The 2011 draft is much deeper in college talent than this year's crop, and several of next year's elite prospects were at their best in the second weekend of the season. Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon went 3-for-6 with six walks at the Rice Invitational. UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole shut down Vanderbilt with eight strikeouts in five innings, outpitching another top 2011 prospect (Sonny Gray) in the process. Texas righty Taylor Jungmann fanned 10 in seven scoreless innings against Stanford.
Odds are that one of those three will be the first overall pick in June 2011.
Salcedo, who signed with the Braves for $1.6 million on Feb. 23, is quite similar to Sano, who received a $3.15 million bonus from the Twins in September. Both were the most hyped international amateur free agents of their 16-year-old classes, Salcedo in 2007 and Sano in 2009, and both had their signings delayed because of questions about their age. Both are 6-foot-3 shortstops who may outgrow the position. Both project as quality hitters with above-average power, average speed and plus arm strength.
Sano has a little more power and a little more speed, so he'd rate the edge as a prospect. He checked in at No. 94 on the Top 100, and Salcedo wouldn't quite make the cut for me. In the Braves system, I'd rank him behind outfielder Jason Heyward (No. 1 on the Top 100), first baseman Freddie Freeman (No. 32), righthanders Julio Teheran (No. 51) and Arodys Vizcaino (No. 69), and lefthander Mike Minor (who barely missed the cut). Salcedo figures to start his career at low Class A Rome.
The easy answer is to pick the top six prospects for the 2010 draft, starting with CC of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper, but I'm sure Jerry means six players who were actually considered for the Top 100. That also excludes Salcedo, who wasn't a pro when we put together the 2010 list.
These are the six best players I thought were excluded from the Top 100, and where I ranked them on my personal list: Diamondbacks third baseman Bobby Borchering (No. 76), Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (No. 79), Marlins third baseman Matt Dominguez (No. 81), Orioles first baseman Brandon Snyder (No. 82), Twins outfielder Ben Revere (No. 86) and Cubs shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (No. 92).
In addition to Borchering, several other prominent 2009 draftees have a chance to jump into the Top 100 a year from now. The top candidates include (listed in draft order): Orioles righthander Matt Hobgood, Braves lefthander Mike Minor, Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, Blue Jays righty Chad Jenkins, Yankees outfielder Slade Heathcott, Rockies lefthander Rex Brothers, Dodgers lefty Aaron Miller and Royals catcher Wil Myers.
The problem with that line of thinking is while a team would get a 2011 pick coming after the equivalent choice that they didn't sign in 2010, there would be no further compensation for next year's selection. Purposely avoiding signing an early pick this year to get an extra premium choice next year would leave the team with less leverage than the player it chose in 2011, because if the club failed to sign him, it would be left with nothing. Just look at the Nationals, who failed to sign No. 9 overall choice in Aaron Crow in 2009 and took Drew Storen at No. 10 last year in part because he was eminently signable.
Furthermore, teams want to sign their picks. MLB thought strengthening compensation for unsigned picks before the 2007 draft would give clubs more leverage negotiating with players, but the commissioner's office didn't consider the fact that teams don't want to punt their choices. That's why signability remains nearly as important a factor as ability for several teams. As one scouting director says, "If I don't sign my first-round pick, my general manager isn't going to pat me on my back and thank me for holding the cost of bonuses down. I'll probably get fired."
In the last two drafts, there has been an unusually high number of unsigned picks from the first two rounds. There were five in 2009 and four in 2008, the most since there were five in 2001 and four in 2000. Four of the nine unsigned first-rounders from the 2000s came in the last two drafts: Crow, Gerrit Cole, Matt Purke and LeVon Washington. I'd bet that we'll see fewer unsigned picks in the first two rounds this year than we have recently.