Is the sports landscape so barren that we need this much coverage of Manny Ramirez' "rehabilitation," including live cut-ins to his at-bats in high Class A? I know I don't. It's not like he has a high standard of running or fielding that he needs to regain, and his "recovery" consists of laying off fertility drugs. I can wait until he rejoins the Dodgers to watch him at the plate.
In this decade, just seven first-round picks have declined to sign pro contracts, and only three of them went in the top 10 choices: Matt Harrington (No. 7, Rockies, 2000), Wade Townsend (No. 8, Orioles, 2004) and Aaron Crow (No. 9, Nationals, 2008). In all three cases, one or both sides terribly mishandled the negotiations, and none of the players played in a college game afterward.
The other four were Jeremy Sowers (No. 20, Reds, 2001), Alan Horne (No. 27, Indians, 2001), John Mayberry Jr. (No. 28, Mariners, 2002) and Gerrit Cole (No. 28, Yankees, 2008). Cincinnati took Sowers, who was set on attending Vanderbilt, so it could catch up on what had become an annual shortfall in its draft budget. Horne (Mississippi) and Mayberry (Stanford) couldn't be swayed from strong college commitments, while Cole became sold on attending UCLA shortly before last year's signing deadline.
Townsend and Crow were the only college first-round picks who didn't sign. College juniors give up a lot of leverage if they re-enter the next year's draft, though Townsend did go No. 8 to the Rays in 2005 and Crow went No. 12 to the Royals this June. I don't anticipate any of the college first-rounders turning down pro ball in 2009, unless Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson (No. 22, Twins) has problems coming back from a stress fracture in his forearm before the Aug. 17 signing deadline. San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall choice by the Nationals, reportedly wants nearly five times the draft record for guaranteed money, but in the end I think Washington will offer him more money than he can risk passing up.
There are five high school players who put out huge price tags that scared off several teams before the draft: Georgia outfielder Donavan Tate (No. 3, Padres), Missouri righthander Jacob Turner (No. 9, Tigers), California lefty Tyler Matzek (No. 11, Rockies), Texas lefty Matthew Purke (No. 14, Rangers) and Texas righty Shelby Miller (No. 19, Cardinals). Tate wants $6 million; Turner and Purke are seeking "Rick Porcello money," the record $7 million guarantee for a high schooler that Porcello and Josh Beckett got; Matzek has mentioned "precedent-setting money," presumably more than the Porcello/Beckett record; and Miller put out a price tag of $4 million.
Tate has extra leverage with a football scholarship from North Carolina, and his two-sport status also will allow San Diego to spread his bonus over as many as five years. I don't think the Padres would have selected him third overall if they didn't have any intention of signing him. While I don't necessarily believe that Turner, Purke and Miller will get every penny they're looking for, they'll command bonuses significantly higher than MLB has recommended, and the teams that took them will pay to sign them.
That leaves Matzek as the top candidate among this year's first-rounders not to sign. Colorado hasn't paid a significantly over-slot, seven-figure bonus since giving second-rounder Jason Young $2.75 million in 2000. I think the Rockies took Matzek with the viewpoint that he was by far the best player available—some clubs had him rated No. 2 overall, behind only Strasburg—and they couldn't pass up that kind of talent at No. 11. But if his price tag doesn't get cut at least in half, I think he'll wind up at Oregon in the fall.
As for Jake's related question, there were five players on Baseball America's final Top 50 Prospects list who didn't go in the first 100 picks: California prep catcher Max Stassi (fourth, Athletics), Louisiana high school righty Zack Von Rosenberg (sixth, Pirates), Colvin (seventh, Phillies), South Carolina prep righty Madison Younginer (seventh, Red Sox) and South Carolina draft-eligible sophomore righty Sam Dyson (10th, A's). Those guys dropped mainly because of signability, though I expect at least a couple of them will sign.
Of the 27 first-round picks from 2008 who signed before the 2009 Prospect Handbook went to press, just two didn't crack their team's Top 10. First baseman Ike Davis ranked 11th on our Mets list after batting .256 and going homerless at short-season Brooklyn, while third baseman Anthony Hewitt placed 14th in our Phillies rankings after hitting .197/.256/.299 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Neither farm system made it into the top 10 of our organization rankings—Philadelphia was 12th, New York 17th—so Davis and Hewitt fell where they did on their own merits rather than because they were overshadowed by other players.
But this close to the draft, almost every first-round pick is going to look like he belongs on his club's Top 10 Prospects list. Had I been asked this question a year ago, I would have thought that both Davis and Hewitt would have made our lists for their teams.
Of the 32 first-round picks this year, just one didn't make our Top 50: Texas high school outfielder Randal Grichuk, who went to the Angels at No. 24. I like Grichuk a lot and we ranked him as the second-best prep power hitter in the entire draft. Los Angeles' farm system placed just 25th in our preseason rankings, and I'll be surprised if he doesn't make our Angels Top 10 Prospects list.
The first-rounder who'll probably have the toughest time cracking a Top 10 is Puerto Rican high school outfielder Reymond Fuentes, who ranked No. 48 on our Top 50 and joins a deep Red Sox system after getting selected 28th overall. That said, Fuentes has well above-average speed and good power potential, and I suspect he'll make the Top 10.
With legitimate late-round talents who get drafted in the late rounds, teams are hoping for good organizational players who can fill out minor league rosters and serve the purpose of allowing more valued prospects to develop. Anything more is a bonus. Most of these players are long on makeup and short on tools, and have an area scout who went to bat for them. If a late-rounder turns down the initial offer, the club usually just moves on to another player at the same position.
Last year, 423 players signed after being drafted following the 20th round. Twenty-six of them received a six-figure bonus, while more than half (247) signed for a four-figure bonus. The most common amount was $1,000, received by 137 players. White Sox righthander Brett Graffy (24th round) actually signed for no bonus, with Chicago funding MLB's scholarship plan to pay for Graffy's final year of school at Notre Dame.