It's already been more than two weeks since the MLB first-year player draft signing deadline. Furthermore, it's been nearly three months since the draft itself took place, meaning those players who negotiated a contract, and then signed it quickly, have close to three months of playing time under their belts.
It's usually those players that sign relatively quickly who make the biggest splash in their pro debut, although some with superior talent, such as Arizona's Trevor Bauer who is nearly ready to arrive at Chase Field in early September to make his big-league debut, need far fewer games to show their elite talent.
Some team's top performing draft prospects are better stories than others. My personal favorite happens to be Royals prospect Nick DelGuidice, who is hitting over .400 through 50 games.
He earned hitter of the month honors from the rookie Arizona League for July after tearing apart AZL pitching. He's been just as good since a recent promotion to the Pioneer League, hitting .388 in 14 games.
The best part of the story? DelGuidice was an undrafted free agent—the only player of his kind in this slideshow.
But, he's not the only good story. For every first-rounder who's tearing up his league, there's a player who was drafted after the 20th-round who has impressed the most of any player drafted by his organization.
So let's get into which players have been the most impressive since signing with their respective teams.
Even before the draft everyone tabbed former UCLA hurler Trevor Bauer as the most likely to reach the draft first.
After signing quickly, he's set out to prove that he's more than worthy of helping the big-league club this season, and as such, he's just two levels away, having reached Double-A in just nine innings. Granted, he was very special in those nine innings, spanning three starts. He struck out 17 batters, while walking just four.
Upon his promotion to Double-A, he's been even better, getting 23 punchouts in just 15 innings, also covering three starts. The D-Backs are trying to limit Bauer's innings, considering he threw an NCAA-leading number this past spring, but they appear to be open to him cracking the big-league roster when rosters expand on September 1st.
The Braves figured they were getting a very seasoned player when they selected former UConn shortstop Nick Ahmed in the second round of this past draft.
As expected, Ahmed signed quickly and was assigned to Low-A Danville, where he's made a great impression, showcasing his offensive abilities (12 2B, two 3B and four HR in 57 games), proving an adequate run producer (21 RBI) and wreaking havoc on the basepaths (18 steals).
The Massachusetts native has excellent leadership abilites and has already emerged as a stabilizing force on the squad, despite playing in less than 60 contests.
The Orioles primary reason for selecting former Central Michigan ace Trent Howard was to inject more veteran blood to their pitching depth.
Not only has Howard provided that, but he's looked so good for short-season Aberdeen thus far that he might be slowly working his way into the team's long-term plans.
The seventh-round pick has made 11 appearances for the Ironbirds, including nine starts. He's 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA and has posted an incredible 45-to-14 K:BB ratio in just over 41 innings.
Howard has only surrendered one long ball and has held hitters to a .237 average. He was rewarded for his sterling efforts with the New York-Penn League Pitcher of the Week honors after posting a 15-to-4 K:BB ratio and allowing just four hits over 11 shutout innings in two late July starts.
Little was made of the fact that the Red Sox snatched up Jerez in the second round, despite the fact that he was a member of Hank Steinbrenner's traveling squad down in Florida for a time.
The Sox were no doubt impressed by his astonishing tool set and pulled the trigger on him before the Yankees even got the chance. He signed and was assigned to the Gulf Coast League, the lowest rung on the Red Sox farm system.
Since debuting with the squad, he has shown many weaknesses, including 33 strikeouts in 129 at-bats, but more than anything, he's tantalized the Sox with visions of his incredible talent. He's swiped five bases, tripled three times and has driven in 12 runs in just 32 games.
His .246 average, two doubles and the three times he's been caught stealing are all indicative of the fact that he's an incredibly raw prospect with tons of untapped potential.
Baez signed just minutes before the midnight deadline, and as such, hasn't gotten much action on the field.
He made his debut on August 26th, notching his first professional hit and securing his first stolen base. He's only made two other starts but has notched at least one base-knock in each game and through those three games, he's hitting .333 with two doubles and two steals.
Baez's speed wasn't a highly-talked about feature, but he's looked very solid running the bases, and of course, his bat has looked advanced for the rookie Arizona League.
Granted, the White Sox first pick Keenyn Walker has looked solid, but you simply don't come to expect the kind of performance that Blair Walters is showing from an 11th-rounder. Even if he is pitching in the rookie Pioneer League as a 21-year-old.
From July 4 to August 8, Walters posted an incredible 7-0 record, allowing just six earned runs in 41 innings. He hasn't won in his last three starts and has served up 11 runs in his last 15 innings, but he's still holding a solid 3.29 ERA and has a phenomenal 63-to-14 K:BB ratio through 11 starts.
Walters signed less than two weeks after the drafting furthering the belief that late-round picks are well-advised to sign early in order to improve their standing in the organization.
Wright has been what the Reds thought he would be when they selected him in the fifth round, a solid player with few holes.
At the plate, he's been great, hitting .318 in a cameo in the rookie Arizona League, before getting bumped up to the rookie Pioneer League, where he's hitting .263. He's been an extra-base hit no matter what league he's been playing in, racking up 17, including six home runs, in only 35 contests.
He's been a capable run producer, driving in 28, and has even shown a little speed on the base-paths, swiping seven bags.
Wright may never be an above-average starter in the big leagues, but he definitely has super-utility guy potential.
College pitchers tend to do well when exposed to the lower levels of the minors, especially rookie ball, but 23rd-round selection Cody Allen has been quite an eye-opener for Cleveland.
The former High Point starter was drafted by Cleveland once before (2010), but decided the time was right this spring after leading the Panthers staff with a 3.12 ERA and 82.2 innings.
In 14 appearances in the NYPL, Allen allowed only 21 hits in 33.2 innings, all of which came out of the bullpen. He posted a 42-to-9 K:BB ratio and served up just one home run.
That impressive performance, which also included three victories and a 2.14 ERA, earned Allen a promotion to the Midwest League, where he has yet to allow a run in six outings, covering 16 innings. Again, he has posted strong strikeout numbers, 26 in just 16 innings, compared to only five walks.
Combined, he's held hitters to a .173 average and has an ERA of 1.45 and a K:BB ratio of 68-to-14 in 49.2 innings.
Trevor Story had a lot of helium in the few weeks leading up to the draft, and his meteoric rise culminated in a supplemental first-round selection.
He was widely regarded as the most complete shortstop package in the draft, and although first-rounder Francisco Lindor had a higher ceiling, Story seemed a more likely bet to stick at shortstop and play more sound defense.
Through 39 games in the rookie Pioneer League, he's shown quite adept, hitting .283 with seven doubles, two triples and five home runs. He's driven in 23 runs and scored 31 of his own. His plate discipline has been fantastic (22-to-31 BB:K ratio), and he's shown some good wheels on the base-paths (10-of-11 SB).
In the field, it has been a struggle with the sure-handed infielder committing 13 errors, but even Derek Jeter struggled immensely early on in his career. With better coaching and more experience, he should be an above-average fielder.
The Tigers hoped they were getting an instant impact power bat when they selected slugger Aaron Westlake in the third round but have yet to see the former Vandy Commodore have that much of an impact.
On the other hand, 11th-round Dean Green, out of Barry University in Florida, has filled that role. The 21-year-old has made the New York-Penn League his own personal playground, slugging seven home runs in less than 60 games. He's driven in 37 runs and his .332 average ranks fourth on the circuit. He also ranks second in total bases.
Green's future isn't likely as bright as Westlake's, but for the time being, at least the Tigers can feel great about one of them.
The Marlins have had some serious trouble trying to find a franchise-type catcher over the past decade, and with the Kyle Skipworth experiment growing more and more mold with each passing day, it seems as if Austin Barnes fell into the team's lap at exactly the right time.
A former ASU Sun Devil and ninth-round pick this year, Barnes has shown incredible polish in his debut. Through 53 games, he's hitting a very respectable .294 with 11 doubles, one home run and 17 RBI.
He's scored 31 runs, stolen six bases and posted a very strong 25-to-22 BB:K ratio. His average ranks first on the team among players with more than 26 games under their belt.
On defense, Barnes has been solid as well.
The Astros passed on Texas Longhorn Taylor Jungmann, who was projected to go to Houston in some mock drafts, and instead went after rangy, power-hitting George Springer.
They made up for going with a hitter first by selecting a pitcher with their next four picks, the last of which came in the form of Stony Brook right-hander Nick Tropeano.
Tropeano had a solid campaign for SBU, earning America East Pitcher of the Year honors and worked his way up to the fifth round. He signed less than two weeks after the draft and went right to work in the New York-Penn League.
Pitching strictly as a starter, Tropeano has posted an even 2-2 record, but that doesn't begin to describe how good he's been. He's held batters to a .217 average and posted a 2.61 ERA in 11 starts. His K:BB ratio of 56-to-19 is one of the best in the league.
And he's only served up one home run in 48.1 innings.
The 21-year-old has given up just two earned runs in his past five starts, spanning 23 innings.
It's not often that an undrafted free-agent signings have much of an impact. Yeah, occasionally a George Sherrill pops up every now and again, but most of the players who begin their careers in that way fail to make it past Double-A.
That is exactly what makes DelGuidice's torrid start to his career such a shock. The sparkplug from Florida Atlantic has jumped out to one of the best starts of any draft-eligible player to sign this year. Through 48 combined contests, he's hitting .402 with 22 doubles, two triples, four home runs and 33 RBI. He's also scored 40 runs and struck out just 19 times in 174 at-bats.
DelGuidice was a record-setting player at FAU, once recording nine RBI in a game back in 2010 but failed to attract any team's attention. Luckily, the Royals were there to sign him to a contract and less than two months after not being drafted, they were witness to him being named the Arizona League Player of the Month.
Shortly after winning that award, the Royals bumped up the 21-year-old, who doesn't even have a photo on his MiLB.com profile page, to the Pioneer League, where he's continued his streak, hitting .388 with nine RBI in just 14 games.
Cron was off to as hot a start as any prospect from the 2011 draft, hitting .308 with 13 homers and 41 RBI in just 34 contests, before landing awkwardly on his leg during the follow through on his swing.
The tumble resulted in a dislocated kneecap and ended his season prematurely.
Cron already was scheduled to have offseason surgery on his shoulder.
Twelfth-rounder O'Koyea Dickson is having a tremendous campaign, slugging 10 homers while hitting .339, but the real story, the most inspiring one belongs to 38th-rounder Devin Shines, a stocky outfielder from Oklahoma State who has taken the Arizona League by storm.
The 21-year-old is hitting .319 for L.A.'s AZL squad, and he's pacing the squad in base-hits (67), home runs (four), walks (24) and steals (13) and ranks second in total bases (97).
Before spending one season at OSU, Shines shined (pun intended) at San Jacinto Junior College.
Everywhere he's been, he's made himself known for solid all-around play, especially on defense, where he occasionally makes plays like the one above.
Ramirez carried over the momentum from his final season at Cal State-Fullerton into the professional ranks with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Assigned to the rookie Pioneer League, Ramirez tore the circuit apart, hitting .369 with nine doubles, eight home runs and 30 RBI in just 23 games. He posted a slugging percentage of nearly .700 and was twice awarded as the league's Player of the Week.
His impressive performance earned him a promotion to the more challenging Midwest League, where the 21-year-old has hit a bit of a wall. In 31 contests, he's managed just 23 hits and has a paltry .197 average. He's still managed to drive in 21 runs, but you can tell he's either overmatched or tired from a long year.
The "other" guy in the Oregon Ducks rotation, behind Tyler Anderson, Madison Boer put together a fine season for the Ducks (2.27 ERA, 74 Ks, three saves), and then, took his game to the professional ranks after being tabbed in the second round by Minnesota.
The right-hander has pitched strictly in relief and was nearly un-hittable in the Appalachian League, posting a 2.60 ERA, while striking out 31 batters (and walking just two) in 17.1 innings. He posted nine saves for Elizabethton, before earning a promotion to the Midwest League.
There, Boer has been hitting a bit harder than expected. He's managed to lock down two saves, but he's done so in harrowing fashion. Batters are hitting .357 off of him, and his ERA has skyrocketed to 9.00, leaving him with a combined 4.24 ERA for the season.
Boer was much better in relief at Oregon, so it wouldn't be a total shock if the Twins kept him in the 'pen, but considering they are one of the best organizations at refining pitching talent, they might try to make a starter out of him.
Most of the Mets high-profile draft picks signed too late to make much of an impact this year, but 18th-rounder Travis Taijeron signed a little more than a week after the draft, allowing him to get in almost half a season's worth of play.
Despite playing in just 52 games, the 21-year-old has been one of the Mets top performers this year. His .311 average ranks third on the Mets New York-Penn League squad, while he leads the team with eight home runs and 43 RBI.
Before turning pro, Taijeron played for Cal Poly Pomona. His power comes as no surprise seeing as how he was a record-setting home run hitter for the Broncos.
The Yankees have to be thrilled with the early returns they've gotten from Bichette, the son of the former slugger with the same name.
Through 52 games, the 18-year old has hit to the tune of a .342/.446/.505 line. He's hit only three home runs, but has been an RBI machine, driving in 47 runs. He's shown an advanced eye at the plate, drawing 30 walks.
During July, Bichette was hitting at a torrid pace. In addition to his .418 average, he drove in 25 runs and scored 22 in just 23 contests.
He ranks first in the GCL in RBI and doubles (17), second in the average and total bases (99) and third in walks.
The former Vanderbilt ace has made just four starts for the A's this year, three of which have come at Double-A Midland, but the results have been so encouraging that there's talk that the diminutive right-hander could force his way into the big-league rotation by next spring.
Gray has posted a 14-to-2 K:BB ratio in 13.1 innings, spanning four shortened starts, including one in the Arizona League, where Gray surrendered his only earned run of the year. At Midland, he's been sensational, surrendering only nine hits while racking up 12 Ks and only two walks in 11.1 innings.
While they don't want to pile on to an already impressive workload, the team has tried to stretch him out a bit, with his most recent start of five innings his longest since signing with Oakland.
Wright was drafted out of Chipola JC back in 2010 by the Red Sox, but the burly lefty decided to forgo the offer and attend Ole Miss for a season before entering back into the draft fray. The season wasn't exactly the biggest success, but it did provide Wright with immeasurable experience.
He improved his standing enough and was selected by Philadelphia in the eighth round. He signed quickly and was assigned to the New York-Penn League, where he quickly proved advanced for the level.
In eight appearances, including seven starts, Wright struck out 44 batters in 34.2 innings. In addition, he held batters to a .231 average, surrendered just one earned run and tossed a complete-game.
After witnessing him destroy NYPL batters for more than a month, the organization challenged him with a promotion to the South Atlantic League, where he's been just as solid, posting a 1.80 ERA over five starts. He's posted a 26-to-7 K:BB ratio and has held batters to a similar .247 average.
Combined, Wright is 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59.2 innings. I'd be surprised if he didn't start 2012 in High-A ball.
Arguably the best feel-good story on this list, Jonathan Schwind barely got drafted. He slipped all the way to the 41st round and the 1,232nd overall selection, where the Pirates happily scooped up the athletic utility player from Marist College in New York.
If anything, Schwind has used the motivation that often comes with being a late-round selection to his advantage and has been the hottest hitter on his squad—the rookie Gulf Coast League Pirates. Through 38 games, he's hitting .347 with 14 doubles, two triples, four homers and 25 RBI.
An all-around gamer who played third base, second base, first base, center field, right field and shortstop, Schwind is trying out catcher for the Pirates.
If he can't handle those duties, they have no doubts that he could handle any other position on the diamond.
Wong came into the 2011 college season widely regarded as one of the finest hitters in the nation. He solidified that belief with arguably his best season and ended up as a first-round draft pick.
Since signing with the Cardinals for $1.3 million, the diminutive infielder has torn up the Midwest League to the tune of a .326/.387/.494 line. He's rapped 13 doubles, legged out two triples and slugged four home runs. He's driven in 20 runs and scored 32 of his own in just 41 contests.
He's shown above-average plate discipline, drawing 17 walks to just 22 strikeouts and has looked very seasoned on the base-paths, where he's swiped six bases.
During August, Wong was especially hot, hitting .417.
Spangenberg was one of the first players selected in the first round to agree to terms, and that enabled him to get a ton of extra work in.
He began his professional career in the Northwest League, with Eugene. He tore the cover off the ball there, to the tune of a .384/.545/.535 line and earned a subsequent promotion to full-season ball. In 41 games for Midwest League Fort Wayne, Spangenberg has looked up to the task.
His average has dipped, to .273, but he's been a catalyst at the top of the TinCaps lineup, scoring 31 runs while driving in 20 of his own. The epic plate discipline that he showed in rookie ball (31-to-15 BB:K) has reversed itself (11-to-35 BB:K), but he's managed to make up for that a bit by being a terror when he does get on base. He has 14 steals with Fort Wayne, giving him 24 for the season.
Combined, he's hitting .311 with 16 doubles, three home runs and 40 RBI. He's posted a 42-to-50 BB:K ratio and has a very healthy .417 on-base percentage.
If memory serves me correct, Giants first-rounder Joe Panik was the first player from that round to agree to a deal.
Since signing, he's set out to prove that his game will translate quite nicely to the pro ranks, and he's making a great case so far. Through 66 games, he's hitting .335, second-best on his short-season squad and also second in the Northwest League. His six home runs rank him in the top 10 in the NWL, while his 52 RBI paces the circuit as do his 87 base hits and 49 runs scored.
Panik was an offensive juggernaut at St. John's this past season so the outburst isn't surprising for the 20-year-old. He has also provided solid defense for Salem-Keizer.
With the departure of Zack Wheeler, Panik could very easily slip his way up to No. 2 in the Giants' overall prospect rankings by the end of the season.
After quietly building some momentum, UAB outfielder Jamal Austin exploded onto the draft scene in 2011, hitting .351 with 26 steals.
During his junior campaign, he built a reputation as being incredibly hard to strike out and menacing on the basepaths. Since signing with Seattle as the team's 13th-round selection, Austin has shown all of those same traits as a pro.
In just 55 games, he's already up to 20 steals. He's continued to hit for average, with his .335 number pacing Pulaski. He's never been a heavy hitter, and as such, he has only eight extra-base hits, none of which are home runs and just 13 RBI. He does, however, have 35 runs and a 22-to-21 BB:K ratio.
For all of the attention that the Rays got for having 12 selections in the first two rounds, it's their 11th-rounder who has had the best debut so far.
Cameron Seitzer, formerly of the University of Oklahoma, has put on a hitting clinic in the Appalachian League, hitting .276 with 14 doubles, 11 home runs and 41 RBI in 63 games. He ranks near the top of the league boards in doubles, homers and RBI and paces the circuit with 42 walks.
At OU, Seitzer hit .329 for his career. He slugged 24 home runs, 16 of which came during his sophomore campaign. He hit a career-best .358 last season, although his home run total dropped all the way to four, another victim of the new college bats.
He was named to the All-Big 12 second team.
After struggling for two years at Dartmouth (yes...that Dartmouth), right-hander Kyle Hendricks finally put together a solid campaign, posting a 2.47 ERA in nine starts, while striking out 70 batters in just 62 innings, while walking only 11. Four of his nine starts ended with him still on the mound, aka a complete game.
For his efforts, Hendricks was voted Ivy League Pitcher of the Week three times and was named to the All-Conference first team.
That, and a pretty decent scouting report, was enough to get the Rangers attention. They followed him all spring and selected him in the eighth round this past June. They signed him within a week of the draft and put him to work in the Northwest League, where for the first time he's pitched solely in relief.
In 19 outings, covering 30.2 innings, Hendricks has been extremely effective, racking up 34 punchouts, compared to just two walks. He's given up only 19 hits, good for an opponent's average of .171. His ERA is at 2.05, and he's yet to surrender a home run.
If I had to guess, Hendricks will likely go back to starting next spring, with an outside shot at earning a spot on the Low-A roster.
It's hard to find a hitter with better credentials than Pillar, who set the NCAA Division II hitting streak at 54 games in a row during his junior season. He also set many other records during his four-year run at Cal State Dominguez-Hills. During his senior season, he hit .369 and finally managed to catch the attention of a few scouts.
The Blue Jays took notice and drafted Pillar in the 32nd round. They immediately assigned him to their new affiliate, Bluefield, in the Appalachian League to see if he was the real deal, and you have to figure they've been impressed.
Pillar has been one of the best hitters in the league, hitting .347 through 60 games. He's been a doubles machine, racking up 17 and has shown some decent pop, slugging seven home runs. He's shown great speed too, legging out three triples and stealing eight bases.
The real key for Pillar's development will be improving his plate discipline. He's had a long season, but a 10-to-36 BB:K ratio for a 21-year-old playing in the Appy League isn't quite up to snuff.
Drafted one year and a few rounds after his younger brother Jake, playing for Texas, Matt Skole has proven very adept at making the transition to the pro ranks.
After a successful, albeit non-explosive, career at Georgia Tech, Skole signed with the Nats after being tabbed in the fifth round. He was immediately sent to the New York-Penn League where he set to work destroying NYPL pitching.
Through 67 contests, he's hitting .290 with five homers and a league-leading 46 RBI. He's rapped 20 doubles, tied for fourth in the circuit and also ranks near the top with 41 walks. He's the owner of one of the best BB:K ratios (41-to-50) as well.
Skole has definitely proved himself worthy of starting in full-season ball in 2012.