Ask BA

With the signing deadline for 2010 draft picks just six days away, you can keep track of all the action via our Draft Blog, our Draft Databases (the advanced version has bonus information and scouting reports), our handy Bonuses Vs. Slots chart
and my Twitter feed (@jimcallisBA).

Seventeen of the 32 first-round choices remain unsigned, as do seven of the sandwich-rounders and 96 of the 325 players selected in the first 10 rounds. That leads to a lot of angst for fans whose clubs have yet to lock up premium draft picks, but keep these facts in mind:

1. There’s nothing unusual about a team having barely started negotiating with a first-round pick or seven-figure bonus guy at this point. Don’t read too much into any lack of activity or any rhetoric, because . . .

2. Clubs are going to sign almost every player in the first 10 rounds. Last year, 299 of 321 (93 percent) signed. In fact, I’d estimate that there at least a dozen deals, maybe two dozen, that have been agreed upon already but are being kept quiet by clubs so they don’t antagonize MLB.

3. Don’t spend too much time hoping for a major signing after the 10th round, because they’re rare. Last year, there were just six deals worth $500,000 or more after the 10th round, and only another 10 between $300,000 and $450,000.

The next Ask BA is scheduled for Deadline Day, so I’m going to push it back until Wednesday. That will allow me to devote next Monday to staying on top of signings, and to focus the next Ask BA on deadline fallout.

    Who do you think will spend the most on the draft this year? The Blue Jays, Nationals, Pirates, Red Sox or someone I'm not thinking of?

    Will Woodward
    Boston, Mass.

Fascinating question. It involves a lot of speculation on my part, but I love to speculate! Let’s take a closer look:

The Blue Jays have the current lead with five over-slot deals, though we have yet to reach the blockbuster stage of deadline week and those five total just $1.99 million. Toronto already has spent $4.78 million on players in the first 10 rounds, and still has to sign first-rounder Deck McGuire and second-rounder Griffin Murphy, who could land a combined $3 million in bonuses. Fifth-rounder Dickie Joe Thon reportedly will receive a seven-figure deal. The Jays also have yet to sign their choices in the fourth, eighth and 10th rounders, and their total outlay could come in at close to $10 million.

The Nationals set a draft record by spending $11,511,500 last year, including a record $7.5 million bonus for No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg. (We calculate draft spending by bonuses only, and not by the total value of major league contracts.) Washington is dealing with the top choice again in Bryce Harper, whom I believe will get the highest big league deal ever given to a position player. The record is currently $9.5 million by Mark Teixeira, and I think Harper will get an eight-figure contract including a bonus in the $6.5 million range. That’s a nice head start, and there are whispers that the Nationals might give second-rounder Sammy Solis a seven-figure deal. But I’m not confident Washington will sign fourth-rounder A.J. Cole, so its spending could top out around $9 million.

The Pirates lead all clubs in 2008-09 draft expenditures ($18.7 million), and No. 2 overall choice Jameson Taillon may cost $5 million or more. Second-rounder Stetson Allie, who rivaled Taillon as having the best arm in the entire draft, won’t come cheaply either. If Pittsburgh can land both of them, and a few expensive later-round picks (sixth-rounder Jason Hursh, 10th-rounder Zach Weiss and 15th-rounder Drew Maggi are the best candidates), they could near $10 million. The Pirates gave 17th-rounder Ryan Hafner $450,000 yesterday, so they’re trying.

No team is as consistently aggressive at exceeding MLB’s slot recommendations than the Red Sox. After spending the No. 20 and 36 picks on Kolbrin Vitek and Bryce Brentz, who signed quickly for a combined $2.25 million, they took Anthony Ranaudo, Brandon Workman, Sean Coyle and Garin Cecchini, all of whom have seven-figure price tags. I think they’ll sign at least three of them, which would cost around $5 million, and possibly all four. Boston just spent $628,000 on sixth-rounder Kendrick Perkins, and if it nabs some pricy later-round choices, easily could top $10 million.

Right now, the safest bet is to go with the Blue Jays. But if the Pirates lock up Allie, or the Red Sox sign all of their early-round choices, it will be a photo finish. The other team to watch is the Orioles, who have the No. 3 overall pick Manny Machado and could break the franchise record for draft spending ($8.7 million) that they set last year.

Only five players made both my 2010 all-prospect and 2011 all-rookie teams: Zach Britton, Desmond Jennings, Jesus Montero, Mike Moustakas and Michael Pineda. Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown and Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson finally received promotions that took them out of the running. Remember that the all-rookie team is based purely on 2011 performance, so opportunity matters just as much as talent.

C: Wilson Ramos, Nationals
Wouldn’t have made this list if the Twins hadn’t dealt him for Matt Capps.
1B: Freddie Freeman, Braves
I’d take Logan Morrison (Marlins), but he’ll lose his prospect status this summer.
2B: Cord Phelps, Indians
More ready defensively, clearer shot at playing time than Brett Lawrie (Brewers).
3B: Mike Moustakas, Royals
Kansas City hopes does what Alex Gordon was supposed to.
SS: Zack Cozart, Reds
This would have been Starlin Castro if he weren’t so precocious.
LF: Nick Weglarz, Indians
Has bounced back nicely after hitting .227 in Double-A a year ago.
CF: Desmond Jennings, Rays
Tampa Bay has to make room for him in the lineup next season.
RF: Michael Taylor, Athletics
Having a mediocre year in Triple-A, but he’s better than that.
DH: Jesus Montero, Yankees
Though his catching skills are still shaky, New York can’t ignore his bat much longer.
SP: Kyle Gibson, Twins
Combo of stuff, polish and contending team should allow him to lead rookies in wins.
SP: Zach Britton, Orioles
Will start pushing his way toward the front of Baltimore’s rotation
SP: Michael Pineda, Mariners
Could he be Prince Michael to King Felix?
SP: Alex White, Indians
Cleveland’s 2009 first-rounder will be better than any of their recent trade pickups.
SP: Kyle Drabek, Blue Jays
Best part of the Roy Halladay package is Toronto’s future ace.
RP: Aroldis Chapman, Reds
Don’t be shocked it he supplants Francisco Cordero as Cincinnati’s closer.

    However one feels about the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of MLB refusing to approve over-slot deals until just before the signing deadline, it delays the pro careers of many talented young men who are very eager to get them started (as are the teams that drafted them). This seems unfair, especially seeing that slotting doesn't seem to be working very well anyway. Moving up the deadline a month of so would make sense. MLB could continue its policy, but draftees getting over-slot money could begin their pro careers in the same year they got drafted. Seems like a win-win. Your thoughts?

    Rob Dorsey
    Silver Spring, Md.

Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2011, and changes to the draft will be a main focus in talks for a new deal. It’s uncertain whether MLB will get a mandated slotting system, but it’s a near lock that we’ll get an earlier signing deadline. I’m guessing it will be around July 15, and I’d like to suggest they move it from midnight to the afternoon, as they did with the July 31 trade deadline.

When the original signing deadline came out of the last CBA negotiations, MLB foolishly believed it would give the teams extra leverage. But agents don’t care when the deadline is. They just need a deadline to back teams up against. In the four years with a deadline, agents have learned that MLB will delay over-slot deals as long as possible and teams will pay more if players hold out longer, taking away incentive to get a deal done quickly.

Moving the deadline to July 15 wouldn’t have any appreciable affect on the cost of signing draftees. Both the teams and the players would be thrilled to get players six weeks of exposure to pro ball before their first full season. An earlier deadline also would benefit college and summer coaches, who wouldn’t have to worry about losing players right before school or league playoffs started.

" Aug. 2 Ask BA