There's an awful lot going on at BaseballAmerica.com these days. We just enjoyed the Futures Game and provided plenty of coverage here, as well as in our Prospects Blog and my latest magazine column .
The signing deadline is Friday, and I've been busy tracking the signings in our Draft Blog and our Draft Database, plus my Twitter feed (@jimcallisBA). July also means the start of the summer international signing period, and Ben Badler has stayed on top of all that news in the International Affairs section of our website and also in our Prospects Blog.
Of course, we're providing our usual in-depth minor league coverage all over the website. I hope you're enjoying all of the action as much as we do bringing it to you.
Only three days remain before the signing deadline, and not coincidentally, there were reports yesterday that both Appel and Gausman were pessimistic about turning pro. That's par for the course, though there's a lot less deadline drama this year with the new bonus pools limiting what teams can spend. I rank their likelihood of signing by 5 p.m. ET on Friday in this order: Gausman, Giolito, Appel.
Gausman has added leverage as an eligible college sophomore, but he takes a risk if he returns to Louisiana State and re-enters the 2013 draft. That class isn't overly impressive, making it possible though no lock that he would go higher than No. 4 next year. His pick carries an assigned value of $4.2 million, and the Orioles currently can go to $4.32 million without paying any draft tax and to $4,661,545 without forfeiting their 2013 first-rounder.
It still isn't clear if Giolito's family ever lowered its expecations from the $5 million or so he would have commanded had he stayed healthy and gone in the top three picks as originally expected. What we do know is that the Nationals can boost his $2,125,000 pick value to as high as $3,034,510 without losing a first-round choice. Given the uncertainty that still surrounds the UCLA recruit's elbow, $3 million seems like a fair compromise between the talent and risk involved.
The Astros and Appel's adviser Scott Boras both deny reports that he turned down a $6 million offer before the draft and insist no specific proposal was made. For Appel to match the $4.8 million that Houston paid top pick Carlos Correa, the Pirates would have to give up its 2013 and 2014 first-round selections, which won't happen. The assigned value of the No. 8 choice is $2.9 million and Pittsburgh has no intention of surrendering one first-rounder to land Appel, so that draws a line at $3,837,575. It's possible the Bucs could create a little more cash with discounts on their unsigned fourth- and eighth-rounders.
Boras Corp. advisees aren't afraid to roll the dice by not signing. Only 12 first-round or sandwich picks declined to turn pro in the last 10 drafts, and four of them were Boras guys: Luke Hochevar, Gerrit Cole, LeVon Washington and James Paxton. All four got more money than they would have made in their first draft, even though Cole was the only one who performed up to his previous standard. Appel could try to follow that same path, either by returning to Stanford for his senior year or heading to independent ball.
I'd be surprised if Gausman didn't sign but could see Giolito and Appel going either way. I'm always optimistic when it comes to signings, and I think it makes sense for all three pitchers to sign for the bonuses their teams can pay them without losing a future first-rounder. I think there's a good chance that happens.
Originally signed as a catcher out of Korea in 2008, Ha developed the yips making throws to second base and moved to the outfield. He stands out most for his quality defense in center field, where his plus speed and outstanding jumps give him plenty of range. He has a short righthanded stroke and has leveled off in Double-A (.267/.321/.371) after showing some pop in the lower minors. His speed has yet to translate into basestealing.
While he's still just 21, Ha may not make enough offensive impact to be a big league regular. On the Cubs' center-field depth chart, Ha ranks behind Albert Almora, Brett Jackson and Matt Szczur, though he's the best defender of that group.
Aaron Sanchez, rhp
Misses bats with mid-90s fastball and curve, just needs command.
2. Noah Syndergaard, rhp
A little less dynamic but more polished than Sanchez.
3. Daniel Norris, lhp
$2 million second-rounder from 2011 can touch 96 mph with his fastball.
4. Marcus Stroman, rhp
Jays stole most electric arm in 2012 draft with 22nd overall pick.
5. Justin Nicolino, lhp
Classic finesse southpaw has quality changeup, best command in system.
6. Matt Smoral, lhp
Slid from mid-first round to 50th pick in 2012 after breaking bone in his foot.
7. Adonys Cardona, rhp
Can hit 94 mph, set record for Venezuelan pitchers with $2.8 million bonus.
8. Roberto Osuna, rhp
Lacks projection but reaches mid-90s and commands three pitches.
9. Tyler Gonzales, rhp
2012 sandwich pick repeatedly touched 97, showed big league slider in spring.
10. Kevin Comer, rhp
Projectable athlete has good life on fastball, feel for secondary pitches.
It's possible to dream on all of these guys and envision them becoming at least No. 3 starters, though Nicolino and Comer will have to add more velocity to profile that well. Sanchez and Syndergaard definitely look like frontline starters, and Norris has flashed that ability in his 15 innings in pro ball.
The main reason Stroman slid in the June draft is that he's 5-foot-9, leading a lot of teams to pigeonhole him as a reliever and making them reluctant to select him early in the first round. He's very athletic and may have the durability to make it as a starter, so I wouldn't peg him as a closer just yet. Gonzales is wiry and has a lot of effort in his delivery, making him the most likely member of this group to wind up in the bullpen.