Ask BA

Loyal Ask BA reader Sean Seiler (Conyers, Ga.) sorted through all of the 84 all-star starters, reserves and replaced players to determine which organizations originally signed them. His findings:

The Dodgers signed an MLB-high seven all-stars in Adrian Beltre, Joel Hanrahan, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, Paul Konerko, Russell Martin and Shane Victorino. The Giants finished second with six in Matt Cain, Kevin Correia, Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong and Brian Wilson.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Padres were the only team to get shut out. Five clubs signed just one all-star: the Athletics (Andre Ethier), Cubs (Starlin Castro), Orioles (Matt Wieters), Twins (Michael Cuddyer) and White Sox (Gio Gonzalez).  

    Is there any update on Texas Christian lefthander Matt Purke? After the Nationals drafted him in the third round, general manager Mike Rizzo said the team would evaluate Purke in the Cape Cod League. But he hasn't popped up on a roster anywhere. Is he still going to participate for a few games? If not, what is his plan?

    Robert Davis
    Buena Park, Calif.

After going 16-0 as a freshman and leading Texas Christian to its first-ever College World Series appearance in 2010, Purke entered this year as the No. 3 prospect in the draft, behind Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon (who went sixth overall to the Nationals) and UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole (the first overall pick by the Pirates). But Purke rarely was 100 percent this spring, battling back, blister and shoulder issues as his fastball and slider were less electric than in the past.

Some scouts believe Purke’s main problem was that he didn’t pitch last summer or fall, and thus didn’t build up enough arm strength for his sophomore season. Others point to his delivery and express concern about the way he slings the ball from a low-three-quarters slot. Whatever the cause, Purke dropped to Washington as the 96th overall pick in the draft.

That’s a far cry from 2009, when the Rangers selected Purke 14th overall out of high school. As we’ve recounted several times, team president Nolan Ryan and Purke’s father Lawrence agreed to a $6 million bonus, but Major League Baseball controlled the club’s finances at the time and refused to approve the deal. Texas reportedly made a last-second offer of $4 million, though it was never clear whether the commissioner’s office would have signed off on a bonus that was still well over its $1.602 million recommendation for the No. 14 choice.

Purke, who missed a month with shoulder bursitis before returning for the final three weeks of TCU’s season, has decided to spend the summer working out at home in the Houston area. Showcasing himself in summer ball would have made a decision easier for the Nationals, who had three of the draft’s top 34 picks and used them all on Boras Corp. clients Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin. Their combined cost (including a major league contract for Rendon) could be in the neighborhood of $9 million.

Washington will have to determine what it’s willing to pay Purke based on workouts and not extended game action. With four weeks remaining before the Aug. 15 deadline, I have no great sense as to whether he’ll turn pro or return to the Horned Frogs. The Nationals gave out a draft-record $11.5 million in bonuses in 2009 and set a new mark last year with $11.9 million—and also committed an additional $11.3 million in guarantees included in big league deals for Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper—so they’re not afraid to spend. At the same time, I don’t believe the Purkes have any diminished belief in Matt’s ability, and I could see him going back to TCU for his junior season with the belief that he can go No. 1 overall in the 2012 draft.  

    For most teams and scouting directors, what do they view as the cutoff point in the draft from prospects to organizational players or picks they don't mind throwing away on a signing longshot? I notice when Baseball America does its state-by-state reports, you separate players on your overall Top 200 list, which is basically top-five-rounds talent. The first five rounds is also the spot where MLB stops recommending specific bonuses for each pick and just has a maximum number for all subsequent picks. How much do teams value rounds six through 10? Do they view rounds 11-15 as important?

    Justin Riddick
    Nashville, Tenn.

Picks obviously decrease in value and importance the lower they come in the draft, but I’d say most teams put significant value on picks in the first 15 rounds and less after that. Most of the best talents are going to be selected in the first five rounds (unless they fall because of signability), which is why our Top 200 highlights our draft coverage and why the commissioner’s bonuses suggests varying bonuses for each of those choices.

But there still are valuable players available in rounds six through 10, and even rounds 11 through 15. Take a look at the chart of average bonuses from the 2010 draft below, and you’ll see that clubs exceeded MLB’s recommended $150,000 maximum in the sixth, seventh and eighth rounds and went over six figures for rounds 11-15.

In rounds 16-30, there often will be one player who receives top-five-rounds money and a few other six-figure bonuses, but it’s mostly longshots who sign for lesser bonuses. For the final 20 rounds, it’s almost all organization players who are signing for $10,000 or less.

Average Signing Bonuses, 2010 Draft
Round Average Bonus Signed
1st $2,220,966 29
1st supp. $1,212,335 18
2nd $744,995 32
3rd $454,455 29
3rd supp. $258,167 3
4th $438,219 26
5th $276,439 28
6th $285,320 25
7th $166,827 26
8th $189,296 27
9th $132,839 28
10th $137,143 28
11th-15th $104,752 119
16th-20th $60,959 111
21st-30th $34,495 198
31st-40th $13,456 167
41st-50th $14,304 97

 

    When it comes to international signings, does it makes sense to view the value of the contract as an indication of where the player would have been taken in the major league draft? For example, the Red Sox signed Dominican shortstop Ramiel Flores for $900,000. Because that bonus is equal to MLB's slot recommendations at the top of the supplemental first round, does that mean Flores would have gone that high in the 2011 draft? Or are international contracts inflated because players are on an open market?

    Eric Rothfeld
    Livingston, N.J.

Bonuses in the draft and international market aren’t close to comparable. Draftees only can negotiate with one team, while international amateurs can sign with the highest bidder.

A good example of the differences between a limited and totally free market came in the 1996 draft. Kris Benson was the consensus top prospect and went No. 1 overall to the Pirates, who signed him for $2 million. Travis Lee was the second choice by the Twins but became a free agent—and signed for $10 million with the Diamondbacks. Another draft free agent, Matt White, got a $10.2 million bonus from the Devil Rays.

An argument can be made that the expansion Devil Rays and Diamondbacks were trying to make a splash, but the fact that White and Lee got five times Benson’s bonus shows how lucrative being available to all 30 teams can be. Stephen Strasburg signed a draft-record $15.1 million big league contract in 2009, and I have no doubt that he would have topped $60 million had he been a free agent.

I asked Ben Badler, Baseball America’s guru on international signings, how many Latin American amateurs would have been first-round picks this year had they been included in the draft. Ben thought the only possibilities would have been Dominican outfielders Ronald Guzman (who signed with the Rangers for $3.45 million) and Elier Hernandez (Royals, $3.05 million), but neither would have been a lock despite signing for top-of-the-first-round money. You just can’t compare the two markets.  

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