretty highly on our draft board from day one, due to his incredible hit tool and plus power. At the same time, we also realized that he was going to be incredibly difficult to sign due to some pretty exorbitant bonus demands. His commitment to Mississippi State is about as iron-clad as commitments get, so don’t expect the Phillies to even come close to getting a deal done.
Chances of signing: 5%
Pittsburgh Pirates: Casey Hughtson, OF, University of Alabama (3rd Round) ($592,700 slot)
Hughston is one a handful of draft-eligible sophomores in this class, giving him a sliver of leverage. The only other draftee that should break the bank, so to speak, is 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes, whose slot value is just under $1.9 million, giving the team enough room to ink Hughston. If he does go back to Tuscaloosa, he’ll have to deal with a more crowded crop of college outfielders in 2016.
Chances of signing: 90%
San Diego Padres: Austin Smith, RHP, Park Vista HS, Florida (2nd Round) ($1,178,400 slot)
The Padres pushed all the chips into the middle of the table when the tabbed Smith with their first pick of the 2015 draft. He’s committed to Florida Atlantic, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to convince him to forgo that, but it will take a bonus north of the $1.2 million he’s slotted for. The Padres also have to figure out how to ink their third-rounder, Jacob Nix, so while it’s likely that they’ll get Smith’s deal done, it’s going to take a lot of hard work on their part.
Chances of signing: 75%
San Francisco Giants: Jalen Miller, SS, Riverwood HS, Georgia (3rd Round) ($598,300 slot)
The Giants had arguably as good a draft as any team during the first two days, getting plenty of value all over the place. Their best pick, however, came in the third round when they tabbed Georgia high-schooler Jalen Miller. He has an incredibly high upside and the skills to stick at shortstop long term. His bat will be his meal-ticket though. Miller has a Clemson commitment, and it should take more than $600k to sign him away from it. The Giants can make the room to get a deal done, but will they?
Chances of signing: 70%
Seattle Mariners: Drew Jackson, SS, Stanford University (5th Round) ($335,400 slot)
Jackson came into the season with plenty of buzz, but missed 17 games with a hand injury. When he was on the field, he looked great, both at the plate and in the field. There are no questions about whether Jackson can handle playing shortstop at the pro level. He has the arm strength and the footwork. The only questions revolve around his bat. He hit a career-best .320 this year, but given the limited playing time he might be better off heading back to Stanford and trying his luck in next year’s draft, one that will be considerably less stacked at the shortstop position.
Chances of signing: 85%
St. Louis Cardinals: Bryce Denton, 3B, Grainger HS, Tennessee (2nd Round) ($935,400 slot)
The Cardinals have their work cut out for them, with a pool of $7.4 million to spread across 12 picks. It came as somewhat of a shock, then, that they spent four of their first five picks on high-schoolers. While they should be able to get deals done with Nick Plummer and Jake Woodford, getting Denton inked will be more troublesome. He does have a commitment to Vanderbilt, which complicates things, but he also has a first-round bat, which should make it hard for him to want to sign for less than $1 million.
Chances of signing: 45%
Tampa Bay Rays: Chris Betts, C, Woodrow Wilson HS, California (2nd Round) ($1,160,500 slot)
The Rays predictably went with high-schoolers early and often, grabbing two of the best in OF Garrett Whitley and Betts. Whitley should be an easy sign, and Betts likely will be too, but it will take a little more than the $1.16 million slot. Having a UCLA commitment never hurts.
Chances of signing: 85%
Texas Rangers: None
The Rangers showed no fear in going after several prospects with legitimate concerns, including Michael Matuella, Jake Lemoine and Tyler Ferguson. They should be able to get those three to sign for close to slot since heading back to college would eliminate any leverage they have. If one or two of that threesome pans out for Texas, they could have one heck of a draft class.
Toronto Blue Jays: None
The Blue Jays don’t have a ton of money, but they shouldn’t have any trouble getting all of their ten picks to sign. Second-rounder Brady Singer will be their toughest sign, but that’s not saying much. He should sign for just over slot, with the team using savings from the handful of college players drafted from the sixth round on.
Washington Nationals: Blake Perkins, OF, Verrado HS, Arizona (2nd Round) ($893,100 slot)
The Nats had a very conservative draft class as well, with the one exception being Perkins, an Arizona State commit and the team’s second round pick. They’ll save some money with their first selection, and the team drafted college players in rounds 3-10, giving them some room to make a deal with Perkins happen. It might take a number over $1 million, though.
Chances of signing: 50%