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What Has Happened To Top Picks Who Failed To Sign

With the 2018 MLB Draft signing deadline in the rearview mirror, major league teams and college programs finally know with certainty which players will be joining their respective organizations.

As has been the case since the current draft system began in 2012, a large majority of players in the top 10 rounds signed with the teams who drafted them. It’s not guaranteed, but if a player is selected on the first two days of the draft, odds are they are going to sign. If you limit the sample to the first three rounds—which are the rounds that teams are awarded compensation picks if they fail to sign a prospect—no more than four players have ever not signed, dating back to 2012.

  • 2012: 4
  • 2013: 3
  • 2014: 3
  • 2015: 4
  • 2016: 1
  • 2017: 1

There are a number of reasons why a player drafted in the top three rounds will end up not signing. Large bonus demands, medical issues, teams and/or advisors incorrectly assessing signability or value. This year, four players drafted in the first three rounds failed to come to agreements with the team who selected them: RHP Carter Stewart (No. 8, Braves), SS Matt McLain (No. 25, D-backs), RHP J.T. Ginn (No. 30, Dodgers), RHP Gunnar Hoglund (No. 36, Pirates). Stewart and Ginn are both committed to Mississippi State. McLain is committed to UCLA and Gunnar Hoglund is committed to Mississippi.

But what happens after a player taken that high doesn’t sign? Do things wind up in the players’ favor, or the teams’? At least under the current system, it’s more common that pro teams make the right decision when deciding to cut bait on players.

Of the 15 players since 2012 who were drafted in the first three rounds but didn’t sign and went through the draft process a second time (Texas Christian LHP Nick Lodolo will have to wait until next June), just four players wound up signing for more than their original signing bonus slot.

This is not to say that only these instances proved worthwhile for the players, as in many instances players don’t sign in part because they didn’t get a slot offer in the first place. Often a discovery of a medical issue leads teams to cut their bonus offer, which then leads the player to opt not to sign. That's what happened with Brady Aiken, Matt Krook and others.

Of those 15 players who did not sign, 11 players wound up being selected later in the draft the second time around, or received a signing bonus less than the slot value of the draft year they did not sign. Three players—Jonathan Hughes (2015), Ben Deluzio (2013) and Alec Rash (2012)—went undrafted entirely after not signing in the top three rounds.

College righthanders Brady Singer and Mark Appel are easily the biggest winners of the group. Appel was drafted by the Pirates with the eighth overall pick in 2012 ($2.9 million slot) but chose to return to Stanford and wound up becoming the first overall pick to the Astros a year later, signing for $6.35 million. Singer was selected by the Blue Jays with the 56th pick out of high school in 2015 ($1,091,200 slot) but made it to Florida before signing with the Royals for an overslot $4.25 million as the 18th pick this year.

Below you can look at the entire group of top-three round players who went unsigned since 2012 and see their results. 

We also included a look at which players teams drafted with the compensatory pick that they received for not signing a top three rounds pick. In some cases, teams do much better. For instance, the Cardinals picked Jordan Hicks with the pick they received for failing to sign Trevor Megill. The Pirates landed Austin Meadows with the pick they received for not signing Mark Appel.

On the other hand, the Blue Jays likely would have been better off signing Brady Singer than replacement pick J.B. Woodman and the Nationals would have gotten a solid rotation piece if they had signed Andrew Suarez. Instead they got Andrew Stevenson, who has also made the big leagues in a limited role.

YearPlayerSourcePickOriginal SlotSigned ForTeamReplacement Pick
2017Drew RasmussenCollege31$2,134,900$135,000RaysNick Schnell
The Rays balked on signing Rasmussen with the 31st pick in 2017 after a post-draft physical revealed issues stemming from a first Tommy John surgery. Rasmussen returned to Oregon State, had a second TJ, didn't pitch throughout the season and was drafted and signed in the sixth round by the Brewers in 2018.
2016Nick LodoloHS41$1,576,0002019 Draft EligiblePiratesSteven Jennings
Lodolo has been a member of Texas Christian's rotation for two seasons. He is seen as a potential 2019 first-round pick.
2015Kyle FunkhouserCollege35$1,756,100$750,000DodgersJordan Sheffield
Funkhouser fell to the fourth round in the 2016 draft as he signed for $750,000. He's currently pitching for Double-A Erie and ranked 11th in the Tigers system coming into the 2018 season.
2015Brady SingerHS56$1,091,200$4,250,000Blue JaysJ.B. Woodman
Singer was a star at Florida and was Baseball America's College Player of the Year this season. The Royals picked him with the 18th pick in this year's draft and he signed for $4.25 million.
2015Jonathan HughesHS68$907,000Undrafted; 2019 Draft EligibleOriolesMatthias Dietz
Went to Georgia Tech. Pitched sparingly this season as a redshirt sophomore, going 0-3, 5.94. Was not drafted in 2018 draft.
2015Kyle CodyCollege73$839,700$100,000TwinsAkil Badoo
Cody was picked by the Rangers in the sixth round in 2016, signing for $100,000. He is one of the better pitching prospect in the Rangers' system but has yet to pitch this year with an elbow injury.
2014Brady AikenHS1$7,922,100$2,500,000AstrosAlex Bregman
Aiken didn't sign because the Astros didn't like the medical report on his elbow ligament. He subsequently tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery. The Indians drafted him in the first round in 2015 and signed him for $2.5 million, but his velocity has tailed off.
2014Andrew SuarezCollege57$987,800$1,010,100NationalsAndrew Stevenson
Suarez was picked with the Giants second round pick (61st overall) in 2015 and he signed for $1 million. He made his big league debut as a member of the Giants rotation this season.
2014Trevor MegillCollege104$504,400$250,000CardinalsJordan Hicks
Megill returned to Loyola Marymount and was drafted in the seventh round (207th overall) by the Padres in 2015. He signed for $250,000. He's made it to Double-A for the first time this year as a reliever.
2013Phil BickfordHS10$2,921,400$2,333,800Blue JaysMax Pentecost
Bickford went to Cal State Fullerton for one year, transferred to Southern Nevada JC and was picked by the Giants in the first round (18th overall) where he signed for $2.3 million. He's since been traded and is pitching in high Class A Carolina's bullpen.
2013Matt KrookHS35$1,590,000$500,000MarlinsBlake Anderson
Krook went to Oregon. After Tommy John surgery in 2015, he was drafted in the fourth round (125th overall) in 2016. He signed for $500,000.
2013Ben DeluzioHS80$700,000UndraftedPhilliesAaron Brown
Deluzio didn't sign and instead went to Florida State where he hit .252/.354/.349 over three years before going undrafted in 2016 and instead signing as an undrafted free agent with the D-Backs. Deluzio is still in Arizona's organization and is in Double-A for the first time this season, now an outfielder and hitting .221/.299/.317.
2012Mark AppelCollege8$2,900,000$6,350,000PiratesAustin Meadows
Appel returned to Stanford, pitched well and was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft, signing for $6.35 million. He struggled in the minors and has stepped away from baseball.
2012Teddy StankiewiczHS75$680,400$915,000MetsIvan Wilson
Stankiewicz went to Seminole State (Okla.) JC and was taken 30 picks higher in the 2013 draft, signing for $915,000. He had made it to Triple-A, but has struggled in Double-A as a swingman.
2012Alec RashHS95$500,000UndraftedPhilliesJan Hernandez
Rash struggled with shoulder injuries at Missouri. He was drafted by the Nationals in the 23rd round in 2015, did not sign and never played pro baseball.
2012Kyle TwomeyHS106$449,700$100,000AthleticsChris Kohler
Twomey went to Southern California, pitched for three years and was drafted by the Cubs in the 13th round in 2015. He signed for $100,000. The Cubs released him in 2017.

What Went Wrong: Lessons Learned From 11 Recent Draft Busts

Eleven top draft picks of recent vintage who failed to live up to expectations—and what scouts learned from those players’ unrealized potential.

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