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June 5, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Red Sox Draft Preview: Signability Players

In the fifth installment of the Red Sox Draft Preview, we bring you seven first round talents that could slip in the draft due to signability concerns. As most fans know, there is no requisite slotting system in Major League Baseball for draft picks, so teams are free to award signing bonuses to their draftees as the market allows. Another unique aspect of the baseball draft is that high school senior draftees typically have a lot of leverage in signing bonus negotiations, as they can easily pass on any bonus offered and head off to college or junior college in the hopes of getting a bigger bonus when they are eligible for the draft (typically the following season for junior college players or after junior year for college players). Similarly, college juniors are also free to pass on signing on with the team that drafts them, as they can simply head back to school for their senior college season. However, a significant portion of college juniors do end up signing, for the fear that they will have minimal leverage after their senior season. In addition, some players may apply other types of leverage during signing negotiations, such as potential careers or scholarships in other sports. For example, Red Sox 2008 first round pick Casey Kelly had a football scholarship to Tennessee as a quarterback, and undoubtedly used that fact in negotiations with the team. Another example of leverage is hiring Scott Boras as an agent/advisor - Boras has had several clients refuse to sign, only to play independent baseball for a year in the hopes of garnering a larger bonus in the following draft cycle. First round talents who are considered "tough signs" or "signability" players can occasionally fall to the end of or out of the first round, and often these players who slip get snatched up by big market clubs such as the Yankees or the Red Sox. Other signability players who are considered top 200 talents may even slip to the middle and later rounds ofthe draft. Here are the top seven tough-signs of the 2009 draft that could slide in the draft due to those signability concerns:

Donovan Tate
OF, Cartersville HS (GA). Committed to North Carolina.
Athletic five-tool outfielder draws comparisons to BJ Upton. All-around offensive game with big time power potential. Fast on the basepaths and rangy in the outfield. Good glove with a cannon arm. He's considered a top five overall player in the draft and the top high school position prospect, but could slip to the end of the first round or even into later rounds due to his bonus demands. He's a Scott Boras client reportedly seeking a $6-million signing bonus. Tate has a scholarship to play both football and baseball at North Carolina, and actually could have a future in the NFL, meaning he has the leverage to make that type of demand.

Matthew Purke
LHP, Klein HS (TX). Committed to Texas Christian.
Top prep lefty throws a 90-94 mph fastball with great movement, an above average changeup, and a plus breaking ball. Should add size to his 6-3, 170 pound frame. Considered a top ten talent, could go there, but if he gets past Texas at 14, he may be available when Boston picks at 28. Purke's bonus demands could reach $5-million. However, Purke appears to be the type of player that wants to get his pro career going sooner rather than later, and may ultimately sign for south of that mark - maybe $3-million to $4-million.

Grant Green
SS, USC (Junior)
Tall and athletic shortstop with five-tool potential has drawn comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki. Has been projected as one of the top five picks of the 2009 Draft since last summer. Nice range and arm, but has shown struggles with his glove (18 errors in 54 games in 2009). Offensively, he's got a great all-around game, and demonstrated his ability to hit with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League, where he was named the CCBL's top prospect in 2008. Hit .374/.435/.569 after a slow start for Southern Cal this year. Green could go as high as three or could slip all the way to the end of the first round. There hasn't been a lot of press regarding what Green's exact bonus demands will be, but they'd likely be in the $5-million range, which would be typical for a top five college pick.

Tyler Matzek
LHP, Capistrano Valley HS (CA). Committed to Oregon.
Matzek and Purke are considered to be the top lefty prep arms in the draft. 90-95 mph fastball, average to above average mid-70s curveball, strong low 80s slider, and a changeup that is in the early stages of development. Has been criticized for a lack of drive. Of the players listed here, he is probably the least likely to slip due to signability, and has been rumored to go to multiple teams in the top ten - but it's not out of the question that he slips to the teens when his bonus demands come out. There haven't been many reports of what those demands will be, but as he's considered to be a similar prospect to Purke, his advisor could be using Purke's demands as a measuring stick.

Jacob Turner
RHP, Westminster Christian (NC). Committed to North Carolina.
Large-framed righty with a projectable frame and a live arm. Should add velocity to his 90-94 mph fastball, which already has plus movement. Slider and changeup are average. Inconsistent command. Scouts mostly look at Turner for his projection over and above his present stuff. Scott Boras client. Looking for a $7-million bonus, which would equal the highest bonus ever given to a high school player.

Max Stassi
Catcher, Yuba City HS (CA). Committed to UCLA.
Stassi has the whole package - all around offensive and defensive skills coupled with top flight athleticism, intelligence, instincts, and leadership ability. As for weaknesses, his arm is only average and he can struggle with advanced off-speed stuff. He'll go in the first round at some point, but has been projected to go as high as 12 and as low as 32. There have been rumors that Stassi is floating top first round bonus figures to teams, which could be interpreted to be in the ballpark of $3-million.

Luke Bailey
Catcher, Troupe HS (GA). Committed to Auburn.
Powerful catcher with excellent bat speed. Plus power potential. Good baseball instincts and intangibles. Solid defender, good throwing skills, but none of his defensive tools are particularly plus. Lives and dies for baseball. Had Tommy John surgery in May 2009. Originally slated as a mid first round pick, the surgery likely has pushed Bailey out of the first round into a possible second or third round pick. However, word is that he could still receive a $1-million to $1.5-million bonus the buy him out of his commitment to Auburn.