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June 5, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Red Sox Draft Preview: Signability Risks


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 generally free to award signing bonuses to their draftees as the market allows. Another unique aspect of the baseball draft is that high school draftees typically have a lot of leverage in signing bonus negotiations, as they often have the option of passing on any bonus offer in order to head off to college in the hopes of getting a larger offer when they are eligible for the draft again. Similarly, college juniors are also free to pass on signing on with the team that drafts them, as they have the option of heading 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. Other players may have leverage due to multi-sport scholarships or due to having a particular agent. All of these factors come into play when considering a players' “signability”, and whether a team wants to take the risk of not being able to sign a player selected in a given round.

First-round talents who are considered "signability risks” can often slip to the end of the first round or even much further, and often these players get snatched up later by big market clubs such as the Yankees or Red Sox. Here are the top seven signability risks in the 2010 draft:

Austin Wilson
OF, Harvard-Westlake HS (Calif.). Committed to Stanford.
Athletic five-tool outfielder draws comparisons to Andre Dawson. Plus-plus power potential. All-around offensive game. Ideal hitter’s frame. Above-average defensive tools. Above-average speed. Outstanding student. Potential franchise player. You don’t hear many bad things said about Wilson, but there are some looming question marks about how well he will adapt to advanced pitching. There are rumors that he is strongly committed to college and that his bonus demands are exorbitant, making it possible that he slips out of the first round.

Kaleb Cowart
RHP, Cook County HS (Ga.). Committed to Florida State.
Projectable frame. Fastball sits 93 mph with nice sinking action. Also works in a cutter, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup. Slider and cutter have solid major league potential. Clean mechanics. Will need work with his command. Top-15 talent, could slide to the 20s due to signability concerns.

James Paxton
LHP, Grand Prairie AirHogs (via Kentucky)
Throws a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 98 mph as well as a hard slider and a subpar changeup. A Scott Boras client, he was selected 37th overall by Toronto in 2009 and reportedly turned down a $1-million offer to return to the University of Kentucky. Kentucky suspended Paxton for refusing to cooperate with the NCAA in regards to questioning about Boras’ communications with the Blue Jays after Paxton was drafted. The left-hander withdrew from school in March and joined the Grand Prairie AirHogs of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, whose season started on May 14. A late first-round talent, Paxton could potentially slip well out of the first round due to his bonus demands.

A.J. Cole
RHP, Oviedo HS (Fla.). Committed to Miami.
Tall, projectable righty. Throws 90-94 mph and tops out at 96 mph. Could add more velocity. Solid mechanics. Secondary pitches, including a slider and a changeup, are average right now, but have good potential. Reserved demeanor. Top-15 talent could go as early as the top 10 or as late as the third round.

Nick Castellanos
3B, Archbishop McCarthy HS (Fla.). Committed to Miami.
Solid bat with projectable power. Hits to all fields. Will likely take a lot of time to adjust to advanced pitching. Castellanos already has a big body at 6’4”, 200, and has shown excellent athleticism for his size. Fluid movements on defense with a major league arm. Due to a strong commitment to Miami, Castellanos could demand one of the largest bonuses in the class, meaning he could slip past the mid first-round, where he would project without taking signability into account.

Zach Lee
RHP, Frisco HS (Texas). Committed to LSU.
Perhaps the best two-sport athlete in the draft, Lee also has a strong commitment to play quarterback at LSU. As a pitcher, Lee has a low-90s fastball with excellent movement, a plus slider, and a plus changeup. In many aspects, including his repertoire and his mound presence, Lee resembles Sox top prospect Casey Kelly. His asking price isn’t known right now, but it’s sure to be in the multi-million dollar range – also similar to Kelly.

Anthony Ranaudo
RHP, LSU
A year ago at this time, Ranaudo projected as a lock to be a top-five pick this year. After an injury-plagued season where he failed to live up to his previous season’s performance, the right-hander has seen his stock slide. While he has flashed the plus stuff that made him a top prospect last year, he hasn’t delivered with the consistency needed from a top-five pick, and there also have been concerns about his mechanics and his health. He is rumored to still be looking for a bonus in excess of $2 million dollars, and with Scott Boras as his agent, it would not be surprising to see him stick to his demands, especially considering that he would have the option to return to LSU or pitch a year in independent league baseball before re-entering the 2011 draft.

Note: There are late rumors that Yasmani Grandal is demanding a $6 million bonus - but there are also rumors that he has a pre-draft agreement with the Royals at #4. A catcher out of Miami previously selected by the Sox in 2007, Grandal projects as a top ten pick, but if the $6 million bonus rumors are true, he could slide towards the end of the first round.

Ian Theodoridis and Chris Hatfield of SoxProspects.com contributed to this report.

 
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