Snakebit 2014 No.1 Brady Aiken Finds Great 2nd Chance Opportunity with Indians

Anthony Witrado@@awitradoFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2015

perfectgame.org

Brady Aiken is again a first-round Major League Baseball draft pick after the Cleveland Indians selected him 17th overall Monday, 16 spots lower than the left-handed prep pitcher was drafted a year ago.

Aiken was the first player taken in the 2014 draft, celebrated as another high-ceiling pick by a Houston Astros franchise loaded with them after years of selections near the top of the draft. But the entire situation turned contentious, and more than a month after he was chosen to be part of the Astros organization, Aiken turned down a $5 million signing bonus and opted to pitch at the IMG Academy so he could re-enter this year's MLB draft.

The decision turned out to be costly in both time and money. Aiken made only 13 pitches for IMG before suffering an elbow ligament injury that led to Tommy John surgery in March, causing him to fall in this draft as he likely won't be able to pitch until next spring/summer.

@DAVIDprice14 appreciate the support

— Brady Aiken (@bradyaiken10) June 9, 2015

Because of MLB's slotting system, the 17th overall pick carries a value of just more than $2 million. However, because he can't pitch until next year it is reasonable to assume the Indians won't shell out quite that much. Aiken also lacks the same leverage he had last year when a scholarship to UCLA or the prep school option awaited him if he did not sign.

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That means Aiken's decision not to sign with the Astros last summer will cost him around $3 million, and possibly more.

The slot value for the 17th pick: $2,393,600, less than half of what Houston offered Brady Aiken last year.

— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 9, 2015

While the choice might be a regrettable hit to his bank account, the Indians have a recent reputation for being kind to young arms and developing them into major league weapons. Their current rotation boasts 20-something pitchers Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber, who spent more than four seasons in the minor leagues before eventually becoming the American League's 2014 Cy Young Award winner.

That is the kind of grouping that will allow the 18-year-old Aiken to recover and develop in the minors without the Indians having to rush him to the big leagues.

For Cleveland, it is a value pick. Aiken was seen as a potential if not probable frontline arm with a fastball that got into the upper 90s. Given the numerous pitchers who have had and recovered from Tommy John surgery, he still projects to be that kind of talent.

@aarongeye8 @eszczepinski2 Comebacks from TJ are pretty common and successful now. I'd be more concerned if it were a shoulder surgery.

— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 9, 2015

In the meantime, being redrafted at No. 17 will give him relative shade from the spotlight as he sheds the label of former No. 1 overall pick and becomes Cleveland's next best pitching prospect.

"Since last summer, a lot of people have wondered how I could have turned down a multimillion-dollar signing bonus after being picked first in the draft," Aiken wrote for the Players' Tribune in March. "Now, I know they'll probably be wondering about it again. I can honestly say I don't regret not signing."

Aiken also said he and his family prepared for "all the possible outcomes" of him turning down the Astros, and one of them was undoubtedly significant injury since the elbow problem did not come out of nowhere.

The Astros and Aiken agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus last year, which was $1.5 million below slot value but still tied for the highest ever given to a high school pitcher. But after Aiken's physical, the team discovered he had an abnormality with his ulnar collateral ligament, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Astros rescinded the bonus offer and came back with the $5 million proposal. Aiken's advisor, agent Casey Close, was furious.

"We are extremely disappointed that Major League Baseball is allowing the Astros to conduct business in this manner with a complete disregard for the rules governing the draft and the 29 other clubs who have followed those same rules," Close told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

MLB responded by saying it believed the Astros acted within the rules and ultimately gave the franchise a compensation pick—No. 2 overall in Monday's draft—after they failed to sign Aiken by the July 18 deadline.

Nearly a year later, the Astros are a playoff contender who should be at or near the top of the AL West standings for the next decade. And Aiken has a new professional organization welcoming him with open arms.

The Indians still do not look like a playoff team, but it is not because of their pitching. The rotation ranks first in the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (10.11) and was tied for third in Fangraphs WAR (6.3) at the time they drafted Aiken.

As he develops in the minors, the Indians can do the same with their major league roster. That way, by the time Aiken is ready to be an impact arm, their competitiveness, along with his, will be the story.

Not a decision he made a year ago, nor its consequences.

All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired first-hand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.