The Draft Deadline Losers

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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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


16 Responses to “The Draft Deadline Losers”

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  1. Matt Walsh says:

    I think you are way too harsh on the Rays. In addition to going over-slot to sign Bailey, Malm, and James, the Rays signed third rounder Todd Glaesmann for $930,000. By going over-slot to get four second round talents they can off-set the loss of Washington and Diekroeger. Plus they get those two picks in next years draft, (admittedly, compensation picks do not carry the same value as regular picks), but it’s not like they come away completely empty-handed.

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  2. I have to agree with Matt Walsh here. I think the Rays actually had a good draft. The signing of Luke Bailey could end up being one of the better steals in this draft. He is a 1st round talent, better than Washington, and his surgery was TJ becuase his HS coach decided to make him pitch when he should’ve been focusing on catching full-time. The only problem I have with the Rays draft was that they took Washington in the first round in the first place. I do agree with you on the Rangers and Blue Jays, though.

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  3. Tyler says:

    Plus, Washington is actually no longer headed to UF. According to a report, he did not meet the academic requirements needed and will not enroll. For that reason, I am surprised that he did not sign. As a fringe first-rounder, anyway, I have a hard time believing his value will ever be higher whether he ends up in juco or at another four-year school.

    It stings to not sign the first top picks, but they did go over slot in the later rounds and had a decent draft overall.

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  4. Matt B. says:

    Agreed T.Dot was a big loser. Especially the top 2 Canadian hurlers. Although the track record of Canadian hurlers getting hurt is pretty staggering. Aumont, Harden, Bedard, Francis, Gagne etc.

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  5. djw says:

    What’s the deal wit Scheppers not being bound by the deadline?

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  6. Marc Hulet says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Scheppers and Aaron Crow both played pro ball – indy ball, rather than go back to college. As a result, the deadline does not apply.

    I agree that Tampa made some great later round picks.

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  7. The Ancient Mariner says:

    Actually, with Strasburg signing for less than just about everyone was projecting, and Drew Storen already in AA, I’d say the Nats are looking pretty good.

    As a Mariner fan, I do not grieve for the Rangers. I feel awful for Jays fans, though (and glad after all that the M’s didn’t take Paxton, whom I was hoping for with one of our comp picks); and like Tyler, I really have to think the other Washington (LeVon) is a loser in a big way, because he’s giving away money he’ll never get back.

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  8. Steve C says:

    I wonder if these players that choose college ball over the pros (2MM) realize the opportunity costs of delaying the time at which they reach free agency. I’m sure someone smarter than I could crunch the numbers for the rate at which players that miss the deadline later make it to free agency after being a college draft choice.

    Lets say there were 100 players that chose college ball over professional. How many will be drafted over the next 4 years? How many will make the MLB level? How many will make it to FA? Could break it all down by round too, as I imagine the success rate of those drafted in the first few rounds will be higher than those of the later rounds.

    Assuming that they are league average they are looking at around 10MM per year earlier they hit FA. If a player has a 10% chance of hitting FA they should turn down any off less than 1MM, right? And for 50% it should be 5MM?

    A model like this could be used to determine the values associated with a hard slotting system.

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  9. Jamie says:

    pretty sure that tampa purposely didn’t pursue either of their 2 first round picks hard to get 2 comp picks in the next draft. which is supposed to be wayy better than this years class.

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  10. blackoutyears says:

    Somewhat tangential to the main thrust here, but Texas’ farm system is emptying? Did I miss something or do they not still have Kiker, Main, Perez, Boscan and Font in the pipeline, just to mention pitchers? And I don’t know if this article was started weeks ago or not, but it’s safe to say that Neftali Feliz has graduated.

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  11. Marc says:

    By graduated, I mean from prospect/rookie status (130 AB, 50 IP)… Feliz is up, but he’s still a below the 50 IP mark.

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  12. MerryGoByeBye says:

    I actually think the Rays done a good job by not signing those guys, they’ll have a lot of picks next year, at a much better draft. I hope this strategy blows in their faces, for it’s something Boras would do if he ran a team.

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  13. When do compensation picks for not signing a player become none existent (if at all?) That is, if a player in the 30th round does not sign, does a team get a compensation pick in return?

    One of the things I did not understand about the Nationals giving in on Strasburg was that they could have easily picked him first overall in 2010. I for one would have used that at the bargaining table. “Listen Boras, we suck this year and are going to have the first pick, here’s what we are offering today, here is what we will offer in 2010, and here is what we will offer in 2011 after we suck again…In other words, take this money and get your kid to free agency as soon as possible”.

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