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2019 MLB Draft Signing Deadline Overview

Image credit: JJ Bleday (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)

The 2019 signing deadline has come and gone, and with all but two players selected among the top 10 rounds agreeing to deals, it makes the 2018 first-round signing snafus look more like outliers than worrying trends.

High school righthander Brandon Sproat (Rangers, seventh round) and Antelope Valley (Calif.) JC catcher Wyatt Hendrie (Cubs, 10th round) were the only two players selected among the top 10 rounds to go unsigned.

The Marlins were one of the few teams with real business to take care of on signing deadline day, as they came to deals with their first-round pick (Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday) and supplemental first-round pick (Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner) hours before the 5 p.m. ET deadline.

With those deals, every player taken within the first 204 selections of the draft were signed, which comes in stark contrast to 2018, when four players among the first 36 picks—all high school players—failed to come to an agreement with teams. All four of those players were either first-round or supplemental first-round picks, including righthander Carter Stewart (Braves, No. 8), shortstop Matt McLain (D-backs, No. 25), righthander J.T. Ginn (Dodgers, No. 30) and righthander Gunnar Hoglund (Pirates, No. 36). 

That quartet of failed signings caused some to wonder whether highly touted prep players were starting to become more difficult to steer away from college, while others felt like it was a one-year aberration. With the results of the 2019 draft now written in ink, it appears that the latter group was correct.

In fact, major league teams have been much better about signing players taken in the top 10 rounds during the most recent four years of the current system than the first four years that bonus pools were implemented.

Unsigned Players Among Top 10 Rounds (Current CBA, 2012-2019)

  • 2012: 8
  • 2013: 8
  • 2014: 6
  • 2015: 6
  • 2016: 2
  • 2017: 3
  • 2018: 4
  • 2019: 2

Across the board, teams are better at signing the players who come with predetermined slot values. Don’t sign them and the pool money assigned to that pick goes away. Sign them, and sign them under-slot, and you have more money to spread around to your picks on Day 3 who don’t start counting against your bonus pool until you get over $125,000.

“You want to be really careful with making sure that the players sign,” said one scouting director. “It is extremely stressful to be in that draft room thinking, ‘I don’t know whether a player is going to sign.’ That impacts everything else that you do. That is definitely a concern. 

“My own personal belief is that if you do your homework and know the player’s true intentions it typically works out in the end. I was impressed, I was looking through all the signings… Just the number of players who have signed I think is really impressive.”

Signing college players (and specifically college seniors) helps with that, and in 2019 teams selected college players in the top 10 rounds at the highest rate in draft history. With no leverage to work with, college seniors are left in a difficult position. Players like Navy righthander Noah Song—who was considered a Day 1 talent—signed for $100,000 with the Red Sox after being selected with pick No. 137 in the fourth round ($406,000 slot value). 

“It still fascinates me that some college (juniors) end up signing for more than slot,” said one scouting director. “Like, wow, is he really going to go back to school? What is this guy going to do? I know some guys can go back and get more money, but the odds are stacked against you.”

A prime example is Mississippi State outfielder Jake Mangum, who was taken before Song with the No. 118 pick in the fourth round and signed for just $20,000—$467,900 less than the $487,900 slot value.

As long as the draft continues to exist under the current conditions, there’s no sign of that stopping. However, the all-time bonus record was broken this year, when No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman agreed to an $8.1 million bonus with the Orioles, surpassing the $8 million bonus that Gerritt Cole established in 2011 with the Pirates under the previous draft system.

Even with that record bonus, Rutschman still signed for less than the allotted value of first pick ($8,415,300), and all but two first-round picks signed either at or below their slot value. Prep shortstop Anthony Volpe signed for $374,800 more than the No. 30 slot value with the Yankees, putting his name on a $2,740,300 bonus, while Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday signed for $6,000 overslot with the Marlins at $6,670,000.

For details on each player’s signing bonus, head over to our MLB Draft Database, where you can filter by signed and unsigned players and sort by bonus amount for the entire 2019 class, or by specific teams and positions. We currently have bonus details for all players selected in the top 10 rounds and many of the players beyond that who signed early in the process, though we will fill out every player’s information as we receive it.

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