Signing deadline looms for top draft picks

August, 15, 2011
Tonight at 11:59 p.m. ET is the deadline for major league clubs to sign their 2011 draft picks. Of the 53 selections the Red Sox made in June, only 21 have signed. More importantly, Boston’s top four picks -- RHP Matt Barnes, C Blake Swihart, LHP Henry Owens and OF Jackie Bradley Jr. -- remain unsigned, along with four other players selected by the Red Sox in the top 10 rounds. It’s expected that the Red Sox will lock up most of the big-name draft picks before the deadline, but that’s far from a lock.

Here’s a status update heading into tonight’s deadline:

Draftees who have signed: OF Williams Jerez (2nd round), C Jordan Weems (3rd), LHP Miguel Pena (6th), 3B Travis Shaw (9th), OF Cody Koback (10th), LHP Kevin Brahney (11th), RHP Matty Ott (13th), RHP Mike McCarthy (14th), RHP Braden Kapteyn (15th), RHP Andrew Jones (18th), LHP Zach Good (20th), RHP Joe Holtmeyer (22nd), OF Drew Turocy (24th), RHP Brenden Shepard (28th), 3B Nick Moore (30th), 1B David Chester (33rd), C Carlos Coste (35th), RHP Corey Vogt (39th), OF Matt Marquis (41st), 3B Matt Gedman (45th) and RHP Jadd Schmeltzer (49th).

All of these players have started their careers in the NY-Penn League with the Lowell Spinners or in rookie ball with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, many getting almost two months of experience in the professional ranks at this point.

One point of note is that the club has spent only about $1.6 million in bonus money on these 21 picks, leaving the club with lots of room in the budget -- perhaps up to another $9 million -- to spend on the high draft selections. For comparison, Boston’s approximate draft budgets in recent years are as follows: $10.6 million in 2010, $7.1 million in 2009, $10.5 million in 2008, $4.8 million in 2007, $8.4 million in 2006, $6.6 million in 2005, $3.8 million in 2004 and $5.5 million in 2003. The Red Sox may eclipse all of those marks this year, considering the talent still left unsigned, while keeping in mind that mandatory signing bonus slotting may be part of the draft process going forward in a new collective bargaining agreement.

Boston has a solid history of locking up all of its high picks -- the club has failed to sign only five picks from the top 10 rounds dating back to 2003: 9th-round pick Tyler Barnette in 2010, 6th-round pick Branden Kline in 2009, 2nd-round pick Hunter Morris in 2007, 10th-round pick Kyle Snyder in 2006 and 10th-round pick Steve Pearce in 2004. Given that history, it would be surprising if the Red Sox let any of the big names walk, and as such I’m projecting that the following players will sign before tonight’s deadline:

1st round (19th overall) -- Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut: The commissioner’s slot recommendation for the 19th overall pick is $1,386,000. Look for the Sox to lock up the right-hander out of UConn for somewhere in the $1.5 million range.

1st round (26) -- Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland HS (N.M.): Swihart is one of the most highly-regarded catchers in this year’s draft class. While slot for his draft position is roughly $1.2 million, it’s expected to take at least double that to buy Swihart out of his strong commitment to the University of Texas. This one should come down to the wire, but I expect the Red Sox to seal the deal before midnight.

1st supp. (36) -- Henry Owens, LHP, Edison HS (Calif.): A wiry lefty committed to the University of Miami, Owens is expected to sign for somewhere in the $1 million range.

1st supp. (40) -- Jackie Bradley, Jr, OF, South Carolina: Bradley was in Boston for a physical earlier this week, but also made some public overtones that he wanted to return to South Carolina to complete a three-peat of the College World Series. It might be tough to turn down a $1 million offer from the Red Sox though, especially as he’d have a lot less leverage next year heading into the draft as a senior.

4th round (142) -- Noe Ramirez, RHP, Cal State Fullerton: Ramirez was also in Boston for a physical this past week, and it’s believed that the club and player already have a deal worked out in principle, with the final details to be finalized today.

7th round (232) -- Cody Kukuk, LHP, Lawrence Free State HS (Kan.): The left-hander has drawn comparisons to Jon Lester, and has reportedly demanded $1 million to forego his commitment to Kansas. He could get close to that from Boston.

8th round (262) -- Senquez Golson, OF, Pascagoula HS (Miss.): A two-sport athlete committed to Ole Miss for football and baseball, Golson has been practicing with the football team after declaring that he had no intention of signing with Boston back in June. However, the Sox upped their offer significantly in the past few days, and Golson skipped out on football practice to fly to Boston to take a physical earlier today. It’s believed that there is a deal in principle, with a few kinks that need to be worked out before tonight’s deadline.

29th round (892) -- Matt Spalding, RHP, St. Xavier HS (Kent.): It’s been reported that Spalding agreed to terms on a $275,000 bonus over the weekend, foregoing a full scholarship to Western Kentucky, but the deal has yet to be announced.

The following draftees are still in play, but their status remains up in the air:

5th round (172) -- Mookie Betts, SS, John Overton HS (Tenn.): An infielder committed to Tennessee, Betts reportedly already rejected an offer from Boston for $300,000, which is more than double the slot recommendation for his draft position. It’s unclear whether he’s taken a physical with Boston. While it would be a surprise for the Sox to miss out on a fifth-round pick, it appears that this signing will come down to the wire. His signing appears to be the most up-in-the-air of any Boston draft pick.

27th round (832) -- Alex Massey, RHP, Catholic HS (Lou.): A late-round pick with a projectable low-90s fastball and decent secondary stuff for his age, Massey is committed to Tulane. He could be a low-bonus signing.

34th round (1042) -- Ben Dartnell, LHP, Vauxhall HS (Canada): One of the top Canadian players in this year’s draft, Dartnell missed his junior season and some of his senior season with a broken elbow. However, he came back and posted solid results later in his senior campaign, impressing scouts in the process. He’s also a die-hard Red Sox fan, which makes him a possible last-minute signing.

46th round (1402) -- Mac Williamson, OF, Wake Forest: A draft-eligible sophomore, Williamson made an outstanding showing in summer ball this year, which reportedly caught Boston’s interest, causing the club to give the outfielder a solid bonus offer. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, he has a lot of leverage, having the opportunity to enter the draft again next year and make even more money.

In addition to the above three players, RHP Blake Forslund (17th round), LHP Jarret Brown (23rd), OF Robert Youngdahl (37th) and RHP David Sosebee (48th) remain as outside shots to be signed, but I’d list than more in the “doubtful” category.

The following players are highly unlikely to sign, and some even have expressly indicated that they are bypassing the pro ranks to head to college this fall: RHP Deshorn Lake (12th), RHP Daniel Gossett (16th), 1B Sikes Orvis (19th), INF Austin Davidson (21st), 1B Taylor Ard (25th), RHP Cody Dill (26th), OF Tyler Wells (31st), SS Julis Gaines (32nd), RHP Jace Herrera (36th), RHP Tyler Poole (38th), LHP Jordan Gross (40th), 3B Derek Odell (42nd), OF Brandon Downes (43rd), C Matt Martin (44th), SS Sam Wolf (47th), RHP John Gorman (50th).



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