The Braves have signed 10th-round pick J.J. Hoover, a righthander from Calhoun (Ala.) CC, for $400,000. Hoover helped the Harwich Mariners win the Cape Cod League championship this summer and would have started the deciding third game of the finals had one been necessary today. Hoover has a fastball that tops out at 95 mph and maintains his velocity into the late innings.
ESPN’s Baseball Tonight needs information on the draft signing deadline, so naturally it is calling on Baseball America to help. BA executive editor Jim Callis will be on the 10 p.m. and 12:20 a.m. editions (both times Eastern) of Baseball Tonight talking deadline. Expect news of the signings in the 12:20 a.m. show, after the deadline.
The Rangers have signed Lexington (Ky.) Christian Academy lefthander Robbie Ross for $1.575 million, the highest bonus paid out in the second round this year. Ross has a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 94 mph, and his secondary pitches and command are just as impressive. He had committed to Kentucky.
As reported earlier, the Yankees signed 27th-round draft pick Garrison Lassiter. Baseball America since has learned that his bonus was $675,000, the equivalent of slot money for the 68th overall choice (second round).
A shortstop from West Forsyth High in Clemmons, N.C., Lassiter has a quick lefthanded bat, power potential and a strong arm, though he’s still raw offensively and defensively. He had committed to North Carolina, which lost two other high-priced recruits just before the deadline. The Royals signed righthander Tim Melville (fourth round) for $1.25 million and the Pirates inked righty Quinton Miller (20th round) for $900,000.
The Red Sox may have failed to sign Alex Meyer, but they have landed two athletic high school outfielders. Boston paid fifth-rounder Ryan Westmoreland (Portsmouth, R.I., High) $2 million—a record for a player drafted after the third round—and fourth-rounder Pete Hissey (Uniontown, Pa., High) $1 million. Westmoreland’s bonus was spread over five years under provisions for multisport athletes, and MLB values his deal at $1.6 million.
Westmoreland, who had been part of a loaded Vanderbilt recruiting class, often is compared to fellow Rhode Island high school prospect Rocco Baldelli. He’s a center fielder with hitting prowess, power potential, speed and arm strength. He was an all-state soccer player and a basketball standout, which allowed the Red Sox to treat him as a multisport athlete.
Hissey is likened to Paul O’Neill for his tools and his intensity. Like Westmoreland, he’s a gifted hitter with developing power and above-average speed. Hissey had committed to Virginia.
The Red Sox have offered Greensburg (Ind.) High righthander Alex Meyer a $2 million bonus, but that offer has been pulled from the table and no deal is expected to be reached before tonight’s 11:59 EDT deadline. Meyer, a consensus first-round talent who slipped to the 20th round because teams didn’t believe he could be diverted from a commitment to Kentucky, apparently will become a Wildcat.
If Meyer had signed for $2 million, it would have set a new bonus record for a player drafted after the third round.
Boston, however, is expected to announce the signings of athletic outfielders Pete Hissey (fourth round) and Ryan Westmoreland (fifth) later this evening.
As reported earlier today, No. 4 overall pick Brian Matusz signed a major league deal with the Orioles. The deal, which runs from 2009-13, includes a $3.2 million bonus and $2.825 million in big league salaries. However, the contract apparently contains a split salary structures that would provide Matusz with minimal minor league salaries should he not be on the active big league roster.
MLB values the total guaranteed money in the contract at $3,472,500—or just $272,500 above the bonus amount. MLB views the net present value of the deal as $3,264,408.
The Rays have signed the top pick in the second round, Coconino High (Flagstaff, Ariz.) lefthander Kyle Lobstein, for $1.5 million. That’s the highest bonus in that round this year and the equivalent of slot money for the 20th overall pick.
Lobstein has a projectable 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame, solid stuff and a polished delivery. He had committed to Arizona.
The Indians have announced two more above-slot signings. Central Heights High (Nacogdoches, Texas) righthander Trey Haley signed for $1.25 million in the second round, the highest bonus thus far in his round this year. Haley’s bonus exceeded the $1.1 million Cleveland gave its first-rounder, Lonnie Chisenhall.
The Indians also landed Picayune (Miss.) Memorial High lefthander T.J. House for $750,000 in the 16th round. That’s the second-highest bonus for a second-day pick this year, after the $900,000 the Pirates gave to New Jersey prep righthander Quinton Miller.
Haley had committed to Rice, while House had been set to attend Tulane.
Previously, Cleveland had handed out over-slot bonuses to fifth-rounder Zach Putnam ($600,000), seventh-rounder Tim Fedroff ($725,000) and 22nd-rounder Bryce Stowell ($725,000).
The Pirates have yet to sign their top two draft picks, Pedro Alvarez and Tanner Scheppers. However, Pittsburgh handed out a sandwich round-worthy bonus Friday afternoon to Shawnee High (Medford, N.J.) righthander Quinton Miller, signing the 20th-round pick for $900,000. That bonus is the largest of any draftee signed so far from the second day of the draft (i.e., after the sixth round).
Miller, a North Carolina recruit, will report to Bradenton, Fla., for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, though he’s not expected to pitch until instructional league begins in Bradenton in September. [...] Continue Reading »
Friend of BA Kirk Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that San Diego lefthander Brian Matusz has landed the first big league contract in the 2008 draft.
The fourth overall pick by the Orioles and the consensus best pitcher available, Matusz received a $3.2 million bonus. That bonus is the second-highest in this year’s draft, trailing only the $6.15 million the Rays gave No. 1 overall selection Tim Beckham. The total value of the deal has yet to be reported.
The Royals officially announced the signing of fourth-round pick Tim Melville, who entered the spring as the top high school pitching prospect in the 2008 draft class. His bonus is a reported $1.25 million, the most in the fourth round this year and just shy of the record for the round. The Yankees gave fourth-rounder Brad Suttle $1.3 million last year.
Melville’s uneven spring performance, North Carolina commitment and reported bonus requirement—his family informed teams politely that he was seeking to be paid first half of the first round money—pushed him down to the fourth round, where the Royals made him a hometown pick.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Tim Melville," Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier said in a press release. "Tim, his family, and advisor Jason Cook remained committed to this process from start to finish. Tim is a very talented young man and we are excited that we were able to add a player of his caliber to the Royals organization.” [...] Continue Reading »
No first-round picks had officially come to terms by late evening Thursday, leaving 10 unsigned with the deadline looming at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday. But Thursday did see some action, highlighted by sixth-rounder Robbie Grossman getting a $1 million bonus from the Pirates.
Other above-slot signings:
• The Indians signed a pair of college righthanders, Michigan’s Zach Putnam (fifth round) for $525,000 and UC Irvine’s Bryce Stowell (22nd) for $725,000. Putnam was the Big Ten Conference pitcher of the year, while Stowell was one of the top starters in the Cape Cod League this summer. Industry sources also expect Cleveland to announce two more high-priced signings Friday, with Central Heights High (Nacogdoches, Texas) righty Trey Haley (second) getting a seven-figure bonus and Picayune (Miss.) Memorial High lefty T.J. House (sixth) receiving an $860,000 bonus.
• The Padres locked up their second-rounder, South Carolina third baseman James Darnell, for a $740,000 bonus. He has above-average power and was considered a better all-around athlete than fellow Gamecocks infielders Reese Havens and Justin Smoak, both of whom were first-round picks.
• The Twins inked West Delaware High (Manchester, Iowa) righthander B.J. Hermsen (sixth round) for $650,000. Projected as a possible sandwich-rounder entering 2008, Hermsen has a heavy low-90s fastball and a sharp slider when he’s at his best. He had committed to Oregon State.
• Texas outfielder Jordan Danks (seventh round) is expected to sign with the White Sox for $525,000 once he finishes playing in the National Baseball Congress World Series. The best college athlete in the 2008 draft, Danks would have been a first-rounder had he delivered on the power potential he showed in high school. He’s the brother of White Sox lefthander John Danks.
The Pirates signed one of their draftees to a seven-figure deal on Thursday. The surprise was that it wasn’t first-rounder Pedro Alvarez or second-rounder Tanner Scheppers. Instead, BA’s Pirates correspondent John Perrotto (Beaver County Times) reports that it was Cypress-Fairbanks High (Cypress, Texas) outfielder Robbie Grossman who got a $1 million bonus.
Grossman, a sixth-round pick, received the highest bonus after the second round of the 2008 draft thus far. A switch-hitter with raw power from both sides of the plate as well as average speed, he projected as a sandwich- or second-round pick but slid because of signability. He had committed to Texas.
BA’s longtime Padres correspondent, John Maffei of the North County Times, reports the club won’t be able to sign its de facto backup first-round pick despite offering him first-round money.
Buhach Colony High’s (Atwater, Calif.) Brett Mooneyham—the top prep lefthander on several draft boards, a Scott Boras Corporation client and a Stanford signee—turned down a reported $1.4 million, the same amount the Padres offered to first-rounder Allan Dykstra before the deal fell apart over concerns about Dykstra’s hip. Mooneyham is pitching in an American Legion regional tournament in Montana this week and has shown his usual electric stuff, with a fastball in the low 90s, but he was expected to be one of the draft’s toughest signs and has turned out to be just that. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO—Attending showcases and following the progress of amateur baseball players is not the only duty of a major league scout during the summer.
Most major league teams assign scouts to watch and evaluate minor league teams and/or big league teams in what is called “pro coverage.” This serves two purposes: It helps teams get an idea of the level of talent throughout professional baseball, and it gives the scouts to refresh their minds and see the skill levels of professional players.
During the lull in action between the end of the Area Code Games and the beginning of the Under Armour All-American Game festivities, I decided to do some pro coverage of my own. On Monday, I took a train from Union Station in Los Angeles to San Diego to catch a Padres game Tuesday evening. (If you ever get a chance, take this train as it rides along the Pacific coast and is a great way to see the countryside.) Like many Baseball America readers, it has always been a goal of mine to attend a game at all 30 current major league stadiums. Petco Park was a new one for me and brings my tally to 24.
The obsession with baseball stadiums is unlike that of any other sport. Most baseball games are played outdoors in nice weather, but even more is that every stadium is unique and has its own personality. While basketball arenas and football stadiums don’t vary much from one to the other, baseball parks are all different and have the edge in one huge category—scenery.
Take San Francisco’s park and the beautiful views of the bays and bridges, or Pittsburgh’s stadium with the city’s skyline and river prominent beyond the outfield. Petco Park has the same quality, with views of the bay from the grandstands and the downtown San Diego skyline visible from almost anywhere in the stadium. Petco was impressive, and it didn’t take long for it to make my top 10 list of new-age stadiums. Because we like to do rankings at BA, here are my top five new parks and top five classic parks. (I have not attended home games of the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Twins or White Sox.)
|Top Five New Parks||Top Five Classic Parks|
|1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh||1. Fenway Park, Boston|
|2. AT&T Park, San Francisco||2. Wrigley Field, Chicago|
|3. Comerica Park, Detroit||3. Yankee Stadium, New York|
|4. Petco Park, San Diego||4. Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles|
|5. Safeco Field, Seattle||5. Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City|
Enough of that, and on to the actual game. After watching amateurs for two straight weeks and attempting to evaluate and project their skill levels, it was exciting to see professional players who have the skills that form the basis of scouting grades. In many of my blog posts, I write about instances when amateurs make big league plays, and Tuesday night I saw a handful of those plays.
Brewers center fielder Mike Cameron put on a defensive clinic, making four plays difficult plays look routine. The most notable play was on a deep fly ball hit directly over his head. Cameron broke back on the ball immediately but drop-stepped to his left shoulder side. The ball was hit by a lefthander and was slicing, so Cameron made an adjustment midway through his route, completely turning to his other shoulder in mid-stride. He never lost sight of the ball or rhythm in his step and made the running catch against the wall in dead center field. Most of the amateurs I have watched in the past two weeks would have struggled to even get a glove on the ball in the same situation.
Also from the Brewers, J.J. Hardy showed the athleticism and arm strength needed in a major league shortstop. On a high line drive hit toward him, Hardy jumped and snared the ball. But what was most impressive was his ability to transfer the ball from glove to hand while still in the air. When he hit the ground, he made a quick, strong throw to first base, almost doubling the runner off.
I saw a few home runs, two of which were big-time shots. The Padres’ Kevin Kouzmanoff hit one to deep left-center field, and the Brewers’ Prince Fielder hit a shot down the right-field line. Both were over 400 feet and displayed true major league power.
The last thing that stood out was the way the Padres’ Jody Gerut made contact with a ball halfway through the game. Gerut, a lefthanded hitter, drove a pitch on the outer third of the plate to deep right-center field. This ball had real backspin on it and carried, almost rising, all the way to the wall. Instead of swinging up through the ball, Gerut made contact staying short and swinging down, keeping his bat head through the zone longer and in turn creating backspin.
Now it’s on to Chicago for the Under Armour All-American Game festivities. I’ll also knock out another stadium and attend a White Sox game Thursday, before the high school players arrive in Chicago on Friday. Saturday is a day full of workouts in advance of Sunday’s game.
Missouri righthander Aaron Crow signed Wednesday—but not with the Nationals, who drafted him ninth overall. Instead, he agreed to a deal with the Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association, and he’ll join the club if he doesn’t agree to terms with Washington before Friday’s 11:59 EDT deadline.
The signing doesn’t change either side’s leverage, as the deadline still applies. It does mean that Crow won’t return to Missouri, where he tied for the NCAA Division I lead with 13 victories and spun a 43-inning scoreless streak this spring. It also won’t allow the Nationals to play the "We’re not sure how serious he was about pro ball" card if Crow doesn’t sign with them.
Randy Hendricks, one of Crow’s agents, said that Crow has nothing left to prove in college and the decision to turn pro was made when he was drafted.
"The Nationals have consistently maintained that there is a system and Aaron has to fit within the slotting system unilaterally created by the owners," Hendricks said. "Our position is that Aaron is a premier pitcher and should be compensated accordingly. We are so far apart that [Nationals GM] Jim Bowden told me yesterday that there was no reason to talk any more. Aaron will never sign for slot money, period."
MLB’s slot recommendation for the ninth overall pick is an estimated $2.15 million. Since the 2004 draft, the first tier of college pitchers typically have received major league deals. Ten college pitchers in the 2004-07 drafts landed big league contracts, with an average bonus of $3.3 million and an average guarantee of $5.1 million.
Two of those 10, Luke Hochevar (Royals) and Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks), pitched with Fort Worth before turning pro.
In other draft/independent league news, Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso told John Fay, our Reds correspondent and a writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer, that he could be headed to indy ball if he can’t work out a deal with the Reds.
Alonso’s buddy and workout partner Alex Rodriguez has offered to let him live with him in New York and play in the independent Atlantic League next season while he awaits re-entry into the 2009 draft. Selected seventh overall, Alonso reportedly wants a big league deal worth $7 million.
When Fay asked him what would happen if the Reds offered him a $3 million major league contract, Alonso replied, "You’ll be writing a story about me going to the independent league."
(For the rest of Fay’s blog item, click here.)
In addition to signing third-rounder Roger Kieschnick on Wednesday, the Giants also inked fourth-rounder Brandon Crawford. The UCLA shortstop, a projected first-rounder before a disappointing spring, received a $375,000 bonus, matching the fourth-highest in the fourth round this year.
Three fourth-rounders remain unsigned. Holt High (Wentzville, Mo.) righthander Tim Melville (Royals) and Unionville (Pa.) High outfielder Pete Hissey (Red Sox) are expected to land seven-figure deals, while outfielder Jason Kipnis (Padres) figures to return to Arizona State for his juior year.
A source has confirmed that the Reds will finalize a contract with 30th-round pick Juan Carlos Sulbaran on Thursday. Sulbaran, a righthander from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., will receive a $500,000 bonus and bypass a commitment to Florida.
Sulbaran was born in Curacao and is currently playing for the Dutch Olympic team in Beijing. He secured that spot with a strong performance against Cuba’s Olympic team at Haarlem Baseball Week last month, allowing one run over seven innings while striking out six. The projectable 6-foot-3 righthander already runs his fastball into the low 90s with minimal effort and pitches from a good downhill plane. His curveball and changeup also project as average or better pitches.
Texas Tech outfielder Roger Kieschnick matched the highest bonus in the third round this year, signing with the Giants for $525,000 Wednesday. That matched the bonus Long Beach State shortstop David Espinosa received from the Nationals on Monday.
Of the 31 third-round picks, the only one who has yet to come to terms is Milton (Ga.) High first baseman Chase Davidson. Davidson is expected to attend Georgia rather than sign with the Astros.
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