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.