Well, everyone thought the Washington Nationals organization would end up as the biggest loser after the dust settled on Draft Deadline Day, but that wasn’t the case. No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg agreed to a Major League deal for more than $15 million. Three other teams, though, had far worse days than Washington.
1. The Texas Rangers
After looking long and hard at fellow Texas prep pitcher Shelby Miller, the Rangers organization decided on Matt Purke with its 14th-overall pick. His 90-95 mph fastball and good slider were certainly enticing but it was known at the time that he could very well be a harder sign. While Miller spurned Texas A&M for the Cardinals (and $2.8 million), Purke will head off to Texas Christian where he will be eligible for the 2011 draft as a draft-eligible sophomore.
The organization also has yet to sign supplemental first round pick Tanner Scheppers, who spent the 2009 season pitching for an independent baseball league after choosing not to return to Fresno State University for his senior year, after failing to sign with the Pirates as a second-round pick in the 2008 draft. Scheppers, though, is not subject to the deadline, so the club can still sign him.
The Rangers did come to terms with four players on over-slot deals: right-handed pitchers Shawn Blackwell (Texas HS, 24th round), Nick McBride (North Carolina HS, 5th rnd), left-hander Paul Strong (California HS, 17th rnd), and outfielder Riley Cooper (University of Florida, 25th rnd). Unfortunately, the collection of signees does not come even close to replacing Purke.
Texas has one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball, but it has already graduated Derek Holland, Elvis Andrus, and Taylor Teagarden. Neftali Feliz and Julio Borbon are not far behind, so the system is emptying quickly.
2. The Toronto Blue Jays
When Toronto lost A.J. Burnett to the Yankees, it stung. When the club failed miserably in 2009, it hurt. When general manager J.P. Ricciardi tried to (unsuccessfully) trade Roy Halladay – the face of the franchise – it infuriated fans. Now the minor league system is floundering yet again under Ricciardi (every affiliate is at or near the bottom of the standings and numerous top prospects have taken sizable steps backward this season).
Help was supposed to be on the way for the minor league system, and for the future of the franchise. With five selections in the first three rounds of the draft, it gave hope to fans… something small to cling to. However, when the clock struck midnight on Monday night, the team had failed to sign its supplemental first round pick (James Paxton, LHP), its second-round pick (Jake Eliopoulos, LHP) and its third-round pick (Jake Barrett, RHP). Making matters worse is that both Paxton and Eliopoulos were Canadian pitchers.
A quick visit to some of the fan sites, like Battersbox.ca, tells you exactly how the hardcore fan base feels. On a small positive note, the club did hand out over-draft deals to right-handers Daniel Webb (Florida JC, 18th round), Andrew Hutchinson (Florida HS, 15th rnd), and outfielder K.C. Hobson (California HS, 6th rnd). The club also signed its second third-round pick in Jake Marisnick (California HS).
3. The Tampa Bay Rays
It’s never a fun time when you get in bed with “super agent” Scott Boras and Tampa Bay learned that first-handed after failing to come to terms with first-round pick LeVon Washington, who was a fringe first-round pick to begin with. The second baseman (who is expected to move to the outfield in pro ball) has a lot of speed, but his arm is just about as weak as it can get. The Florida native will head to the University of Florida.
The club also lost second-round pick and shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, whose strong commitment to Stanford was known prior to the draft. The club was able to sign catcher Luke Bailey, who dropped out of first-round consideration after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring. He was committed to Auburn University but spurned the school for $750,000. The organization also gave significant over-slot deals to first baseman Jeff Malm (Las Vegas HS, 5th round), and left-handed pitcher Kevin James (Wisconsin HS, 9th rnd).
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