In the old days of the major-league draft (which began in 1965), owners and general managers set the amount that their teams would spend on draft selections That worked very well for teams that were good at drafting and developing talent. Eventually, the league wanted to tamp down on teams spending what they considered to be "too much" on the draft. (Whatever "too much" was.) A new method was installed where each slot had a 'value' attached, and teams had to ask permission to go over that level. To what should have been to nobody's surprise, some teams asked permission to go over the slot level. The punishment? The soon-to-be new hire had to wait for the league to authorize the bonus. In almost every case, it was approved, just after a spell of the athlete being idled awhile.
That changed with the recent MLB/MLBPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Each selection in the draft still has a slotted value. The teams can sign players for above that value without approval. If the pick went unsigned, the team would lose the slot amount from their pool. However, if the amount of the entire draft class exceeds the permitted amount, there are repercussions. The larger the overage, the higher the cost. What ends up happening is, when a team gets down to picking in the 10th round, the player they seek now usually has a profile. He's usually a senior. He usually doesn't have that big of an upside. And, most importantly, he has to sign for a small bonus.
While a 10th-rounder can sign for a $100,000 bonus, very rarely will the number approach that. Some players in earlier rounds may have signed for "less than slot" (trust me, I don't like the term either.) However, all it takes is to gamble a bit on a high school kid or two and money becomes tight. High school athletes have leverage. They often can opt for a college scholarship, and the pro club has to 'outbid the school' for their services, in effect.
A typical 10th-rounder might be a Friday night ace at a small college, or a long-time starting catcher who will sign and report to rookie ball shortly after the draft. Having a draft pick like that actually go on to a long pro career isn't as important as the possibility of the club netting $60,000 against the cap. So, when I say a college player is a ninth- or 10th-round talent, note that an 11th-rounder might get a far bigger bonus. And have a far better career.
The third game I watched on Friday was ESPN's Rhode Island matchup against Florida State at Tallahassee. If you like pitch-to-contact lefties, you'll love Brandon Leibrandt (son of former big-league pitcher Charlie Leibrandt). Pitchers that only hit 90 or 91 on the gun are tough to gauge. Rhode Island's starter was their closer last season, Mike Bradstreet. Bradstreet, who features a high-80's fastball, gave up a two-run homer in the first to Marcus Davis, in his first game for FSU. In general, Leibrandt kept Rhode Island off-balance, and FSU wasn't fooled by Bradstreet.
North Carolina State ace Carlos Rodon gave up three homers early. Rodon, who is the presumed favorite to be the top pick in June 2014, went six innings, walking one, fanning eight, and was charged with the 6-3 loss. Freshman Jaylin Davis drew a rave review on Twitter after a three-run homer off of Rodon, and a two-bagger later off the Wolfpack bullpen. Davis was undrafted last June -- not just unsigned, but undrafted. There is a wealth of baseball talent in the country.
Here's some news about other possible high first-round picks:
Ryne Stanek pitched the first four innings of an Arkansas Razorbacks 9-1 drubbing of the Western Illinois Leathernecks. Stanek allowed WIU's only run on two hits and a walk, fanning four. Stanek was credited with the win. While a meteor recently struck Russia, it wasn't due to the starting pitcher getting a win off of a four-inning start. Stanek threw 66 pitches.
Rice's Austin Kubitza outdueled Stanford's Mark Appel in a 5-1 victory on Friday. Kubitza fanned 12 in six innings, walking four. Appel walked and fanned three, surrendering seven hits in five innings, and all five Owl runs. Three of the five were earned. Austin Wilson fanned twice in three trips for the Cardinal.
Sean Manaea was tagged with the loss in a 2-0 loss to the IPFW Mastadons. Manaea appeared to be on a pitch count, as he left after facing just one hitter in the fifth. That hitter, who walked, led to Manaea's only run allowed. Manaea fanned six and walked three in his four innings, surrendering four hits. What I found curious in the box score was that IPFW has two players named Kalber. After a decent bit of research, Draft Prep can neither confirm or deny any family link to long-time Chicago television newsman Floyd Kalber, though I did find an interesting bit on YouTube about the Charlie Starkweather murder rampage, which brought Kalber (and Starkweather) attention on a national stage.
After giving up a run in the second, Kevin Ziomek was bailed out by his offense. Long Beach State's defense sprung a leak as well, permitting five unearned runs through four innings. Ziomek retired 11 straight in a 10-4 win.
North Carolina's Kent Emanuel was beyond solid, throwing a four-hit, no-walk complete game shutout against St. John's; UNC won 1-0. The other arm drawing rave reviews was Minnesota's Tom Windle. While Windle's line against Adam Plutko wasn't that impressive, he kept UCLA's hitters off-balance in Minnesota's 6-2 win over the Bruins and Adam Plutko. Ziomek, Plutko, Windle, and Emanuel could all be in line for the 2.2 selection.
In a Saturday twinbill in Miami, Rutgers catcher Jeff Melillo was very impressive defensively. He threw out three base stealers, including two in the nightcap's first inning. He hit in the middle of the order. Finally, DJ Peterson from New Mexico tripled and homered in a 15-14 loss to Oklahoma State. The third baseman walked twice and was plunked as well.
This week's recap is largely ignoring Saturday and Sunday, but if anything major breaks, I'll tag it on in the comments. If you go to a college game this spring, please leave a report on what you see, scout-like or not.
One prospect note: the Padres' Rymer Liriano , the Padres' No. 3 prospect injured his arm in December, and will miss the entire 2013 season after Tommy John surgery. He's an outfielder, not a pitcher, but the article says there's no timetable for Liriano's expected return.
In case you haven't guessed, I'm kind of happy baseball games are back. As I'm finishing this up, I'm listening to Oklahoma lose to Hofstra. Given iffy weather early in the year, there were quite a few postponements on Saturday.