Inside Wasserman’s $33 Million First-Round War Room


Image credit: Wyatt Langford (Wasserman Agency)

On Sunday, July 9 no one was quite sure what was going to happen with the first pick of the draft, let alone what would come after that.

As the clock ticked closer to 7 p.m. ET, there was still plenty of mystery surrounding who the Pirates—the proprietors of the top pick in a draft consistently praised as both deep and impactful at the top—would select with their second No. 1 overall pick in two years.

Twenty-nine other scouting departments in the league were gathered in their draft day war rooms, waiting with anticipation to see whose name was called, and how that would impact their own options later on day one. All had ideas of what could happen, what might happen. But no one knew for sure. 

Perhaps the war room most in tune with what was going to happen was sitting inside a Live Nation venue in Seattle. Not the Mariners—though their three picks within the first 29 selections offered them a greater insight into the first round than any other team—but the war room of Wasserman, one of the biggest agencies in baseball and an agency that had taken quite a big slice out of the pie of the 2023 draft class.

“I think that in that room, we probably had the most information of anybody,” said BB Abbott, a Managing Executive of Wasserman Baseball. 

That information stemmed from representing 13 of the top 100 players on Baseball America’s draft board, including six players ranked inside the first round and two who were ranked inside the consensus elite tier grouping of five players at the peak of the class.

Wyatt Langford and Max Clark were the top-ranked players of Wasserman’s 2023 group, and representing those players provided Wasserman with information about what the teams picking up top might be thinking, while others like Rhett Lowder, Nolan Schanuel, Aidan Miller, Colin Houck, Nolan Schanuel, George Lombard Jr. and Adrian Santana helped offer clues into how the middle and final third of the first round might unfold.

“We had an idea of how we thought the draft would go,” Abbot said. “We played out the different scenarios. So Max and Wyatt were kind of in one collective group, and then Rhett and Nolan were in that second grouping. And then we had our high school shortstops—Santana and Houck and Miller and Lombard—they were in that next grouping for us.”

Abbott and the Wasserman team had a pretty solid understanding of where their clients were going to go. Clark and Jenkins, as two of the most elite hitters in the class with both tools, athleticism and impressive track records of high-level performance, would go early—and both had chances to go at the very top with profiles fitting of a 1-1 player in an average draft year.

After that, the group knew Rhett Lowder had about a four-spot range of likely outcomes, and as the draft got closer they also started feeling that Schanuel was only gaining steam thanks to how positively analytical models evaluated him in the final stages of the process. (“On some of the models he was probably off the charts,” Abbott said.)

The high school hitters were trickier to assess with the same sort of accuracy, both due to the fact that they were further down draft boards and given the nature of how teams and advisors can more easily manipulate landing spots by getting creative with money for prep players.

Still, heading into the 2023 draft, the Wasserman group was as confident in what was about to happen as maybe any draft they’d taken part in.

“One thing we have seen with all of these drafts is that information is key,” Abbott said. “The person who has the most information is typically going to make the best deal for their client. The thing that having all of these players in the draft allowed us to do was to have really, really good information and bracket our players in areas of the draft we thought they might go. And ultimately information trumped all. 

“I can tell you we weren’t surprised about anything that happened on draft day and that’s a tribute to every single person involved with all of these players.”

That wasn’t the case for Wasserman just a year before. 


On July 22, 2022, three days after the 2022 draft ended, Wasserman officially announced that it had acquired Jet Sports Management, which Abbott had founded nearly 25 years prior in 1999.

Wasserman was looking to expand, and the Jet group made plenty of sense to them, both from a cultural standpoint and from a more objective standpoint of geography. Wasserman had only represented a few players from the Southeast region of the country over the years, whereas Jet had become a mainstay in that region. As conversations about a potential merger developed, it seemed like a puzzle where the pieces started to come together easily and naturally. 

While the merger wasn’t official until three days after the 2022 draft ended, both groups were in the same war room as the draft unfolded. The contrasts of the 2022 and 2023 experiences were obvious.

“It was more separate,” Abbott said of the initial 2022 draft experience. “The guys knew each other, but didn’t really know each other. We kind of went into our separate corners, but had everyone together in the room at the same time. I wouldn’t call it a coordinated effort last year.

“This year was really coordinated. I think we did an extremely good job leading into the draft of making sure we knew where all the action was with the teams. We knew that we had a very good draft on tap. We knew that we were going to have a lot of guys called on the first night.”

Calls to an advisor representing one player might not have anything specifically to do with another advisor and player, but Wasserman tried to ensure that the process in 2023 was far more collaborative in order to weed out the signal from the noise as much as possible and provide each of its advisors and players with as much quality information as they could. 

“Within our draft room, a piece of information that might be immaterial to, say Wyatt Langford, might be hugely beneficial to a player in the cluster behind him, like Rhett Lowder,” said Vice President of Baseball Operations Sam Samardzijia, who represents Max Clark. “While individual advisors move in and out of the room to make private calls, it is incumbent on the rest of our staff to make sure that call notes are dispersed to the relevant people. All of that information must be constantly collected and assembled into the bigger picture. That applies to everything from calculating remaining bonus pool totals to verifying news and rumors.”

Advisors who came from the former Jet group represent Wyatt Langford—specifically Abbott, Al Goetz and Tyler Pastornicky—but they made sure to share relevant information with what they were hearing from the top five teams with Samardzija, who was handling Clark. And vice versa.

Coordinating and organizing all of the information on draft day is one of the most impactful things an advisor is able to do for their players and families. While there might be some leverage with where a player goes in baseball’s draft compared to the NFL and NBA, ultimately a team is still going to take the player they want most.

“Draft day is an exercise in gathering, processing, and transferring information throughout our draft room and to our advisees,” Samardzija said. “The more efficient our communication, the better the experience is going to be for our draft families. This is a unique draft system among the major sports. 

“In our draft more than any other, there’s a tremendous amount of game theory involved. In a year like this, we were able to eliminate much of the guessing game surrounding individual teams and their intentions with any given pick.”

Once the Pirates selected Louisiana State righthander Paul Skenes with the first pick, Wasserman knew that the Tigers would be the best landing spot for Clark given their understanding of Detroit’s overall draft plan. That information then helped to further solidify a landing spot for Langford with the Rangers.


Improved collaboration within a team can yield greater results in any given year, but the biggest and most obvious advantage gained from the Wasserman/Jet merger simply came from having more talented players at the top of the draft than they’d ever had. 

Collectively, Wasserman represented four players who were selected among the top 15 picks and six total players who were selected in the first round. Nine of the first 50 players selected, or 18% overall, were Wasserman clients.

Max ClarkDET13$8,341,700$7,700,000-$641,700
Wyatt LangfordTEX14$7,698,000$8,000,000$302,000
Rhett LowderCIN17$6,275,200$5,700,000-$575,200
Nolan SchanuelLAA111$5,253,000$5,253,000$0
George LombardNYY126$3,065,000$3,300,000$235,000
Aidan MillerPHI127$2,968,800$3,100,000$131,200
Adrian SantanaTBR1S31$2,670,600$2,002,950-$667,650
Colin HouckNYM1S32$2,607,500$2,750,000$142,500
Sean SullivanCOL246$1,868,400$1,750,000-$118,400
Mac HorvathBAL253$1,582,900$1,400,000-$182,900
Cade KuehlerATL2C70$1,047,500$1,047,500$0
Eric BitontiMIL387$796,200$1,750,000$953,800
Cole SchoenwetterCIN4105$640,300$1,900,000$1,259,700

A combination of Abbott, Samardzija, Goetz, Pastornicky, Andrew Lowenthal, Hank Sargent, Joel Wolfe, Mike Maulini, Ben Ewing, Chris Sisto, Alex Ott, Lenny Strelitz, Nick Chanock and Rich Aude represented Wasserman’s clients listed above. 

Throughout the season, much like scouts, advisors will watch their own clients play and keep tabs on which teams are coming to see them frequently and which teams are bringing in high-level evaluators—and just as importantly, which teams are not.

As the draft gets closer, advisors rely on their relationships with scouts, crosscheckers, directors and general managers to try and gain information in calls as teams start bearing down on potential targets. 

The process is similar to how Baseball America attempts to report for mock drafts, though advisors have the distinct advantage of directly working with the players who teams are evaluating, and the conversations that stem from that. And the more players you’re representing up top, the more information you’re able to glean.

In Wasserman’s war room, there are advisors who are more involved in conversations with area scouts and cross checkers, others who leveraged their relationships with decision makers higher up the organizational ladder, and others who were in charge of organizing and disseminating information as the draft unfolded, as well as keeping tabs on bonus pools and various club strategies.

“It’s no secret that Al Goetz and Tyler Pastornicky and Hank Sargent have scouting backgrounds,” Abbott said. “They are very good at the evaluation part and they have established, developed and maintained very high level relationships with scouts. I think our role, both (Managing Executive) Joel Wolfe and myself, is to try to talk to GMs and assistant GMs to see if we’re hearing anything different from them that they are hearing from the boots on the ground guys and scouting directors.”

Developing and maintaining relationships is perhaps the most important skill for an agency, and that’s true beyond just developing trust with those running big league teams.

While the draft is one of the most stressful events on the calendar for advisors themselves, for their clients it’s likely the biggest day of their lives. And educating players and their families on the process, as well as managing expectations are key aspects of draft day and the weeks leading up to it.

“Expectations begin to form early and are an important part of the process,” Samardzija said. “We have to be cognizant of managing them for each individual family. However, by providing legitimate market feedback and evaluation, we try and remove as much stress or uncertainty as possible.”

While clearly spelling out how the draft unfolds in baseball might be more challenging than a draft that uses a strict hard-slotting system, baseball’s bonus pool system allows players to have a larger degree of control on their final destination—something entirely out of the hands of, say, an NFL prospect. 

Because of that, finding the best deal for a specific player might involve a bit more than simply which team is handing out the biggest bonus? (Though agencies by their nature are sure to let prospective clients know all about the big bonuses and contracts they’ve secured in the past.)

“The great thing is, it’s a different conversation with every single family and every single player,” Abbott said. “The conversation with Wyatt was probably much different than it was for even Max. The conversation with Rhett about the teams that he was bracketed into was a much different conversation than even those guys, because we knew that he was going to go in this four-team (range).”

If there’s high confidence in a specific group of teams likely to take one player, further conversations can then be had. For Lowder, who was earning consistent top 10 buzz leading up to the draft, he could rank that grouping of teams based on preference. Would he be willing to take a deal to go to one team and not another based on those rankings?

For Schanuel, it was more straightforward: “With Nolan, being picked by the Angels was a perfect situation for him because we know they aren’t afraid to push guys in their system—especially really polished type college bats. And so for us that was a perfect spot for him to go so we weren’t going to play games with them.”

It’s harder to work through specific scenarios as you get further down the board, so Wasserman’s large grouping of prep shortstops had to deal with more uncertainty in where they could go based on which players went off the board, who had extra picks and pool money, and various team strategies that were underway at that point.

Still, having a large group of similar player profiles in that range seemed to advantage Wasserman once again in the information department:

“That’s something that I think can get lost,” Abbott said. “We deal with this a lot in recruiting, where players think, ‘Oh you have two shortstops, or three high school shortstops, we can’t go in that direction.’ And the thing that we always say to them is, Listen, I can promise you that nothing we say is going to ultimately decide for the team the player that they like best. (That’s) No. 1.

“And No. 2, the more players that we have in a particular area in the draft the better it is for you. Because we’re going to then have more information than we would ever have before. If we had one of those players only, who knows what information we would have been able to gather. When we can say (to teams): ‘Lombard, Santana, Houck, Miller. Rank them for us.’ And they’ll tell you.

“Now we’ve talked to six, eight, ten teams and we know how these players stack up against each other as it relates to those particular teams. We’re not selling the player on the teams. That’s just not the role of an advisor. The advisor’s role is to collect information and then ultimately put that into play.”

After the signing deadline passed, Wasserman’s more coordinated effort that fully synchronized both the former Jet group in the same room resulted in 13 different players signing for more than $1 million, with a $45 million bonus pool total between that group of players.

But is there such a thing as too many clients? That’s something the newly merged group is aware of, and has taken strides—both before and after the merger—to maintain a strong advisor/client ratio that provides a strong experience for everyone. 

“It’s a common sales pitch that we hear out in the field every year where families are sold on the idea that bigger is bad,” Samardzija said. “I don’t represent any more or any fewer clients than I would if I were a sole proprietor. In a given year, I work with our scouts to identify a small class of amateur players that fit our model. That way I ensure that I am personally attentive to each and every one of them throughout their careers. And the same can be said for all of my colleagues.”

Abbott says that in the 20-plus years he spent building up Jet’s reputation in baseball, the consistent motto was “quality over quantity.”

Now, with both branches of the company fully working in concert together, the aspiration is to do both. At least in year one, the group is thrilled with the outcome. 

“This was such a group effort,” Abbott said. “We have the ability to have the amount of players that we have and the amount of signing bonuses that came in, but there were a dozen people within Wasserman Baseball who had their fingers all over it… Now we have quality and quantity, but we have it in a manner that allows us to have that small feel, because we have so many qualified, good agents who are doing a good job of recruiting, evaluating and handling stuff in the draft.

“It worked perfectly, but only because every person in that room had a role in it.”

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