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Some dirt on the 2004 draft class...

As Scott pointed out on one of yesterday's threads, Baseball America is reporting that the Tigers have decided to end their pursuit of #2 overall pick Justin Verlander.


It's unclear at this point what Verlander is going to do... I'm not sure if it's too late for him to go back to ODU for his senior season under NCAA rules, as it's already mid-October. I know that there is a cutoff point where an athlete must be registered or he can't play in the season. I would assume, though, that it's not too late (otherwise more of the unsigned draftees would be back in school) and he will be back in uniform when the season begins in January.

It's still possible that Philip Humber and Jeff Niemann could be back at Rice next year along with Wade Townsend (who went back to school and lost his bid to continue negotiating with the Orioles afte an MLB ruling). That would certainly give the Owls the best college pitching staff of all time. The Mets are still hopeful of signing Humber - they wanted to get him in the organization in time to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, but that fell through. Humber is really biding his time, saying that he wouldn't mind waiting until spring training, which looks like a pretty big gamble to me. He may be hoping that pressure from the NY media on new GM Omar Minaya And A Cast Of Thousands to make a splash makes the Mets give in to his demands!

The Devil Rays are hopeful that two-pitch giant Jeff Niemann will sign (but the last report was in lat September). I think Jeff Niemann may be pretty hopeful that he'll wake up and the Devil Rays will be gone, given their track record of pitcher development. Niemann's the college guy in the Top 10 I think the least of, so it might not be bad for the D-Rays if they didn't end up with him. They probably will, though.

Other draft pick news - Stephen Drew is almost certainly going back in the draft as well as Arizona have put off signing him until the Richie Sexson palaver is completed, and they look like they're going to pass on him (I don't think Jeff Moorad is too thrilled with Drew anyway). There's been nothing on Jered Weaver - the Angels are still humming and hawing about whether to make him another offer, and "no progress" is still the latest report. Weaver's status is going to depend on what the Angels want to do in the free agent market, and it's likely that they're going to want free agent starters whih means spending lots of money. I think Stoneman understands that Weaver likely wouldn't be ready next year to be anything more than a #4 or #5 guy.

All this means that four of the consensus ten best players available last year (Drew, Townsend, Weaver and Verlander) are likely to be back in this coming year's draft - two of them for sure. And given Niemann and Humber's unsigned status, it could be six of the ten best. All of which makes the Indians' signing of Sowers look even better... as the only collegian of those ten best players to have actually signed.

Note that the Blue Jays signed all of their top picks, including Cory Patton earlier this month who I guess must have recovered from his foot injury.

After the fallout over Townsend going back to Rice, the Orioles fired Tony DeMacio as their scouting director. Apparently, Townsend was actualy a *signability* pick by the O's who actually wanted Drew. Angelos said he didn't want difficult negotiations and according to a BA story, made DeMacio pick someone they could get a deal done with easily. Whoops!

It may not be too bad for the Orioles that Townsend didn't sign. This is a guy who can dial it to 95. But he rarely cracks 90 according to reports. I've always seen that as a profile of a guy with arm problems... the loss of velocity off his maximum. Unless he has mechanical issues, which he may, but I'm unaware of.
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_jsoh - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 09:09 AM EDT (#26377) #
Has there ever been a case where 6 of the top 10 picks went unsigned, and re-entered the draft? Nevermind MLB, but in any of the big 4 NA sports leagues?

It seems rather unprecedented.
Mike Green - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 09:17 AM EDT (#26378) #
The more name pitchers, the merrier. All of this makes it more likely that a big-time position player will be available when #6 rolls around.
Pistol - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 09:40 AM EDT (#26379) #
It's still possible that Philip Humber and Jeff Niemann could be back at Rice next year along with Wade Townsend

Townsend signed with an agent, so while he's a student at Rice, he won't be playing baseball as he's ineligible.

At this point, a couple months into the fall semester, I'm not sure college players can enroll in school and be academically eligible to play. I believe the only option for draftees to play now is in independent leagues.

There's no real incentive for a team or a player to get a deal done. As the draft approaches the players and teams will both have more incentive to do a deal. I'd be surprised if more than 2 of these 6 players go back in the draft.
_Jordan - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 09:48 AM EDT (#26380) #
A whole lot can change in eight months, but if all this returning talent somehow makes Jeff Gordon available at #6, I will be one very happy guy.

The inability -- or unwillingness -- of so many teams to sign their top draft picks is remarkable. I mean, this isn't just one or two teams deciding that a player is too rich for their blood; this is a whole lot of teams deciding to blow off their top draft choices. You could call collusion if you wanted, but I can't see Peter Angelos doing anything in concert with his fellow owners. And the fact that a team run by Jeff Moorad is sticking it to a top draft pick speaks volumes about the sea change we're seeing here.

I suspect that a general fiscal re-balancing is part of the equation, but I wonder if a number of these teams just don't think these players are worth it. Craig has pointed out that a lot of these guys come with warts, some of them significant, and you expect a top ten overall choice to be virtually wart-free. It could be that some of these clubs decided to invest their millions elsewhere than in a single player who might or might not work out. We're surely not the only ones who've been taking a hard look at failure rates for first-round draft picks, and maybe some clubs are doing their own internal math.

There's also the possibility that teams are throwing these fish back into the lake so that the 2005 draft class, overflowing with talent, has less leverage in demanding top dollar. Maybe the owners are confident they can get the equivalent (or even exactly the same) talent next June at a lower price.

In any event, if this is a trend towards lower signing bonuses for top draft talent, that can only be good news for teams like Toronto. And I can't help myself from recalling that a number of people were fretting this past summer because the Jays were slow to sign their two #1 draftees.
Mike Green - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 10:16 AM EDT (#26381) #
NASCAR on the brain, Jordan? That's Alex Gordon, you mean.

Anyways, good points. The success rate on top-half of 1st round pitchers seems to be appallingly low.
Craig B - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 10:22 AM EDT (#26382) #
By the way, I should clarify. I have no reason to think that Townsend is hurt, it's purely speculation that all may not be well given his velocity issues. There are lots of other possibilities for why that's the case.
_Jordan - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 10:23 AM EDT (#26383) #
Argh. And I don't even like NASCAR. I'd rather remove my own tonsils than sit through a NASCAR event. Coffee run!
_Perr Deco - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 10:31 AM EDT (#26384) #
It's simple, teams are now saying:

"Why invest $10 million on a player that may or may not help me 4 years from now, when I can spend the same money in the free agent market and I will get a player that will help me next year."
_Ryan01 - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 10:40 AM EDT (#26385) #
It's not too late for Verlander and the others to head back to school. Obviously it's too late to go back for this semester, but as long as they register for next semester and their coaches let them on the team then they are eligible. Though Townsend, as Pistol mentioned, is ineligible because he signed with an agent.

I don't think it has anything to with colusion. I think teams are just starting to realize the value of draft picks and that it's probably not a good idea to be giving out major league deals. If Verlander turned down "significantly more than $3.35 million" then it probably is a better bet for them to spend the money on the free agent market where they're more likely to get value for their money.
Pistol - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:00 AM EDT (#26386) #
Somebody correct me if I'm wrong, but don't teams that don't sign their first round pick get a compensatory pick in the next draft?

I suspect that a general fiscal re-balancing is part of the equation, but I wonder if a number of these teams just don't think these players are worth it.

SF intentionally threw their pick away last year. They decided to take the $1 million and use it at the ML level.

At the top of the draft, in order for a pick to be worth it, the draftees need to both make it to the majors and be productive players.

For example, the Jays picking 6th next year will be paying out a bonus in the $2.5 million range (Jeremy Sowers signed with the Indians for just less than that this year).

So if a player in his first 4 years makes $5 million (looking something like this):

1 - $300,000
2 - $400,000
3 - $1,000,000
4 - $3,300,000

then you need the player to *at least* perform like a $7.5 million player over those 4 years to break even on the pick. (Iím assuming that years 5 & 6 are close enough to market value where thereís no added savings versus signing comparable free agents). If the success rate is 50%, you really need to get $10 million of value from the pick.

Now if a player never makes the majors you donít have to pay those salaries (although youíd pay at least the minimum for another player since you need 25 players on the roster) but you also have zero return on that signing bonus.

As the bonuses shrink the needed return to break even also shrinks, so using the same example above, a 2nd rounder that gets $600,000 only needs to be worth $150,000/year more than what heís paid to justify the bonus. Just making the major league roster will get there pretty easily.

However, the draft is hit or miss, so itís probably better to look at the draft collectively.

For the 2004 draft the Blue Jays paid about $5 million in total signing bonuses, which was a little more than usual given the compensation picks (It was about $4 million in 2003). I would think the breakeven point to justify bonuses at that level is just 3 productive players (productive meaning that theyíre starters or in the top half of the pen). If you can exceed that amount of players making the majors (or have top players) you start saving a lot of money.

For example, Dave Bush got a $450,000 bonus when he signed. Given his performance this year heís already been worth it individually. If he continues to be a productive starter the Jays will have saved millions on him, just over the next couple years. Bush alone can justify the total bonuses paid in 2002 by the Jays. Anything else on top of that is gravy. And the Jays need a lot of gravy to keep up with the big spenders in the division which is why building through the draft is so important.
Craig B - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:01 AM EDT (#26387) #
as long as they register for next semester and their coaches let them on the team then they are eligible

This surprises me. I thought the NCAA were stricter than this!
Craig B - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:03 AM EDT (#26388) #
To clarify, the teams are most certainly colluding - acting collectively to reduce bonuses. Whether it's having any effect is another matter, but I bet it's having at least a small effect.

MLB's promulgation and use of "bonus slots" has been quite extensive - and what's more, teams are actually giving it as a public reason for drafting and signing particular players.
Mike D - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:16 AM EDT (#26389) #
At what point does it become no longer worth it to hire Boras as a draftee? On the one hand, the seemingly automatic fall in draft standing is compensated for by falling to what is likely to be a better, richer organization.

But on the other hand...if you can't get a deal done, ever, doesn't that defeat the purpose of a zealous agent?

Leaving aside questions of collusion, if you're a great talent entering the draft, would you hire the Borases of the world?
_Jordan - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:28 AM EDT (#26390) #
I've been thinking that the day of the super-agent came to an end when Moorad crossed over to the other side. But Boras is a special case: the owners supposedly can't stand him, yet they're the ones who made him what he is (paging Tom Hicks).

As a creation of ownership folly and greed, Boras will decline as that folly and greed go into decline -- for the time being, anyway. As soon as the cash starts flowing freely again -- and it will -- a new Boras will pop up to facilitate the owners' blind ambition and determination to throw money at what they want to perceive are their problems. There will always be people to help part fools from their money.
_Marc - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:32 AM EDT (#26391) #
A whole lot can change in eight months, but if all this returning talent somehow makes Alex Gordon available at #6, I will be one very happy guy.

For my money, Alex Gordon is overrated. He's a good average hitter, sure, with a good eye. But he's a corner outfielder at the major league level without corner guy power. Right now he looks like a fourth outfielder. At best, a Frank Catalanotto type... not bad but not worth an early first round pick and $4-6 million when there are higher ceiling guys out there.
Pistol - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:34 AM EDT (#26392) #
The agent works for the player, not vice versa. I'd have no problem with Boras as my agent.

I can't imagine he's demanding that a player not sign with a team if that's what the player wanted to do. And if the player wanted to sign with a team and thought Boras was standing in the way of that he could easily switch agents.
Pistol - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 11:39 AM EDT (#26393) #
But Gordon's a corner outfielder at the major league level without corner guy power.

He slugged .750 as a sophomore (in a neutral park). And he's 6'1" and 205 lbs.

If he doesn't have power who does?
_Eric - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 12:03 PM EDT (#26394) #
But he's a corner outfielder at the major league level

Does Gordon not project as a 3B at the pro level? I've never heard anything either way about his defense.
_Marc - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 12:04 PM EDT (#26395) #
Gordon could end up being a power hitter, but there are a lot of players out there that have slugged well in college (because of the aluminum bats) and gone on to hit 10-15 homers in the minors and majors.
If a thick neck automatically = power, than I'll have to eat my words.
I have never heard a scout say that power was Gordon's best tool. I had always heard that it was his stick (average) but he has bulked up way too much (from the pics I've seen) to hit for a high average.
Mike Green - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 12:12 PM EDT (#26396) #
For my money, Alex Gordon is overrated. He's a good average hitter, sure, with a good eye. But he's a corner outfielder at the major league level without corner guy power. Right now he looks like a fourth outfielder. At best, a Frank Catalanotto type... not bad but not worth an early first round pick and $4-6 million when there are higher ceiling guys out there

He hit .365 with 18 doubles and 18 homers in 211 at-bats, not to mention a very healthy 47/34 W/K rate. BA likes him, and praises his power. Why do you think that he lacks power? Perhaps you've seen his swing or perhaps you know that there's a short right field porch in his home park and he's hit 13 of his 18 homers there, for instance. But it does need an explanation.
_johnny - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 12:49 PM EDT (#26397) #
Isn't alex gordon a third baseman.

I'd like the flexibility we'd have if we drafted a thirdbasemen, because he's likely capable of playing third, first, or leftfield which is all the positions we're weak at.
robertdudek - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:03 PM EDT (#26398) #
Gordon could end up being a power hitter, but there are a lot of players out there that have slugged well in college (because of the aluminum bats) and gone on to hit 10-15 homers in the minors and majors.

That's why there are no guarantees in the draft (or anywhere else). The point is, as far as current college hitters go, Gordon ranks very high in the power department.

You think bulk is why he won't hit in the majors? Have you ever seen David Ortiz, Frank Thomas, Ceceil Fielder or Manny Ramirez?
_Marc - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:06 PM EDT (#26399) #
Gordon, last pic I saw, appeared to have the shoulders and neck of a body builder. All I'm saying is look how well that worked for Gabe Kapler and Brad Fullmer. None of the guys you mentioned have huge upper bodies. Now their middles, that's another story.
_Carson - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:09 PM EDT (#26400) #
Mo Vaughn was a "tad" bulky if I remember correctly. He seemed to manage pretty well with the stick(average) and the power between injuries.
robertdudek - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:10 PM EDT (#26401) #
Mark McGwire had a pretty big upper body. Jose Canseco's wasn't too slight either. Let's face it Marc, unless you've seen this guy play and can explain in detail why Gordon doesn't project to be a major league power hitter, then you're just blowing smoke.
Craig B - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:15 PM EDT (#26402) #
At what point does it become no longer worth it to hire Boras as a draftee?

At any point. I think he's a terrible agent, who tends not to do well for his players overall.
Craig B - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:20 PM EDT (#26403) #
Gordon : he showed excellent power with Team USA this summer but did strike out more. It's possible he was overswinging or tying himself up (Kapler/Fullmer style). I don't see it as likely... Gordon's not overly bulky, at 6-1, 205. He's a plus defensive third baseman, indicating that he's not too bulky to pick it.

Now the bad news - Gordon had some slight back problems as a high school player. They haven't proven to be problematic since then. If they are, though, then bulking up will be the wrong route for him.
_Caino - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:46 PM EDT (#26404) #
"A whole lot can change in eight months, but if all this returning talent somehow makes Jeff Gordon available at #6, I will be one very happy guy."

- Me too. Though I don't know where we'd put him. We already have the worlds fastest grounds crew.
_R Billie - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:49 PM EDT (#26405) #
Not necessarily if he's strengthening his back as well. The problem arises when people bulk up their upper body while ignoring their core abdominal and lower back muscles. Also you don't want to add more weight than your frame can reasonably handle as that will lead to injuries fairly quick. 6'1 205 isn't bad. You wouldn't want to get much bigger than that if you're playing third.
_R Billie - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 01:59 PM EDT (#26406) #
The main problem I have with picking a pitcher in the upper rounds is you're taking pretty much the same risk as you are on late first round and supplemental round pitchers while paying much higher signing bonuses. Even guys like Bush and Banks taken in the second round may outperform many of the 2002 first rounders. The exception is when you have a guy like Prior who is the complete package in terms of stuff, command, performance, physical and mental maturity. A guy like that who is virtually ready to step right into the majors and dominate right away is the only guy I would pay a special signing bonus above and beyond slot money.

Hitters I think are generally safer for the injury factor alone. And while a hitter may not live up to his full potential, I think you're less likely to get a zero return.
_John Northey - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 02:05 PM EDT (#26407) #
Hmm. Given teams are throwing away picks by not signing players and being very worried about what they could cost (see SF) could someone sign Delgado before the Jays have to offer arbitration thus giving the Jays those 2 draft picks they'd otherwise not get? Which teams would be likely to do this to save $1-$3 million on a draft choice that might be interested in Delgado? SF could use a bat to help Bonds (geez, how many RBI's would Delgado get hitting behind Bonds?), Baltimore might want to make a splash and save the draft money (perhaps thinking it would suck some current payroll off the Jays making a division rival weaker short term which is the only way that team ever thinks), the Mets could too as they might have a short term cash crunch until their own network opens in a year, although with Piazza they might not want a first baseman at this point (never underestimate the power of the NY wars though).

At what point would JP no long want extra picks too due to the cost of drafting and signing?
_Paul D - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 02:10 PM EDT (#26408) #
At any point. I think he's a terrible agent, who tends not to do well for his players overall.

Wow Craig, could you expand on that point a bit?

My opinion was that the did a great job for his players. I'm willing to be convinced that I'm wrong though, just curious why you'd say that about him.

It seems to me as though Boras only represents the top players nowadays, he doesn't have many of the middle of the road players.

As an aside, I think that working for a sports agency would be really cool.
Pistol - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 02:33 PM EDT (#26409) #
At what point would JP no long want extra picks too due to the cost of drafting and signing?

I'd say pretty close to never, especially at this period in the franchise's cycle since a few extra million isn't going to turn the team into a WS contender.

For one, you don't have to make a pick if you don't want to (or take someone and choose not to sign them). Secondly, you can make pre-arranged deals with certain players so you wouldn't have to pay them slot money.

In the long term if you have reasonable success drafting it's worth it to use as many picks as possible as you'll get net savings (spend a buck today for 2 bucks of value down the road).
Craig B - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 02:37 PM EDT (#26410) #
Boras has been very successful in the past at doing well for his players, I would agree. I don't think that's the case now.

It has been hinted several times that Boras has steered some clients to particular teams, especially ones that he was other clients with. That by definition will hurt a player's market value.

Boras has held young players out numerous times, frequently destroying their value in the process (see Landon Powell for a prime recent example, but there are many more egregious examples - Bobby Brownlie for one). I think Greg Maddux was hurt by Boras's little "waiting game" this offseason, and I'm really unsure whether Ivan Rodriguez feels he was well-represented.

I admire the guy's tenacity, and it's great that he doesn't discourage players from the college route, but I don't think he's the positive force for players that he once was.
Pistol - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 03:28 PM EDT (#26411) #
I actually thought both Maddux and Pudge ended up with more than anyone was expecting.

But I do agree that he's a little out of touch with today's market.

I believe Kenny Rogers was/is a Boras client who turned down a decent contract with the Rangers a couple years ago and ending up signing a low contract with the Twins before re-signing with the Rangers at much lower money.

Mags Ordonez just signed with Boras. It'll be interesting to see what happens with him this offseason.
_Cristian - Friday, October 15 2004 @ 06:34 PM EDT (#26412) #
I donít think that the lack of signings necessarily leads to a conclusion that there is collusion among the ownership. There is a snowball effect though. If Iím an owner, every draftee breaking off negotiations and returning to school makes it less imperative that I sign my draftee. As well, the present value of the draftee with whom Iím negotiating drops with every draftee that fails to come to terms with another team. Simply put, every fish thrown back in the pond makes it more likely that Iíll land a big fish next year and makes this yearís fish look smaller and smaller.
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