Ask BA

In the Oct. 25 Ask BA, I discussed the flaws in the free-agent compensation process. I suggested some remedies, such as reducing compensation for relievers (who are overvalued by the statistical rating system MLB uses) and eliminating it all together for Type B free agents (those who rank in the 21-40 percent group at their position).

From what we’re hearing, both of those changes may be part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which should be revealed tomorrow. Once we learn exactly what we’re dealing with, I’ll update the list of potential compensation free agents. Be sure to check out BaseballAmerica.com, as we’ll break down exactly how the CBA changes will affect the draft and player development.

We have less than a month before we send the 2012 Prospect Handbook to the printer, so Ask BA is going into its annual winter hibernation. I’ll do one more Ask BA between now and Christmas, most likely on the Monday after the Winter Meetings conclude, which would be Dec. 12. Please keep the questions coming.

    First-round picks sometimes pass on signing and choose a different route. Most of these players re-enter the draft and sign down the road. What has been the success rate of unsigned first-round picks, and is it any better or worse than the rate for those who sign?

    Michael Dominguez

    Whitby, Ont.

There have been 48 players who didn’t sign after getting selected in the first round of the June draft. Here’s the complete list:

Year Player, Pos. Pick, Team Signed
1965 Eddie Leon, ss No. 9, Twins 2nd round, Indians, 1967 (June sec.)
1965 Mike Adamson, rhp No. 18, Phillies No. 1, Orioles, 1967 (June sec.)
1966 John Curtis, lhp No. 12, Indians No. 10, Red Sox, 1968 (June sec.)
1966 Rick Konik, 1b No. 14, Tigers never signed pro contract
1968 Pete Broberg, rhp No. 2, Athletics No. 1, Senators, 1971 (June sec.)
1969 Alan Bannister, ss No. 5, Angels No. 1, Phillies, 1973 (January)
1969 John Simmons, ss/rhp No. 23, Royals never signed pro contract
1970 Randy Scarbery, rhp No. 7, Astros No. 23, Athletics, 1973
1970 Jimmy Hacker, 3b No. 16, Red Sox 5th round, Braves, 1974
1970 George Ambrow, ss No. 23, Mets never signed pro contract
1971 Danny Goodwin, c No. 1, White Sox No. 1, Angels, 1975
1971 Condredge Holloway, ss No. 4, Expos never signed pro contract
1971 Mike Miley, ss No. 24, Reds No. 10, Angels, 1974
1972 Dick Ruthven, rhp No. 8, Twins No. 1, Phillies, 1973 (January sec.)
1974 Jerry Johnson, c No. 22, Athletics No. 11, Cardinals, 1975 (January sec.)
1976 Bill Bordley, lhp No. 4, Brewers free agent, Giants, 1979
1976 Jamie Allen, 3b/rhp No. 10, Twins 2nd round, Mariners, 1979
1976 Mike Sullivan, rhp No. 24, Athletics No. 22, Reds, 1979
1979 Juan Bustabad, ss No. 5, Athletics No. 1, Red Sox, 1980 (January sec.)
1979 Steve Buechele, ss No. 9, White Sox 5th round, Rangers, 1982
1979 Rick Luecken, rhp No. 18, Giants 27th round, Mariners, 1983
1979 Mike Stenhouse, of No. 26, Athletics No. 4, Expos, 1980 (January sec.)
1983 Tim Belcher, rhp No. 1, Twins No. 1, Yankees, 1984 (January sec.)
1986 Greg McMurtry, of No. 14, Red Sox never signed pro contract
1987 Brad DuVall, rhp No. 15, Orioles No. 23, Cardinals, 1988
1988 Alex Fernandez, rhp No. 24, Brewers No. 4, White Sox, 1990
1989 Charles Johnson, c No. 10, Expos No. 28, Marlins, 1992
1989 Calvin Murray, of No. 11, Indians No. 7, Giants, 1992
1989 Scott Burrell, of No. 26, Mariners 5th round, Blue Jays, 1990
1991 Kenny Henderson, rhp No. 5, Brewers 5th round, Padres, 1995
1991 John Burke, rhp No. 6, Astros No. 27, Rockies, 1992
1993 Jason Varitek, c No. 21, Twins No. 14, Mariners, 1994
1995 Chad Hutchinson, rhp No. 26, Braves 2nd round, Cardinals, 1998
1997 J.D. Drew, of No. 2, Phillies No. 5, Cardinals, 1998
1997 Tyrell Godwin, of No. 24, Yankees 3rd round, Blue Jays, 2001
2000 Matt Harrington, rhp No. 7, Rockies free agent, Cubs, 2006
2001 Jeremy Sowers, lhp No. 20, Reds No. 6, Indians, 2004
2001 Alan Horne, rhp No. 27, Indians 11th round, Yankees, 2005
2002 John Mayberry Jr., of No. 28, Mariners No. 19, Rangers, 2005
2004 Wade Townsend, rhp No. 8, Orioles No. 8, Devil Rays, 2005
2008 Aaron Crow, rhp No. 9, Nationals No. 12, Royals, 2009
2008 Gerrit Cole, rhp No. 28, Yankees No. 1, Pirates, 2011
2009 Matt Purke, lhp No. 14, Rangers 3rd round, Nationals, 2011
2009 LeVon Washington, of No. 30, Rays 2nd round, Indians, 2010
2010 Barret Loux, rhp No. 6, Diamondbacks free agent, Rangers, 2010
2010 Karsten Whitson, rhp No. 9, Padres eligible again in 2013
2010 Dylan Covey, rhp No. 14, Brewers eligible again in 2013
2011 Tyler Beede, rhp No. 21, Blue Jays eligible again in 2014

The general rule of thumb is that one-third of first-rounders become successful big leaguers, one-third make it to the majors but aren’t significant players and one-third fall short. The unsigned first-rounders haven’t lived up to that standard.

Excluding the last seven players on the above list because they’ve barely begun their pro careers or have yet to re-enter the draft, 26 of the 41 unsigned first-rounders have reached the majors. But only five have been all-stars (Crow, Drew, Johnson, Ruthven, Varitek), which matches the number who never signed a pro contract (Ambrow, Holloway, Konik, McMurtry, Simmons). There have been nearly as many unsigned first-rounders who played professionally in other sports: Burrell in the NBA, Holloway in the Canadian Football League and Hutchinson and McMurtry in the NFL.

Sixteen of the players became June first-rounders again, including Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011. Nine more went in the first round of different phases of the draft, as MLB held multiple drafts annually until consolidating into one draft in 1987. All five of the all-stars were redrafted in the first round, including Ruthven, the top choice in the secondary phase of the 1973 January draft.

    On your Twitter feed, you mentioned that you had done some research for a column that showed the Cardinals led all clubs with 24 big leaguers from the 2005-07 drafts. Can we please see the team-by-team totals?

    Nate White

    Kansas City, Mo.

So far, 375 players have reached the big leagues after signing out of the 2005-07 drafts. That works out to an average of 12.5 team, with totals ranging from the Cardinals (24) on the high end to the Astros (four on the low end). Here’s how many major leaguers each club signed, along with their most productive player to date:

Team No. Most Productive Big Leaguer
Cardinals 24 Colby Rasmus (No. 28, 2005)
Padres 22 Chase Headley (2nd round, 2005)
Marlins 21 Mike Stanton (2nd round, 2007)
Tigers 18 Matt Joyce (12th round, 2005)
Diamondbacks 17 Justin Upton (No. 1, 2005)
Reds 17 Jay Bruce (No. 12, 2005)
Yankees 17 Brett Gardner (3rd round, 2005)
Giants 14 Tim Lincecum (No. 10, 2006)
Rangers 14 Tommy Hunter (supp. 1st round, 2007)
Red Sox 14 Jacoby Ellsbury (No. 23, 2005)
Brewers 13 Ryan Braun (No. 5, 2005)
Mets 13 Mike Pelfrey (No. 9, 2005)
Twins 13 Matt Garza (No. 25, 2005)
Angels 12 Peter Bourjos (10th round, 2005)
Athletics 12 Trevor Cahill (2nd round, 2006)
Orioles 12 Matt Wieters (No. 5, 2007)
Blue Jays 11 Ricky Romero (No. 6, 2005)
Braves 11 Yunel Escobar (2nd round, 2005)
Mariners 11 Doug Fister (7th round, 2006)
Phillies 11 Josh Outman (10th round, 2005)
Indians 10 Josh Tomlin (19th round, 2006)
Nationals 10 Ryan Zimmerman (No. 4, 2005)
White Sox 10 Clayton Richard (8th round, 2005)
Pirates 9 Andrew McCutchen (No. 11, 2005)
Cubs 8 Darwin Barney (4th round, 2007)
Royals 8 Alex Gordon (No. 2, 2005)
Rays 7 Evan Longoria (No. 3, 2006)
Dodgers 6 Clayton Kershaw (No. 6, 2006)
Rockies 6 Troy Tulowitzki (No. 7, 2005)
Astros 4 Bud Norris (6th round, 2006)

Of course, quantity is not the same as quality. The Rays rank just 27th with seven big leaguers, but they might have the best 2005-07 draft crop when all is said and done, thanks to Longoria, David Price and Matt Moore. The Dodgers and Rockies are tied for next to last with sixth, but there would be more than a few teams that would offer up their entire 2005-07 drafts for Kershaw or Tulowitzki.

The draft-and-follow process referred to players who were drafted but chose to attend junior college rather than turn pro. Teams still controlled the rights to those players the following spring, and were able to sign them between the end of their juco season and one week before the next draft.

The rule existed from 1987, when baseball eliminated the January draft and went to one draft, through 2006. It was eliminated when MLB negotiated an Aug. 15 signing deadline in the subsequent collective bargaining agreement.

The process allowed teams to selected raw players and watch them develop for another year before having to place a value on them. The Astros took Oswalt in the 23rd round after his freshman year at Holmes (Miss.) CC in 1996, then signed him for $475,000 the following spring. If they hadn’t, he might have been a first-round pick in the 1997 draft.

Other draft-and-follow success stories include Mark Buehrle, Travis Hafner, Mat Latos, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Jordan Walden.

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