It has been 12 days since a first-round draft pick signed, and 20 of the 32 have yet to agree to terms. Don't expect those numbers to change much in the next two to three weeks. Most if not all of the first-rounders who were going to sign for MLB's slot recommendations have done so, and MLB is going to drag its heels on approving deals that far exceed its guidelines.
The Nationals haven't begun any kind of serious negotiations with No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg and agent Scott Boras, and there's really no reason to do so until the final week before the Aug. 17 deadline. Unless Washington meets Strasburg's asking price (a reported $50 million), Boras is going to give the club every opportunity to bid against itself.
Ten minutes before the 2007 deadline, the Orioles didn't think Boras client Matt Wieters was going to accept their $6 million offer, then a record for an upfront bonus. Baltimore held firm, and Wieters took it just a couple of minutes before midnight.
I'd rank them House, Rondon, Perez, but you could put them in almost any order and defend it. I'd put House No. 1 because he's a lefthander with a low-90s fastball that touches 95 mph and a hard slider. He throws strikes and has had no trouble succeeding in low Class A as a 19-year-old, showing why the Indians paid him $750,000 as a 16th-round pick a year ago.
Rondon, who pitched in the 2008 Futures Game, is the most advanced of the trio, thriving in Double-A and Triple-A at age 21. He has outstanding life on his low-90s fastball, and just needs more consistency with his slider and changeup. Perez has received less fanfare than House or Rondon, but he's an intriguing 19-year-old with advanced command of an 88-90 mph fastball, curveball and changeup. He also has a lot of room to add strength to his 6-foot-2, 156-pound frame.
De la Cruz had two outstanding starts in high Class A before his elbow started bothering him, and if he's healthy, he could be Cleveland's best pitching prospect. Other Tribe arms to watch include their other big-money signees from the 2008 draft (Trey Haley, Zach Putman and Bryce Stowell) and another 2008 draftee, Eric Berger. Once he signs, 2009 first-rounder Alex White will move toward the top of the list.
Baseball rules prohibit such a deal. Teams can take up to six months to settle on a player to be named, but a draft pick can't be traded until the one-year anniversary of his first pro contract. The latter rule was a response to the Pete Incaviglia imbroglio in 1985.
That spring at Oklahoma State, Incaviglia set still-standing records for single-season homers (48), RBIs (143), total bases (285) and slugging percentage (1.140), plus career homers (100). The Expos drafted him eighth overall but he had no interest in playing in Montreal's cold climate.
Incaviglia held out until November and only signed with the understanding that the Expos would immediately trade him to the Rangers. Montreal had little leverage, because teams didn't get compensation for unsigned first-round picks back then. All the Expos could get in return was righthander Bob Sebra, who won 15 games in six big league seasons, and infielder Jim Anderson, who never played in the majors again.
The draft and international signings will be key issues in the negotiations for baseball's next collective bargaining agreement, and the trading of draft picks could be on the table. I get asked a lot why baseball doesn't allow draft picks to be dealt, and I usually answer that's because the original rules didn't permit it and baseball is glacially slow to change its draft rules. I'm only half-joking.
There are several baseball officials who believe that trading draft picks would give teams more flexibility. Their rationale is that rather than seeing clubs pass on the most talented prospects because of their price tags—I just wrote a column on this subject—they could get more value out of their draft choice by dealing it to a club for some combination of players, picks or cash. Then again, other baseball officials believe this will allow players and agents to manipulate the draft more than ever, in the same fashion that Incaviglia did, dictating exactly where they want to play.
Both sides make valid points. Allowing teams to trade picks won't fix the draft, but I'm all for it, just because I think it would make the draft that much more interesting.
Spanjer-Furstenburg might have the coolest name in pro ball. But at this point, he's more of a player off to a sizzling start than a real prospect.
A South African, Spanjer-Furstenburg was on his nation's provisional 2009 World Baseball Classic roster but didn't make the team. He began his college career at Florida Atlantic but transferred to NCAA Division II Nova Southeastern (Fla.) this year. He set a school record by hitting three homers in one game, and he batted .393 with 15 homers before signing with the Braves as a 16th-round pick.
A 6-foot-2, 235-pound righthanded hitter, Spanjer-Furstenburg played a variety of positions as an amateur but fits best at first base in pro ball. He's old for the Appy League at 21 and his bat will really have to carry him, but he does have above-average power potential.