See also: BA 500 Draftees Who Did Not Sign
Five days after the signing deadline for 2014 draftees, it remains unclear what's next for Brady Aiken and Jacob Nix, the two highest-drafted high school players who did not sign pro contracts.
Both are UCLA commits, but it seems unlikely that both will wind up on UCLA's campus. Aiken, the No. 1 overall pick by the Astros, and Nix, a fifth-round pick by Houston, had both reportedly agreed to terms shortly after the draft, for $6.5 million and $1.5 million, respectively. But in order to sign Nix to that over-slot deal, the Astros needed to sign Aiken for substantially less than the $7.9 million slotted for the No. 1 pick and use the savings on Nix. When they found an irregularity in Aiken's elbow during a physical, they backed out of their $6.5 million agreement and reduced their offer. The two sides could not complete a deal before Friday's deadline, which meant the Astros no longer had the money to honor their agreement with Nix (who passed his physical) without forfeiting a pair of future first-round picks.
The MLB players' union indicated Friday that it was concerned about the way the two players were treated by the Astros, and there is a strong notion in baseball circles that the union could file a grievance on Nix's behalf, either to force Houston to honor its agreement with him or to get him declared a free agent. The other options available to Aiken and Nix are to attend UCLA and re-enter the draft in three years; to enroll at a junior college and re-enter the draft next year; or to play in an independent league for a year.
One major question is whether Aiken and Nix would be eligible to compete in Division I. NCAA Bylaw 12.2.5 states, "An individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she has entered into any kind of agreement to compete in professional athletics, either orally or in writing, regardless of the legal enforceability of that agreement."
If the NCAA determines that Aiken and Nix did in fact agree to terms (as many media reports say they have), they would be ineligible even though the Astros backed out of the deals, according to an NCAA official. The official added the following clarification:
"Where an amateurism rule has been violated, the circumstances may support relief through the temporary review process. The reinstatement process is another opportunity to evaluate what, if anything, the PSA (prospective student-athlete) can do to regain eligibility. It's probably worth noting that a similar scenario—a baseball PSA who agrees to terms but fails the requisite physical—was discussed during the rules working group evaluation of amateurism legislation two years ago. The membership declined to extend specific legislative flexibility at that time . . . Decisions depend on specific scenarios, though there could be some flexibility in some cases."
There is also the potential pitfall of the "no agent" rule. Aiken and Nix are both advised by Casey Close of Excel Sports Management, who made comments to the media about Aiken. He is allowed to do so, as long as the comments don't "cross the line into marketing the PSA's abilities or could lead us to information that the adviser had been involved in marketing the PSA's abilities, even if the comments themselves do not impact eligibility." And, of course, several media reports allude to Close speaking directly to the Astros on behalf of the players, which would be a violation of the "no agent" rule. Unlike in the Andy Oliver days, a "no agent" rule violation no longer carries the penalty of automatic, indefinite ineligibility (recall that Oregon State's Ben Wetzler was suspended for three weeks after committing a minor violation of the rule last year), but Aiken and Nix would still assume significant risk of ineligibility if they took the UCLA option.
The Bruins will have a strong freshman class whether or not they land either pitcher, but we won't know if they are a huge winner from signing day until we know where Aiken and Nix are headed. Regardless, six UCLA recruits who ranked in the BA 500 will certainly show up in Westwood this fall, headlined by talented infielders Sean Bouchard (No. 105) and Nick Valaika (349). There are some other intriguing arms in the class—No. 289 Griffin Canning, No. 355 Matt Trask and No. 420 Jake Bird—but they are not blue-chip recruits like Aiken (No. 1) and Nix (104).
The Bruins did get some great news, however, when closer David Berg (413) elected to return for his senior year. The Rangers made a run at him as a 17th-round pick, but the All-America sidewinder ultimately elected to head back to school, where he should have a real chance to make his third trip to Omaha in the last four years.
Biggest Winner From Signing Deadline Day: LSU
Assuming UCLA can't reel in Aiken and Nix, Louisiana State looks like a strong bet to top Baseball America's annual recruiting class rankings this fall. LSU landed a whopping eight recruits who ranked in the BA 500, more than any other school; UCLA would also have eight if both Aiken and Nix show up, but LSU has the deeper class.
"I think this class is a difference-making class, particularly because of the arms, but even the position players—we've got frontline guys across the board," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
The Tigers landed one of the nation's top recruits in lefthander Mac Marshall (No. 57 on the BA 500), the third-highest ranked player who did not sign with a pro team, behind only Aiken and North Carolina recruit Jacob Bukauskas (No. 33). If Aiken and Nix don't go to UCLA, LSU will also have the highest-drafted freshman to attend a D-I school in 11th-rounder Jake Latz (No. 208).
The Tigers did very well in the Midwest with this class, landing Latz, his Lemont High catcher Mike Papierski (411) and righthander Jake Godfrey (130) from the state of Illinois, plus power righty Alex Lange (333) from Missouri. Latz, like Marshall, can reach 92 (or even a tick better) from the left side, while Godfrey and Lange have each bumped 94 from the right side, as has Louisiana's Austin Bain (452). Some of those arms are more polished than others, but Marshall had some of the most advanced feel for pitching in the high school class, and Mainieri is excited about righthander Doug Norman, a sleeper who knows how to pitch and can bump 90-91.
Marshall and Norman both decommitted from Georgia after the Bulldogs made a coaching change, and LSU pounced. They were similarly opportunistic this spring when Godfrey failed to meet the academic standards at Notre Dame and was released from his letter of intent. It came down to LSU and Vanderbilt for Godfrey, who struggled through much of the spring but turned the corner late in the spring, flashing the kind of power stuff that had made him one of the top prep prospects in the Midwest last summer. The Tigers scored a late coup by snagging him.
But LSU's biggest prize was Marshall, who wanted $1.65 million to turn down the Tigers. He turned down a bonus offer of about $1 million on draft day, causing him to slip to the 21st round, where he was drafted by the Astros. When Aiken's physical caused Houston to reduce its offer to the No. 1 overall pick, the club hoped to use its extra savings to make a run at Marshall, leading to some anxious days last week for Mainieri. Marshall had "pretty much resolved himself" to go to LSU after he slipped in the draft, according to Mainieri, and he enrolled in summer school, where he and a number of his fellow incoming freshmen started the bonding process.
"So Marshall's here, and all of a sudden this controversy happens with Brady Aiken and the alleged elbow issue, and all of a sudden the Astros circle around and start talking to him again," Mainieri said. "So it was a tough thing for the kid, he was all set to go to LSU, then all of a sudden there's a chance they might give him what he was asking for. Then on Friday, everybody's sitting on pins and needles, not just me but Mac. I'm sure Mac had a myriad of emotions. Part of him I'm sure was hoping they'd call and offer him what he wanted, and part of him was hoping to go to LSU.
"People call me and say, 'Congratulations, you got Mac.' It's hard to celebrate; I don't want to celebrate at the disappointment of the kid. But at the end of the day I think this will be the best thing for Mac. I think he'll develop under (pitching coach) Alan Dunn's tutelage. And in three years, we think he's going to be a special guy."
The switch-hitting Papierski is one of several exciting position players in this class, along with powerful infielder Greg Deichmann (404), athletic infielder Grayson Byrd (479), and gritty identical twins Beau and Bryce Jordan. This class has it all; power, athleticism, up-the-middle talent, polished arms ready to compete immediately for rotation spots and projectable arms with serious upside. The LSU recruiting coordinator who built this class, Javi Sanchez, left the coaching profession this summer to pursue other opportunities back home in Miami, but Mainieri said this class will be his lasting legacy at LSU. He said it compares well with LSU's watershed classes in 2007 and 2010, which both ranked No. 2 in the nation and made huge impacts on the program.
"I give so much of the credit to Javi," Mainieri said. "He's leaving to get out of coaching and get into the business world, and this is kind of his parting gift to LSU baseball, to orchestrate this recruiting class. So many of them thought so much of Javi, it was a big part of the reason they wanted to come here."
|TOP 12 RETURNEES|
|For college teams, the signing deadline isn't only about holding onto recruits. Some teams can also win big by getting drafted juniors or eligible sophomores back for another year. Of the BA 500 players from the college ranks who will return to school for another year, here are the 12 most important:|
|1. UCLA RHP David Berg (413)|
|2. Texas RHP Parker French (434)|
|3. Miami LHP Andrew Suarez (75)|
|4. Loyola Marymount RHP Colin Welmon (174)|
|5. Rice LHP Blake Fox (472)|
|6. Nevada 3B/1B Austin Byler (123)|
|7. North Carolina RHP Benton Moss (365)|
|8. Oregon C Shaun Chase (356)|
|9. Liberty OF/RHP Ashton Perritt (204)|
|10. Oregon OF Scott Heineman (429)|
|11. Loyola Marymount RHP Trevor Megill (384)|
|12. Oral Roberts RHP Guillermo Trujillo (273)|
Deadline Day Nuggets
• A quick glance at the leaderboard of teams that landed the most BA 500 recruits reveals many of the teams that will factor prominently into the BA recruiting class rankings this fall. LSU and UCLA lead the way with eight (counting Aiken and Nix), followed by South Carolina (seven); Stanford and Virginia (five); Florida and Oregon (four); Arizona, Arkansas, Central Florida, Florida International, Miami, Texas and Vanderbilt (three).
• South Carolina's outstanding class features three players who rank between 200-300: Clark Scolamiero (No. 211), Alex Destino (246) and Hunter Taylor (248). Power righthander Brandon Murray (385) had a disappointing spring but has huge upside, giving him a chance to be a major difference maker.
• Overall, 114 high school players in the BA 500 did not sign pro contracts, and 35 of them (30.7 percent) are committed to Southeastern Conference schools. Another 26 (22.8 percent) are going to Pac-12 schools, while 21 of them (18.4 percent) are headed to the ACC. Those big three conferences combine to account for a staggering 72 percent of the unsigned BA 500 recruits.
The chart below lists all of the high school players in the BA 500 who did not sign pro contracts, sorted by their college commitment.
|189||Coltin Gerhart||HS||Arizona State|
|442||Tucker Baca||HS||Arizona State|
|459||Roderick Bynum||HS||Arizona Western CC|
|196||D.J. Peters||HS||Cal State Fullerton|
|249||Scott Hurst||HS||Cal State Fullerton|
|225||Cre Finfrock||HS||Central Florida|
|279||Kyle Marsh||HS||Central Florida|
|132||Isiah Gilliam||HS||Chipola (Fla.) JC|
|406||Reese Cooley||HS||Chipola (Fla.) JC|
|231||Zach Shannon||HS||Chipola (Fla.) JC|
|116||Garrett Cave||HS||Florida International|
|381||Mitchell Robinson||HS||Florida International|
|482||Jack Schaaf||HS||Florida International|
|92||Cobi Johnson||HS||Florida State|
|146||Andrew Karp||HS||Florida State|
|445||Dylan Busby||HS||Florida State|
|268||Kel Johnson||HS||Georgia Tech|
|494||Daniel Gooden||HS||Georgia Tech|
|457||AJ Moore||HS||Kennesaw State|
|57||Mac Marshall||HS||Louisiana State|
|130||Jake Godfrey||HS||Louisiana State|
|208||Jake Latz||HS||Louisiana State|
|333||Alex Lange||HS||Louisiana State|
|404||Greg Deichmann||HS||Louisiana State|
|411||Mike Papierski||HS||Louisiana State|
|452||Austin Bain||HS||Louisiana State|
|479||Grayson Byrd||HS||Louisiana State|
|265||Tylor Megill||HS||Loyola Marymount|
|492||Keegan Baar||HS||Michigan State|
|460||Jesse McCord||HS||Mississippi State|
|72||Bryce Montes de Oca||HS||Missouri|
|207||Storm Edwards||HS||North Carolina State|
|192||Brad Depperman||HS||North Florida|
|261||Peter Solomon||HS||Notre Dame|
|251||Jon Littell||HS||Oklahoma State|
|135||Elliott Cary||HS||Oregon State|
|224||Joe Gillette||HS||Oregon State|
|149||K.J. Harrison||HS||Oregon State|
|378||Todd Isaacs||HS||Palm Beach (Fla.) State JC|
|154||Riley Adams||HS||San Diego|
|334||Jonathan Teaney||HS||San Diego|
|342||Tommy Pincin||HS||San Diego State|
|361||Denz’l Chapman||HS||San Diego State|
|314||David Hensley||HS||San Diego State|
|211||Clark Scolamiero||HS||South Carolina|
|246||Alex Destino||HS||South Carolina|
|248||Hunter Taylor||HS||South Carolina|
|347||Madison Stokes||HS||South Carolina|
|385||Brandon Murray||HS||South Carolina|
|495||Braden Webb||HS||South Carolina|
|222||Mitch Hart||HS||Southern California|
|346||Cole Young||HS||Southern California|
|382||Benito Santiago Jr.||HS||Tennessee|
|220||Turner Larkins||HS||Texas A&M|
|96||Evan Skoug||HS||Texas Christian|
|419||Pat Mahomes Jr.||HS||Texas Tech|
|331||Drew Ellis||HS||The Citadel|
|179||Cameron Bishop||HS||UC Irvine|
|271||Stuart Fairchild||HS||Wake Forest|