The 2013 first-year player draft signing deadline expired at 5 p.m. ET on Friday and was just as uneventful as expected.
Before the implementation of a new collective bargaining agreement, players selected in the draft—especially those popped in the first couple of rounds—typically held out on signing until the August 15 deadline. But those also were the days when teams didn’t face spending restrictions, were allowed to offer ridiculously above-slot bonuses and even sign players to a major league contract.
This year, the second under the new CBA, only nine players selected within the first 10 rounds were unsigned heading into Friday. Only one of those players ultimately agreed to terms prior to the evening deadline.
Of the eight unsigned picks, these five players have the potential to make their respective drafting organization regret not working out a deal.
When the Toronto Blue Jays selected Phil Bickford with the No. 10 overall pick, the assumption was that a deal was already in place with the prep right-hander. But we learned on Friday evening that clearly wasn’t the case, as both sides were unable to reach an agreement before the 5 p.m. ET signing deadline. He is the only first-rounder not to sign this year.
Bickford had as much helium as any player headed into the draft.
At 6’4”, 195 pounds, the right-hander has the type of projectable frame that makes scouts drool. Working from a three-quarters slot with fluid arm action, Bickford will sit in the low 90s with his fastball, and can reach back for 95 to 96 as needed. While he’s already shown a distinct feel for spotting it to both sides of the plate, the pitch stands to improve through the addition of some downhill plane.
Due to the dominance of his fastball at the high school level, Bickford’s secondary offerings are noticeably less advanced. Though it has some bite, the right-hander struggles to consistently get on top of his slider, and he also throws a very raw changeup that will need to be developed as a professional.
With a commitment to Cal State Fullerton to fall back on, Bickford was asking for $4.25 million headed into the draft.
And with that in mind, the Blue Jays drafted strategically under the assumption he’d be signable and ultimately saved roughly $1.7 million elsewhere within the first 10 rounds. Between the assigned slot value for the No. 10 pick ($2,921,400) and saved money, Toronto could have offered him $5,014,830 without exceeding its bonus pool.
The Blue Jays focused their draft around landing Bickford in the first round, so not signing the right-hander is a major disappointment. However, it did free up the last-minute spending money used to sign LHP Jake Brentz (11th round) and 1B Rowdy Tellez (30th round) to over-slot deals shortly before the deadline. Plus, Toronto will now receive the No. 11 overall pick in the 2014 draft as compensation.
News emerged in late June that Matt Krook would not sign with the Miami Marlins after a post-draft physical exam revealed an unspecified issue.
At 6’4”, 195 pounds, the projectable left-hander is an excellent athlete who began to grow into his lanky frame this spring and had his promising stuff improve as a result.
In addition to a fastball that sits in the low 90s and will top out at 94 to 95 mph, the southpaw featured one of the better curveballs in the entire 2013 draft class—a hammer with tight spin and sharp, downer bite that should serve as an out-pitch at the next level. Due to his lack of experience on the mound, Krook’s control and command is extremely raw, though his feel for pitching has noticeably improved over the last year.
Because the two sides were unable to resolve the issue, Krook will honor his commitment to the University of Oregon while the Marlins receive the No. 36 overall pick in the 2014 draft as compensation.
The definition of a raw but toolsy prospect, Ben DeLuzio was a dual-sport standout in high school, turning down multiple football scholarships in favor of playing baseball at Florida State.
Despite his lack of baseball experience and strong college commitment, DeLuzio was the first position player selected by the Marlins from the high school ranks. While it was likely that he’d need considerable time to develop in the minor leagues, the natural ability was worthy of a flier in the third round.
A 6’2”, 185-pound shortstop, DeLuzio’s athleticism stands out on both sides of the ball and should help him put things together quickly once he dedicates himself to the sport. With above-average-to-plus speed, he has impressive range on the infield and gets to a lot of balls.
However, his defensive actions and average arm strength don’t profile favorably at the position as a professional, which has led many to believe he’ll wind up in center field.
At the dish, the right-handed hitter has above-average bat speed but hasn’t learned how to utilize his lower half. Furthermore, his lack of experience is evident through the lack of consistency in his swing and struggle to control the barrel through the strike zone.
But once he puts it all together, DeLuzio has the upside of an average top-of-the-order player at an up-the-middle position.
Unable to reach an agreement with DeLuzio by the Friday deadline, the Marlins failed to sign both—the other being the aforementioned Matt Krook—of their top high school draft picks. Both players would have been impressive additions to an already stacked farm system.
I really liked the Philadelphia Phillies’ selection of Ben Wetzler in the fifth round after offering over-slot bonuses to several of their top picks. However, the two sides were unable reach an agreement before Friday’s signing deadline.
A 6’1”, 210-pound left-hander, Wetzler has been a fixture in the Beavers’ starting rotation for the last three seasons despite the lack of a true plus pitch. Working from a low three-quarters arm slot, he’ll typically work in the 88 to 92 mph range with his fastball and command it effectively to both sides of the plate.
Wetzler’s slider is his best secondary offering at the moment and has the potential to be above average once he can consistently throw it off the fastball plane. And even though his changeup lacks significant movement, the left-hander showcases a legitimate feel the pitch and when to use it.
Considering that Wetzler was the first pitcher drafted by Philadelphia, the organization clearly deemed the college junior signable. However, my guess is that he was unwilling to settle for the well-below-slot bonus that was offered.
Selected one round after Wetzler, Jason Monda was one of the more intriguing college outfielders in this year’s class thanks to his combination of size, strength and athleticism. And the fact that he was yet to make significant strides in his development or tap into his potential only made the Washington State outfielder more attractive.
At 6’4”, 205 pounds, Monda is an impressive athlete for his size with a projectable frame and room to add strength. The left-handed hitter may appear to have a fluid swing, but it actually involves considerable effort and can get long through the zone. And even though he does make hard contact, Monda also employs an aggressive approach that results in a swing-and-miss a lot of the time.
If he can simplify his swing and add some loft, it’s conceivable that he’ll feature average power at the next level.
Defensively, Monda has played center field for Washington State where he showcased an excellent glove as well as average speed and range that play up due to his instincts. However, there’s also a realistic chance that he’ll be moved off the position after he adds strength and presumably loses a step.
As of now, Monda will return to college for his senior season.