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June 4, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Red Sox Draft Preview Part 5 of 7: Signability Concerns

In the fifth installment of our Red Sox Draft Preview, we bring you thirteen top-round talents that could slip in the draft due to signability concerns.

As most draft 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 bonus offer when they are eligible for the draft again in two or three years. 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’ll have minimal leverage after their senior season. For that reason, draft-eligible sophomores have even more leverage. Other players may have additional leverage due to multi-sport scholarships or due to having a particular agent. All of these factors come into play when considering a player's “signability”, and whether a team wants to take the risk of not being able to sign a certain 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 like the Yankees and the Red Sox. Here are the top thirteen signability risks in the 2011 draft:

Bubba Starling
OF, Gardner-Edgerton (KS). Committed to Nebraska.
A five-tool center fielder who is considered the best athlete in the draft, Starling is rife with signability concerns. First and foremost, he’s one of the top five prospects in the draft, and the best prep position player in the nation. Second, he has a strong commitment to Nebraska, both for baseball and to quarterback the football team. Third, his agent is Scott Boras. Regardless, there is still a chance that he goes number one overall, and it’s really unthinkable that he slips out of the top ten. He’ll get upwards of $6 million from somebody.

Archie Bradley
RHP, Spring Valley (SC). Committed to Oklahoma.
Bradley is also a two sport start with a football scholarship waiting at the quarterback position. He mixes a mid-to-high 90s fastball with a plus curveball and a decent changeup. Considered a top ten prospect, he has made some serious bonus demands in recent weeks, but realistic expectations put his bonus figure in the $5 million range, which could cause him to slip out of the top ten. 

Josh Bell
OF, Dallas Jesuit (TX). Committed to Texas.
A top fifteen prospect, Bell is an outfielder with a high power ceiling represented by Boras. Bell has reportedly informed the Major League Scouting Bureau that he intends to go to Texas, and thus he has asked teams not to draft him. We’ve seen players hold true to these statements in the past, but we’ve also seen some players use these types of representations as posturing so they’ll fall to bigger market teams with deeper pockets. It’s unclear which is the case with Bell here, but he’s been tabbed as a possible target for the Red Sox at #19 overall.  

Blake Swihart 
C/3B, Cleveland HS (NM). Committed to Texas.
Question marks remain as to whether Swihart can stick at catcher, but he’s also athletic enough with a strong enough bat to play third base. He has a strong commitment to Texas, and will be a tough sign because he'd be a draft eligible sophomore in 2013, meaning he would only need to go to college for two years before he’s re-eligible. He’as also been linked to Boston at #19. 

Alex Meyer 
RHP, Kentucky (Junior)
Another Boras advisee, Meyer turned down a $2 million offer from the Red Sox after the club selected him in the 20th round out of high school in 2008. An extreme high-ceiling arm who has flashed triple-digit velocity with his fastball, he will likely be looking for a much bigger payday this year. Still, Meyer will likely go in the 10-25 range in the first round. 

Austin Hedges
C, JSerra (CA). Committed to UCLA.
An excellent scholar-athlete, Hedges is believed to have a very strong commitment to UCLA. If signability is not a concern, he projects as a late first or supplemental round pick, but his college commitment could push him further down some boards.

Andrew Susac 
C, Oregon State (Sophomore). 
While Susac has not blown scouts away with any elite tools, all of his tools project as average or slightly-above average. As a draft-eligible sophomore, he’ll have a lot of leverage during the signing period, which could increase his bonus demands and cause him to slip out of the first round. 

Brandon Nimmo
OF, East HS (WY). Committed to Arkansas.
Nimmo is an athletic center fielder with a lot of helium entering the stretch run. A bonus demand of $2 million has been floated in recent days. He could go anywhere from the mid-first round to the late supplemental round, as the reports are that teams have not been to scared off by that number. 

Dillon Howard 
RHP, Searcy (AK). Committed to Arkansas. 
Tabbed as a late first rounder, Howard has a mid-90s fastball that he complements with a nice 12-to-6 curveball. Very athletic and projectable. He has a strong commitment to Arkansas, where he would likely be the Friday Night starter right out of the gate. 

Matt Purke
LHP, Texas Christian (Sophomore).
Now a draft-eligible sophomore, Purke turned down $6-million from Texas following his senior year of high school in 2009. Coming into this season, he was considered a top five overall prospect, but his 2001 season has been riddled with injury or mechanical problems that have significantly decreased his velocity. Some team may take a flyer on him in the late first round or later and follow him during summer ball, but Purke may be best served returning to TCU for his junior season to re-establish his value. If he’s going to sign this year, he’ll still be expecting a large bonus, although probably not the $6 million figure he previously rejected.

Tyler Beede
RHP, Lawrence Academy (MA). Committed to Vanderbilt. 
Beede has a strong commitment to Vanderbilt and likely has substantial bonus demands. He could go in the early 20s, but I’m betting the Red Sox would love it if Beede fell to them at 36. The club may even consider scooping him up at 26.

Derek Fisher
OF, Cedar Crest (PA). Committed to Virginia.
Northeast product makes good contact with above-average power. A solid defensive player with decent speed, Fisher will likely will end up in left field. Rumors are that he is strongly inclined to head to UVA this fall. Without the signability concerns, he projects as a second rounder. Due to his likely bonus demands, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Fisher fall to the third round, where Boston might snatch him up like they did with another Pennsylvania prep player, Sean Coyle, in 2010. 

Charlie Tilson
OF, New Trier (IL). Committed to Illinois. 
Like Fisher, the word is that Tilson has a preference to go to college rather than going pro this year, thus his commitment to Illinois is considered a strong one. He’s an athletic center fielder with major league lead-off potential, but without a lot of power in his bat. He’s a player that the Sox might consider in rounds two through four.