The MLB Draft process is vastly unlike its counterparts in the other four major sports, and today serves as yet another example of this. While NFL first rounders haggle over bonuses, we all know they're going to sign eventually -- but with baseball, it's very much an open question. The focus of the prospecting world will be on Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and the like, to see whether they even sign and how much of a bonus they get if they do, but every team is working feverishly to get as many draftees signed as possible.
If you're familiar at all with the draft, then you know that the commissioner's office promulgates a recommended slotting system for all draft picks, and prefers teams to hold off on announcing above slot deals until the days leading up to the deadline. This creates a mad rush of signing news in mid-August, as one look at the Fanshots on MLB Bonus Baby will show.
The Phillies have already been active, as MLB Trade Rumors reported last night that the club agreed to deals with 28th round outfielder Brian Pointer for $350K, and 21st round right hander Jonathan Musser for $300K. I'm planning a full draft writeup in the next few days, and I'll address those two in more detail at that point. For now, the focus shifts to 5th rounder Scott Frazier, and I personally hold out some hope for 20th rounder Kevin Walter.
In honor of this joyous occasion, I'm using this week's prospect roundup to highlight bonus babies from years past. Check below the jump to see the Phillies' top four prospects, some toolshed outfielders, and some projectable right handed pitchers.
Domonic Brown, OF-L, Philadelphia: 20th round, 2006, $200K bonus. Dom finally earned his first walk last Wednesday, and was promptly rewarded by being shuttled off to the bench when Shane Victorino returned from the disabled list. Count me in the school of thought that maintains Dom would benefit from everyday at bats for the remainder of the Triple-A season, and can reassume his role as 4th outfielder extraordinaire (in preparation for an everyday job in 2011) when the IronPigs' season ends in early September.
Jarred Cosart, RHP, Lakewood: 38th round, 2008, $550K bonus. Cosart was officially shut down for the season a week-and-a-half back, and the "err on the side of caution" approach is certainly a prudent one in the case of any lingering elbow soreness. That speed bump aside, it's impossible to classify 2010 as anything but a rousing success for the Texas flamethrower, as his 9.7 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.38 HR/9, 55.6% GB and 2.47 FIP highlight what a dominant campaign it was for Cosart. If Dom somehow accumulates 130 at bats this year, Cosart is likely to assume his place as top Phillies prospect in most offseason prospect rankings.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B-L, Lakewood: 8th round, 2009, $200K bonus. It's been a rough second half for the young slugger, as a .239/.341/.350 performance after the All-Star break has dragged his season line down from the stratosphere. Before the pendulum of prospectnik opinion swings too far the other direction, however, consider a few things: (1) even during his slump, he's controlled the strike zone well (12.6% BB, 17.2% K); (2) he's still the subject of glowing scouting reports; and (3) he doesn't turn 19 until next month.
Brody Colvin, RHP, Lakewood: 7th round, 2009, $900K bonus. Colvin was the highest regarded draftee on this list, as he was considered a borderline first round talent who fell to the 7th round only for signability reasons. His first full season of pro ball has been an excellent one, with solid peripherals (8.0 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 0.52 HR/9, 47.3% GB) adding up to an impressive 3.33 FIP. Colvin might find his way onto some offseason Top 100 lists, making this look like $900,000 well spent by the Phillies.
Jiwan James, OF-S, Lakewood: 22nd round, 2007, $150K bonus. James' second half performance -- he's hit .325/.374/.391 since the All-Star break -- is certainly a positive indicator, but as it's come without great improvement in plate discipline (6.2% BB, 21.3% K) or a power surge (just 10 XBH and a .066 ISO), it shouldn't cause us to revise our assessment all that much. It's just his first full season as a hitter, so James is still understandably raw, but as Mike Newman from Scouting the Sally mentioned in an interview with Phuture Phillies, "the clock continues to tick and he has plenty of catching up to do."
Colby Shreve, RHP, Lakewood: 6th round, 2008, $400K bonus. 2010 has been a success for Shreve in that he's remained healthy after finally getting back onto the field (a full two years after Tommy John surgery forced him to the sidelines). The numbers have, however, been something of a mixed bag. Five no hit innings yesterday lowered Shreve's FIP to 3.69, a number achieved mostly on the basis of solid control (2.5 BB/9); but the strikeout numbers are just okay (6.5 K/9), and he hasn't shown anything approaching extreme ground ball tendencies (39.4% GB). Scouting reports back in April had Shreve's stuff a bit shorter than it had been in his junior college days, so while it seems prudent to wait for updated reports (and to give him year 2 post-TJ to work out the kinks), there are at least some questions about what Shreve's upside is going forward.
Kyrell Hudson, OF-R, Williamsport: 3rd round, 2009, $475 bonus. I'll take the blame for the massive jinx I laid on Hudson by pointing out his 4-to-4 walk-to-strikeout ratio back at the end of June -- the erstwhile Oregon State football recruit has posted a 1-to-30 (!) walk-to-strikeout ratio since then en route to a .193/.223/.229 season line. Game reports have him looking great in center field, but predictably lost at the plate.
Aaron Altherr, OF-R, Williamsport: 9th round, 2009, $150K bonus. Altherr didn't skip a beat after promotion to Williamsport a month ago, going 9-for-27 before missing two weeks after an outfield collision. Altherr's 6-to-26 walk-to-strikeout ratio is a red flag, but he's still managed to hit .310/.344/.401 across two levels. I'll use the rest of this space as a brief opportunity to get on my soapbox. The real difference between Altherr and Hudson is in where they were drafted. Great athletes with limited baseball skills are there to be nabbed later on, as Altherr and Brown and James demonstrate -- but popping them early (as in the case of Hudson or, say, Anthony Hewitt) deprives the club of a chance to select more established talent at that point. It's a general drafting philosophy that I think the Phillies could benefit from: bust slot later to get your toolsheds, and grab more polished players (either college or high school) earlier on.
Steven Inch, RHP, GCL Phillies: 6th round, 2009, $300K bonus. The Canadian right hander was the best high school arm (non-Colvin division) that the Phillies signed last year, but he's sat out all of 2010 with an apparent injury. I liked the brief scouting reports I was able to get my hands on, with Andy Seiler noting that Inch demonstrates "projectability with good pitchability, an excellent combination." Assuming he's able to return to the bump next year, Inch will still only be 20 years old, and he'll have plenty of time to make good on the bonus the organization handed him last year.
Julian Sampson, RHP, Williamsport: 12th round, 2007, $390K bonus. Sampson was the big prize on 2007 deadline day, and had a profile reminiscent of Trevor May's at that point -- i.e. a big Northwest right hander loaded with projection. It's been a struggle for the Washington native, however, as his career 5.33 ERA and middling peripherals (5.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9) attest. Sent to the bullpen this year in hopes of jump-starting his career, Sampson has managed to get his peripherals in line (27:6 K:BB in 26.0 IP), but he's been hittable (.351 BAA) to an extent that even a .438 BABIP can't fully explain. Value process over result, though -- Sampson's $390,000 bonus was still money well spent for the Phillies. As a wiser fellow than myself once said, sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you.