As I’m finishing my work on the Reds draft review, here’s a quick hit on some recent signings that I haven’t had a chance to discuss:
Robbie Erlin, LHP, Scotts Valley HS (CA), Texas Rangers’ 3rd Rounder
The Rangers signed Erlin for $425,000 a week ago. Erlin was a player that rose through my draft boards later in the season, and there was some hype about his pure stuff being consistent with a first-rounder’s. However, his small stature, generously listed at 6’0”/170, doesn’t generally give out the aura of a top prospect. As much as I like pitchers with good pure stuff, I find myself usually doubting a small pitcher’s ability to stay healthy as a starting pitching prospect. A full season’s workload, especially considering Erlin’s stops in the minors currently stand in North Carolina, California, Texas, Oklahoma, then finally in the big leagues in Texas again, can be horribly taxing on a player’s body, and small pitchers generally don’t have a great track record of staying healthy, especially ones that throw harder, which Erlin has the ability to do. The Rangers have a history of picking these types of pitchers, though, and Kasey Kiker has worked out decently, while Robbie Ross is currently dominating the Northwest League in his pro debut this summer. Erlin’s a tick below each of those pitchers in terms of where they were during their draft year, but he’s got legit talent, and I think he’s worth a $425K look. It’s not significantly over slot, which BA reports in the linked article as $369,000, so they should have plenty of room for first Matt Purke and then Tanner Scheppers, though there was the recent word that Scheppers isn’t constrained by the August 17 deadline. Once the Rangers ink Purke, Scheppers, and Nick McBride, this draft class is right at the top in terms of pitching talent accrued. If only they could have drafted better hitters…
6. James Needy, RHP, Santana HS (CA), #174 overall, 6’6’’/195: This was another questionable pick, as I never saw Needy mentioned in the top 200 prospects anywhere before the draft. However, for a team looking to add projectable arms with some good current velocity, Needy is an ideal pick. My main concern is his mechanics, which were reportedly a bit crazy, and he had elbow surgery in December 2008 for some minor cleanup, though that could have been as a result of his football throwing as a quarterback, as well. The good news is that he already throws a full complement of offspeed stuff, meaning he should be ahead of the curve and able to fully concentrate on cleaning up his mechanics. Decent pick, but Needy still has not signed. DOB: 3/30/91. Commitment: San Diego.
As you can see, I wasn’t fully on the Needy bandwagon, and I’m not high on spending $298K for him. His size is definitely a plus, but the mechanics work probably isn’t as easy as I might have made it sound there. The signing was $148K over slot, though $150,000 is actually the recommended ceiling for bonuses for players drafted after the 5th round, not really the definition of slotting. I noted that the Trent Stevenson signing was possibly showing a thaw in the commissioner’s office in terms of these types of signings, and it looks like I was right.
Brooks Raley, LHP, Texas A&M, Chicago Cubs’ 6th Rounder
The Cubs inked Raley three days ago for a whopping $750,000. As is the case with Needy above, Raley’s recommended bonus ceiling was $150,000, meaning this shattered slot by $600K. This is probably the turning point in the commissioner’s office really starting to allow significant bonuses, though the major offenders probably won’t show up until the deadline. Raley’s signing constitues the Cubs’ second-highest bonus, and it will probably stay that way, as they don’t have any other significant unsigned prospects remaining. This probably means the Cubs wrap up their draft season without reaching $4MM in bonuses given away, which will likely put them in the extreme low end for this year. Raley himself isn’t even considered high-upside, but rather fairly high-risk for a college prospect. A sophomore-eligible, Raley was great early in the season on the mound, but he faded big-time late in the year, as he was probably fatigued by having to both play the field and pitch, as he was a significant two-way prospect. The Cubs always have that hitting talent as a fallback option, but there’s not much upside there, either. He’s going to be a back of the rotation type of pitcher, though the hype surrounding him and his bonus will probably be enough to make people think he’ll be more than that. However, he generally commands his pitches in the best of times, and he’s fairly advanced, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start in high-A ball next spring with a move to double-A immiment.
Jason Thompson, SS, Germantown HS (TN), Red Sox 11th Rounder
The Red Sox decided to pony up for Thompson, signing him for $300,000 a couple of days ago. I wasn’t high on Thompson at all coming into the draft, and I’m very surprised to see him earn such a significant bonus. He had a commitment to Louisville, and I’m guessing that was his price for skipping out on school. There’s no doubt that Thompson will receive great instruction as a shortstop in the Red Sox system, but his long-term position is probably at third. However, I don’t trust his bat enough there, as he doesn’t profile to have much power, and his ability to hit for average isn’t plus, either. He can run and his arm is solid, though, so he does have some pro tools. He just needs time to develop them into skills, and the delay in signing probably doesn’t help his game. He’ll probably have to be held back next spring for extended spring training, and he’ll probably land at Lowell then, though he’ll probably get in a number of games this month in the GCL. Don’t expect instant production from Thompson, as he’s got a lot of work to do, but he could be fun to watch in a couple of years if everything comes together well.
Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt, Atlanta Braves’ 1st Rounder
If you couldn’t tell already, I’m going by signing date, not signing significance. Minor signed yesterday for what is a reported $2.42 million, which equals the 2008 slot amount for the #7 overall pick, which is what Minor is. Here’s what I said about Minor in my Braves’ draft review:
1. Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt, #7 overall, 6’3’’/200: I was slightly surprised by this pick, but not because I thought the Braves were locked into a prep arm. Minor really projects as a #4 starter to me, and I’m surprised the Braves didn’t shoot for a higher-upside arm like Alex White. However, it’s probably a signability issue, as the Braves generally don’t go over slot for their first pick, and even though Minor’s holding out at the moment (likely for last year’s slot), I don’t see him rejecting an offer somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.175 million, which is what the slot is supposedly this year. Don’t like this pick at all. DOB: 12/26/87.
Well, I was wrong about Minor settling for this year’s slot, as he did correctly hold out for 2008 slot money. He might have enough time to get into a couple games late this minor league season, and there’s some rumors of him pitching in the Arizona Fall League. He did have a large workload during the spring, so I wouldn’t be surprised for his innings to be limited there, though, and it might be best just to start ramping him up in January for his pro debut in April, which will likely come in the Carolina League at Myrtle Beach. If the Braves are feeling bold enough, he could easily start in AA. However, I still do think his upside is limited, and I would like to see Minor take a longer route in the minors in order to either develop one of his existing pitches into a true out pitch or to develop something new in order to really take advantage of his pure arm strength and ability to adjust.
Crawford Simmons, LHP, Statesboro HS (GA), Kansas City Royals’ 14th Rounder
Simmons is apparently the first in a line of high-priced draftees for the Royals that will sign within the next 10 days. Simmons’ bonus is $450,000, which is $300K above the recommended ceiling in that round. I don’t necessarily like giving this much money out to a relatively unheralded prep prospect, but it seems that the Royals are trying the numbers game, giving out relatively high bonus amounts, knowing that pitching attrition in the minors is so high that they might just get one or two good starters out of that system, which ends up being a relatively inexpensive way to find good talent when compared to free agency. What can $10MM total bring you on the free agent market? Not much. But what can $10MM in bonuses to pitchers bring you? A lot more. That’s why players such as Simmons are getting these larger bonuses in order to sign them away from school. Simmons was committed to Georgia Tech, and while his stuff isn’t overwhelming, his secondary stuff is actually pretty good for a prep, so we might have a back of the rotation type of pitcher in him. Not a bad investment, but a risky one.
Chris Owings, SS, Gilbert HS (SC), Arizona Diamondbacks’ Supplemental 1st Rounder
Owings was signed today for what Jim Callis says is $950,000. That constitues $134,600 more than slot according to that article, a significant amount in that others going over slot in the early rounds for last year’s slot money will probably sign at a steady pace for the final ten days before the signing deadline. Owings rose up draft boards late in the year due to his probable abillity to stay at shortstop in the pros in a year where shortstops were less than plentiful. Whereas players that were hyped early in the season like Deven Marrero and Stephen Perez (both Reds draftees) fell, Owings did the opposite, proving he can hit the ball with gap power, and he also has solid defensive and speed tools. I didn’t expect him to be drafted as high as the Diamondbacks’ second supplemental pick, but I didn’t really see him lasting out of the top two rounds as of the afternoon of the draft. His name became pretty commonplace in most places. Owings received a higher bonus than Arizona’s pick before him, Matt Davidson, and none of the Arizona picks after him have received as much, either. Bobby Borchering is still holding out, and AJ Pollock signed for $1.4 million, meaning Owings probably lines up as the 3rd-highest bonus by Arizona this draft season, and he immediately becomes the Diamondbacks’ best shortstop prospect.
Colton Cain, LHP, Waxahachie HS (TX), Pittsburgh Pirates’ 8th Rounder
News has come out today that the Pirates have signed Cain for somewhere between $1.1 million and $1.2 million. That’s a hugely significant amount, as it could be $1 million over the recommended bonus ceiling for players drafted after the fifth round. This could be the final step in the commissioner’s office allowing significatly over slot bonuses. Here’s what I had to say about Cain in the Pirates’ draft review:
8. Colton Cain, LHP, Waxahachie HS (TX), #235 overall, 6’3’’/225: The Pirates finished a run of three top prep arms with the one who might be best of all in Cain. Here’s a lefty who can sit in the low-90s, and he also has a decent curve on top of that. Already a big kid, Cain is capable of playing first base, as well, which is something he did on the showcases last summer. He’s got some minor makeup issues, usually in the cocky category, but the talent is undeniable. Great pick for talent and draft position, but it might take seven figures to keep Cain from Austin. I’m guessing that one of the three pitchers here won’t sign, as this is an expensive run. DOB: 2/5/91. Commitment: Texas.
It did indeed take seven figures to sign him, and I’m wondering now whether this means that the Pirates were unable to sign Zack Von Rosenberg for a similar amount. They’ve already signed Trent Stevenson, making this a successful draft in terms of pitching, but without Von Rosenberg, I still have to be cautious in my draft grading with them. Cain’s bonus is the second-highest the Pirates have given out so far, behind #4 overall pick Tony Sanchez, though Von Rosenberg might top it. The clock is now ticking on that signing, as well as with their 4th-rounder Zack Dodson. This signing also probably means no Jeff Inman (12th round), and it lessens the chance that they sign 10th-rounder Joey Schoenfeld. An incredibly high bonus here for a talented kid, but it limits their options.
Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Santa Monica HS (CA), Los Angeles Angels’ Supplemental 1st Rounder
I don’t have the bonus amount yet, but there is a report that the Angels have agreed with Skaggs as of this afternoon. I’m guessing the bonus reaches seven figures, as the 2009 slot is fairly close at somewhere around $825,000. The Angels have some significant unsigned prospects remaining, but their budget is probably getting close to drying up, as they’ve already signed two players to seven figure bonuses, as well as an $800K bonus, $725K bonus, and $450K bonus, as well as at least five other six figure bonuses. That’s already much more than they’ve spent in recent years. They have 3rd rounder Josh Spence from Arizona State to lock up, 10th rounder Jake Locker, the Washington quarterback, and guys like Sam Selman from St. Andrew’s Episcopal HS (TX) and Mike Nesseth from Nebraska. It’s safe to say not all of them will have a contract on August 18, but it’s really about which guys get one. Overall, though, the Angels’ draft has yielded much greater dividends this year than have their drafts of recent years, and Angel fans should be pleased with the news that they have ten days left to sign those players, with Skaggs’ signing now out of the way. UPDATE: Skaggs gets $1 million, according to Jim Callis.
That’s all for the recent signings, though more seem to be coming in by the hour. I’ll update you as they come. Don’t forget to watch the Under Armour All-Star game on Saturday at 2 pm on ESPNU. This is probably the easiest way to get acquainted with the top 2010 prep names, as guys like Stetson Allie, Jameson Taillon, A.J. Cole, and Trey Griffin are on the rosters.