2011 Draft: Potential Signability Players

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Cashman denies $54M+ offer to Chapman
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

If you’re new to this whole amateur draft thing, “signability” a fun little term that defines players with bonus demands so large that they fall in the draft because no one (or very few, anyway) wants to pay them. The Yankees and other teams have grabbed a few of these players in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft and met their demands in recent years, landing a premium prospect far below where their talent says they should have been taken. Dellin Betances is a perfect example of this; the Yanks grabbed him in the eighth round back in 2006 and bought him away from a Vanderbilt commitment for a cool million bucks.

Big market clubs aren’t the only ones gobbling up these signability players anymore, teams like the Royals and Pirates have smartened up and starting taking advantage of the generally broken draft system as well. That makes it that much harder for the Yankees to land premium talent, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Here’s a few high-end guys that could fall a few rounds in the draft because of money, not talent…

(Photo Credit: Sean Gallagher, ESPN)

Josh Bell, OF, Jesuit College Prep (Dallas)
A switch-hitting outfielder with a commitment to Texas, Bell is being advised by Scott Boras and is coming back from a minor knee injury suffered last year. He’s a physical specimen at 6-foot-3 and 205 lbs., featuring good bat speed and above-average power potential with the approach of a player several years his elder. Although he’s athletic and can run a little, Bell will probably be limited to a corner outfield spot down the road, where his bat will fit just fine. There’s quite a bit of projection here, which is why Baseball America ranked Bell as the sixth best high school prospect in the draft while Keith Law had him as the 22nd best prospect overall.

(Photo Credit: Scott Kurtz, ESPN)

Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow High School (Oklahoma)
There might not be a better high school pitching prospect in the country than Bradley, who has big-time leverage as a top quarterback recruit for Oklahoma. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 lbs. with plenty of athletic ability, Bradley runs his fastball as high as 96 and misses bats with a downer curveball. Like most kids his age, the changeup and command are very much a work in progress. The size and athleticism portend a future as an innings eater, and the stuff suggests front-line potential. Baseball America considers Bradley the third best high school prospect in the country while KLaw had him ninth overall in his top 50 prospects list.

(Photo Credit: Joseph Rey, UK)

Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky
A 20th round pick of the Red Sox in 2008, Meyer passed on their $2M offer and headed to Kentucky. It’s not easy for a kid to make himself more money after passing on an offer of that size, but that’s exactly what Meyer’s done. Checking in at a monstrous 6-foot-9 and 220 lbs., Meyer touched 100 with his fastball in fall workouts and will typically work at 93-96 with sink. Right-handers can’t touch his filthy slide piece, but the changeup is still a work in progress. Meyer’s control comes and goes (he walked 81 batters in 110 IP during his freshman and sophomore years), but that’s to be expected for a guy his size. If you want to a pitcher to dream on, here’s your guy. Meyer is a Boras advisee, and with so much college pitching available this year, it’s possible he could slip through the cracks. Baseball America calls him the 21st best college prospect in the draft but KLaw is much more bullish, ranking him 23rd among all players.

(Photo Credit: W. Bradley Kupper, Stanford)

Brett Mooneyham, LHP, Stanford
Arguably the top left-handed high school pitcher available in the 2008 draft, Brett is the son of former big leaguer Bill Mooneyham and passed on signing with the Padres as  a 15th round pick. He’s a big guy (6-foot-5, 235 lbs.) with control issues (116 BB in 154 IP as a freshman and sophomore) like Meyer, though his stuff isn’t as explosive. Mooneyham will sit 91-93 and occasionally flash 95, and his slider will be a knockout pitch one day and a cement mixer the next. There’s a lot of potential here but also a lot of progress to be made, and unfortunately he won’t make any this spring: Mooneyham will miss the college season after having surgery on the middle finger of his throwing hand. The injury combined with his status as a Boras advisee could have him falling down draft boards. Baseball America had him as the 58th best college prospect in the draft while Law recently called him a second or third rounder based on talent.

(Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn, ESPN)

Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner-Edgerton High School (Kansas)
The best high school prospect in the draft class hit the leverage trifecta: he’s a Boras advisee, he’s one of the best quarterback recruits in the nation with a full ride to Nebraska in his back pocket (they’ll let him play baseball as well), and he’s a legitimate first round (if not top ten) talent both on the mound or in the outfield. Plus he’s got a really cool name. Although he can run his fastball into the mid-90’s with a power curveball, Starling’s upside is much greater as a position player and he has legitimate five-tool potential. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 195 lbs. with the kind of athleticism you don’t normally see in a white kid (/stereotype), his bat speed is electric with foot speed to match, and there’s enough projection in there that 30 homers a year isn’t out of the question. Starling’s going to get offered some major, major money this summer, but in a class this deep, there’s always a chance teams will turn their attention to player they know they can sign. Ranked as the top high school prospect by both Baseball America and KLaw, his talent warrants a top five selection in any draft, even a deep one like this.

* * *

There’s always a chance that the super-elite players like Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, and Matt Purke will fall because of bonus concerns, but I would be floored if any of those guys fell out of the first round. Starling is in that group in terms of talent, but the combination of Boras and the football scholarship make it slightly more realistic in his case. Realistically, Mooneyham is the only guy guaranteed to be around when the Yankees’ first pick (#51) comes along, though it wouldn’t be a major upset if any of the other guys price themselves out of the first day.

Tinkering with the lineup, but not too much
Cashman denies $54M+ offer to Chapman
  • YankeesJunkie

    The only reason that I will be okay is if Bubba goes to the Yankees. If not, then I pray that he is QB at Nebraska.

  • Accent Shallow

    Great stuff as always, Mike.

    Unfortunately, I shy away from most of these kids on name alone. I mean, Bubba Starling? Really?

  • dennis

    Most of these guys with QB leverage seem to sign. Look at Zach Lee last year. Everyone though he would not sign and he fell to the Dodgers they took a chance and he signed. Its much easier to make money in MLB then NFL. First you have to go college for 3-4 Years then you have to be a top 10 draft pick (and with the rookie salary cap that is coming probably a top 3) to see then kind of money that you get signing out of high school to play baseball. Plus, your career is much longer in MLB than NFL. So i think the team that drafts these guys explains this and not many can turn down 6-7 million. (FU Cole)

    • YankeesJunkie

      The only difference that I see is that Starling will play both football and baseball so he even if he goes to NU he will still probably have a future professional baseball career. He will be the next Darin Erstad.

      • Mister Delaware

        Did you know Darin Erstad was a Division I punter?

    • A.D.

      Yeah some guys just prefer football, look at Parker at Clemson, not even an uber-elite college QB that is guaranteed top money, and still doesn’t commit to baseball full time.

      • JCK

        Some kids also want to experience college for a bit.

        • A.D.

          Well that too, but was thinking of the Lee example, and with Parker more his situation last year when’s he’s already been in college for several years

    • king of fruitless hypotheticals

      didn’t Pat White NOT sign? (twice?)

  • The Real JobaWockeeZ

    If they are willing to give Soriano Mo like money they better spend the mos tin this draft.

    • Colombo

      Generally, the draft budget has nothing to do with the Major League budget. The Yanks consistently spend a good amount on signing their draftees.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yankees do spend well, but not the most: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/?p=2928

        Part of that has got to be due to not drafting high, but part of it is probably also strategical. They do spend a whole lot in Latin America: http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/?p=7565.

        The budget is separate from the MLB budget in a sense, but overall the organization does have an overall budget and does have to decide on the most efficient way to allocate resources. If they were to double their draft spending, for example, they’d have to find that money somewhere. If they cut it in half they could pocket the money or allocate it elsewhere.

        • Mister Delaware

          Right. I always get annoyed when people talk about budgets as if they’re some fixed object. MLB money can become draft money with the snap of a finger. Think the Phillies player budget was X + $20MM the day before they signed Lee? Or that they really can’t make a deadline move because they’re “up against their budget”. For private companies, its all just as variable and instantly changeable as our own personal budgets are.

        • Troy

          The Yanks should have a lot of money left from failing to get Cliff Lee this offseason. I would like to see some of that put towards the draft and international signings.

          Even if we then need to deal some prospects to improve the staff this year, we would re-stock as much as possible.

          • Ted Nelson

            I don’t know their budget, obviously, but between Soriano and any veteran improvement to the staff they acquire via trade any Lee savings may be eaten up.

            I think they will re-stock as much as possible, but I think that they try to do that every season. This is supposed to be a great draft class, especially for college talent, so I could certainly see them spending more than usual here.

            • king of fruitless hypotheticals

              budgets aren’t *quite* that flexible–remember, there are downstream folks who are making commitments and spending money and signing contracts, and you can’t just pull back money that has already been committed.

              • Ted Nelson

                I don’t understand what you’re referring to…

                In the comment you responded to my points were:

                1. The Yankees might not have any short-term annual “savings” from not signing Lee left if they trade for a proven starter.

                2. The Yankees may decide to allocate more money to the 2011 draft than the average draft because it is considered to be a great class.

                I don’t see how your comment relates to either of those points.

                As far as your actual comment… I don’t think “downstream folks” are making any budgeting decisions. They make recommendations about players, but ultimately how much money is allocated to IFAs, the draft, the MLB club, etc. comes from higher-ups.

                I assume you’re referring to scouts and player development people. Amateur scouts don’t call the FO and say “I’ve decided I’m spending $2 mill this season, wire me the money ASAP…” They scout and report on amateurs that the org later decides whether they want to sign. If Cashman or someone higher than him in the org decides less money is going to be spent in Latin America in offseason 20XX and more money is going to be spent in the draft, for example, that’s what’s going to happen. Their Latin America guys might plead with them about wanting more money to sign players x and y, but if their bosses don’t give them the approval they can’t just go out and sign the players anyway. So, I don’t really understand what you mean.

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ

        Oh I’m sure but with a new CBA being put in place they better ream all the benfits of money now.

        • Ted Nelson

          I don’t think they should change their draft strategy based on speculation of what the next CBA might look like.

          A. Spending money inefficiently isn’t wise under any circumstance. If they think a certain amount of money for certain prospects is efficient then they should spend it even if the new CBA is a carbon copy of the old one, and if the money is a waste they shouldn’t spend it just cause the new CBA may change the draft.

          B. No one knows what the next CBA looks like. If you borrow against the 2012 $ pool speculating you won’t be able to spend as much in 2012, then in 2012 the rules are the same… your draft may be negatively impacted. (You could argue 2011 is a better draft than 2012 maybe, but that doesn’t have to do with the new CBA.)
          The change may be incremental even if there is one. The 2012 draft may be no different or only partially different even if going forward the whole system is going to change.

          C. Hard-slotting and hard draft entry commitments doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees will spend any less in an average draft. Their draft spending is very middle of the pack. They are 9th in spending 2008-10, but only $3 mill above 22nd place… $1 mill per season. Hard slotting combined with hard commitments to the draft may mean big bonuses for every first or even 1st and 2nd round pick. An international draft would expand the pool that much more.

  • pat

    Josh Bell plz.

    • Reggie C.


      Farm needs outfield prospects bad. there hasn’t been a quality power thread OF prospect in a while.

    • Accent Shallow

      Completely agree.

      Non-C power bats, plz.

  • Johnny O

    Isn’t a lack of control more of a red flag for college pitchers like Meyer and Mooneyham? Isn’t it much easier to say a wild HS pitcher will gain some control, while a wild college pitcher might not?

    Pass on Mooneyham with the first pick, but maybe one of the next few. His lefty-ness is intriguing.

    • Mister Delaware

      Depends a lot of what you think of the guy’s college coaches and whether its viewed as inherent or easily tweaked.

  • Mike Myers

    Im getting a bubba starling shrimp company shirt just incase they sign him.

  • http://www.twitter.com/tomzig Tom Zig

    Brett Marshall, Brett Gardner, Brett Mooneyham.

    It’s the killer Bretts

  • Johnny O

    Both rivals.com and espn.com have Archie Bradley as a 3-star guy. I’m guessing he’s pretty aware of this so he probably won’t pass up $2M-$3M for football. Starling’s rated much higher, but still a long shot to make as much in football as he would in baseball ($5M+?).

  • Ted Nelson

    Great stuff, Mike. Will be very intriguing to see how this draft plays out, both for the Yankees and overall.

    The potential to sign good/great prospects like this with the #51 pick, or even way, way, later in the draft, is part of the reason why I was not that upset about losing the #31 pick.

    Certainly, all else equal, I’d rather have more picks than fewer and the chances a top guy falls to #31 is greater than the chances he falls to #51. I would rather have the #31 pick than not, all else equal (which it’s not since the Yankees got a top reliever out of the deal as well as a chance at recouping or doubling the pick if he leaves under certain circumstances). However, at the end of the day the Yankees could do just as well on the same budget by going over-slot at #51 and/or later in the draft than they could have with the #31 pick. It makes the loss smaller than if the MLB draft were closer in nature to an NBA or NFL draft.

  • Fair Weather Freddy

    I just hate it that TB has so many picks in the first 2 rounds, and Boston has 4 before we even pick. I bet the next CBA eliminates draft pick compensation so if Soriano should opt out after this season, we would get no comp draft picks for him.

    • AndrewYF

      The next CBA probably wouldn’t have its offseason changes take effect until after the 2012 offseason.

    • Ted Nelson

      Maybe if the draft structure is radically changed they’ll eliminate comp picks. Probably should as early picks might become a lot more valuable. Radical change is not often a part of CBA negotiations, though, so I’ll believe radical change is coming when I see it. Close to the status quo is probably at least as likely if not more so.

      The Yankees would stand to benefit greatly from eliminating comp picks. Maybe not from other CBA changes, but from this one I see them winning. They might lose a pick or two they expected for Soriano, Nick Swisher, and whoever else leaves, but they’d keep a pick for every good free agent they sign and teams like Tampa who often let expensive guys walk would not be compensated. If Soriano, for example, performs then the Yankees are as likely to re-sign him as to watch him walk. I think they’ll not have to surrender picks more often than don’t gain picks they would have if this change happens since they often keep their more productive players and sign other teams’ productive players.

      The Yankees are not going to be the only team losing out on picks they expected in the future if comp picks are eliminated. Tons of teams signed Type A and B relievers this offseason.

      • Plank

        Overall, losing draft picks for signing free agents hurts the Yankees (and the free agents). I hope the rule changes.

    • Mister Delaware

      TB can be an absolute killer here, esp with their 1st and 2nd round picks that they can get back. Take a kid like Starling with one of them and know that, at worst, they’re picking in the same spot next year.

      • Ted Nelson

        Will be interesting to see what strategy/ies they employ with all those picks. My guess is a mixed bag. Possibly some over-slot guys they don’t mind not signing, but also some easy signs.

        • Ted Nelson

          Their increased leverage with signability guys really is an interesting factor. They could take multiple of the biggest signability guys and pit them against one another only having the intention of signing one. Or just generally “over-pay” less than another team might have to.

  • Reggie C.

    figure one of the Boras signees will drop out of the supplemental round. Always happens. Now if that player is a power hitting OF or SS, I’ll be all the more pleased.

    • SamVa

      I would highly doubt that a SS with the kind of exciting talent that we would all love to see would fall past pick 25, let alone pick 50.

      Too many teams with that need.

      • Ted Nelson

        I think you’re right about a consensus top SS prospect, but there are a lot of toolsy SS prospects that some teams might be higher on than others (like Culver for a pretty extreme example). One of those types that the Yankees are in the “high on” column for might have signability issues for whatever reason.

        • Ted Nelson

          There could also be a signability guy the Yankees see as a long-term SS that others see as a 3B or OF… Sort of the SS version of Jesus Montero.

  • cano is the bro

    there is practically no chance we get Starling, Bell or Bradley. If we got Meyer with the 51st pick i would be thrilled, but i don’t think it’s likely. Mooneyham is definitely the worst of all those guys, I wouldn’t mind if we got him with our 3rd or 4th rounder but not before that.