MLB Draft Signings: Top 10 Players Who Teams Will Regret Not Inking to Deals

Zachary BallAnalyst IAugust 16, 2011

MLB Draft Signings: Top 10 Players Who Teams Will Regret Not Inking to Deals

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    Negotiating with draft prospects in baseball is one of the trickiest games in sports.

    For starters, the players are sometimes just 17 or 18 years old, and they're taking advice from agents who are 30 or 40 years their senior. Toss in the prospect of a few million dollars and things can get dicey.

    But these "kids" aren't the only ones who screw up the signing discussions. Sometimes the teams are just as culpable.

    Take last year's draft and the case of the Milwaukee Brewers and first-round pick Dylan Covey.

    Milwaukee spent the 14th-overall pick on Covey, a hard-throwing right-hander from California. He had the size of a prototypical pitcher, and a smooth delivery. Furthermore, he had a relative soft commitment to the University of San Diego. All signs pointed to an easy sign. But days before the deadline, after waiting more than two months to begin negotiations, the Brewers administered a blood test. What they found was that Covey had Type-1 diabetes.

    Startled by the discovery, Covey decided against signing with Milwaukee so that he could stay closer to home, attend USD and try to get a handle on his diagnosis. Such is life with the current signing deadline.

    Luckily, the Brewers were able to recoup the pick and ended up snagging an even easier sign with 15th-overall pick, left-hander Jed Bradley.

    Some teams aren't so lucky, and as such there are likely to be more than a few players who slip through the cracks this year and wind up as first- or second-round guys two or three years from now.

    So, without further ado, let's see who dropped the ball and failed to sign some pretty talented players.

Tyler Beede, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Over the past few seasons, Toronto has shown an incredible ability to sign some players away from college commitments who many felt were "unsignable."

    This year, they went for the triple-crown, drafting Norris, Kevin Comer and Tyler Beede, three of the toughest signs in the entire draft class. 

    In the end, their strategy almost worked again. Norris signed for $2 million after being expected to head off to Clemson, and Comer joined the pro ranks for $1.65 million.

    Beede made his intentions to not sign known publicly in the days leading up to the draft, although few experts took him seriously. Now that the deadline has come and gone, we've learned that despite an increase from $2 to $2.5 million, the Jays were unable to lock down their first-round pick.

    The team doesn't come away totally empty-handed, however. In addition to the Norris and Comer signings, the Jays also pick up a compensation pick in next year's draft.

Kevin Cron, C, Seattle Mariners

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    The younger brother of first-round pick C.J. Cron, Kevin also could have gone in the first round. He's certainly talented enough. But with a very strong commitment to TCU and bonus demands that are out of this world, it's no surprise that the Mariners couldn't agree to a deal with their third-round pick.

    At Mountain Pointe High, the younger Cron was a record-setting power-hitter. During his junior year he led his team to the state championship game, after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot. His squad lost in the finals, but Cron managed to slug his 22nd home run during the contest, tying him with Corey Myers for the state single-season record.

    As a senior, he ratcheted up the draft helium, breaking the single-season HR record and establishing a new career mark. That was enough to get him noticed by many teams, who, despite his strong commitment to TCU, considered him a first-round talent.

    The Mariners were hoping they could get Cron to play ball, and, heck, having his older brother playing the same division had to be enticing, but heading off to college could improve his draft stock dramatically. 

Derek Fisher, OF, Texas Rangers

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    I profiled Fisher extensively in the months leading up to the draft. He had some of the best raw power in the high-school crop.

    Unfortunately, in addition to carrying a big stick, he was also packing a strong commitment to Virginia. That's exactly where he's headed after failing to come to terms with Texas.

    The team had a sliver of hope at convincing the Pennsylvania prep-star to join the pro ranks, but in the end they couldn't offer him enough to honor his college commitment. At UVA, he will bolster the lineup of what is expected to be a top-10 squad.

Jason Coats, OF, Baltimore Orioles

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    Despite some pretty intense negotiations, Jason Coats will be headed back to TCU, joining Matt Purke and Kevin Cron.

    The Orioles were impressed by Coats' performance in the Cape Cod League, both in 2010 and this past summer. Impressed enough to offer him fourth-round money, despite his status as a 12th-round selection. Still, Coats turned down the offer.

    "They made an offer and I sat down with my parents to weigh the pros and cons," Coats said. "It was a long discussion. It was good money, way above where I would have been slotted. I had a figure in mind and if they would have reached that, I would have signed for sure. If not, I knew I could go back, get my degree and just start my career a year later."

    As noted in the interview with StarLocalSports.com, Coats will return to TCU and continue his assault on the Horned Frogs record books. He sits fifth all-time in RBI and third in career doubles.

Peter O'Brien, C, Colorado Rockies

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    O'Brien entered the 2011 college season as arguably the top backstop from his class. 

    He offered incredible power, and while he had an incredibly productive season (14 HR, 69 RBI) he showed enough holes in his swing to warrant a drop from the first round to the third, where the Rockies pounced on him.

    Unfortunately, they couldn't come to an agreement that would allow him to join a stellar crop of catchers in the Rockies system, a group that includes Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco.

    O'Brien will head back to Bethune-Cookman and try to use his senior campaign to prove he's not a strikeout machine (52 K in 61 games in 2011). He could end up going higher next year, but it will be a struggle.

Sam Stafford, LHP, New York Yankees

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    You don't often think about the Yankees not being able to pony up enough cash to sign their draft picks, but that's exactly what happened with their second-round selection Sam Stafford, who will now return to the University of Texas for his senior season.

    According to the Austin America-Statesman, the Yankees had concerns over Stafford's arm strength, which led to an offer that was well below his recommended bonus set by MLB

    At Texas, Stafford will inherit the role of staff ace now that Taylor Jungmann has signed professionally. The lefty, who was clocked in the low 90s before the draft, went 6-2 with a 1.77 ERA this past season for the Longhorns.

Brett Austin, C, San Diego Padres

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    In the grand scheme of things, nobody will likely remember that the Padres couldn't come to an agreement with Austin, one of the better offensive backstops in this most recent draft class, mainly because they were able to agree with another talented catcher, Austin Hedges, who many experts considered to be totally unsignable.

    San Diego was clearly sold on Hedges' defensive ability and not strongly convinced enough of Austin's worth.

    They weren't willing to shell out anything close to the $3 million they will be paying out to Hedges. 

    Austin is a switch-hitter who profiles as an average defender behind the plate, at best. Worst case, he'll have to come from behind the plate and move to another position, likely in the outfield, making him basically a bat-only player.

    Austin will head to N.C. State, which managed to pull in a pretty impressive class for next season.

Preston Tucker, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies

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    Tucker was largely forgotten on a roster that included six starters who hit over .300, each of whom hit 10 or more doubles and drove in 27 or more runs.

    Still, he was the veteran leader of the 2011 Gators squad, and the player everyone turned their attention to in the clutch.

    He finished the year hitting .308 with 23 doubles, 15 home runs and 74 RBI. In the field, Tucker made some significant progress this year. Playing first base and right field, he made only two errors in 72 games, good for a .990 fielding percentage, which just so happened to rank as the second best on the team.

    The Rockies were intrigued by Tucker's ability and went after him in the 16th round, although their offers were not to his liking, hence a return for his senior season at UF.

Carlos Rodon, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

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    The Brewers took some chances in the draft, mostly in an effort to rebuild a struggling farm system that was gutted by trades for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.

    They went big for a couple of players, including their 16th-round selection, Rodon. A high-schooler with tons of athleticism and plenty of projection, Rodon came incredibly close to signing with Milwaukee over the past weekend but, in the end, the allure of a scholarship to North Carolina State, where he'll join another player on this list, Brett Austin, was too much.

    Rodon was clocked in the 88-92 mph range this past season, but with some better coaching and by adding some more bulk, he could conceivably throw consistently in the low-to-mid 90s by the time he's eligible again in a few years.

J.D. Davis, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Another school that is incredibly hard to sway high-schoolers from, is Cal State-Fullerton, where just about everyone who attends ends up getting drafted.

    Davis was one of just a few Rays early draft picks who got away. Despite having great offensive potential, his bonus demands were just too high for a team that had to shell out a record-amount of money on their first 10 selections.

    Davis is built incredibly well for a high-schooler (6'3", 220 lbs) and has as much raw power as any player the Rays drafted this year. He also has a very strong arm, capable of reaching 93 mph on the mound. That should benefit him greatly at third base for the Titans.

    Look for him to improve his draft status over the next three seasons.