Compensatory picks offer second chances
Rangers, Rays get extra first-rounders for unsigned draftees
While it's true that there's really no such thing as a so-called do-over in professional sports, the First-Year Player Draft might provide the closest thing to one.
It's a relatively new wrinkle, one that first was put into use a year ago. The 2009 Draft was the first in which teams were compensated for unsigned draftees from the first three rounds of the previous year's Draft.
Last year's first round had two extra selections as a result: The Nationals had the No. 10 pick (officially, it was No. 9A) because they didn't sign Aaron Crow following the 2008 Draft, and the Yankees were given the No. 29 selection for not coming to terms with Gerrit Cole. A team never wants to see a Draft pick go unsigned, but Washington getting Drew Storen and New York selecting Slade Heathcott weren't bad re-dos.
This year, it will be the Rangers' and Rays' turn to get second chances when the Draft begins on June 7. Texas selected local high school product Matthew Purke with the 14th overall pick last June, but a combination of reported exorbitant bonus demands and the Rangers' ongoing ownership situation led Purke to go to Texas Christian University instead of joining the Rangers' system. He'll be a Draft-eligible sophomore in 2011.
"We certainly expected to sign him when we took him," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "Circumstances with the ownership change after the Draft -- that changed between the Draft and the signing deadline -- the parameters changed. That's how we got to that spot to begin with. We're still dealing with some level of ambiguity now, but at least we know that going in, and we will act accordingly."
Acting accordingly doesn't necessarily mean playing it overly safe. The Rangers are aware that if they don't sign the player taken with this pick, there will be no compensation pick in 2011. But it won't, said Daniels, dictate who they select at No. 15 overall.
"Our philosophy is still the same: to take the best player -- as defined by our scouts -- on the board when we pick," said Daniels, who's club also has its regular first-round pick at No. 22. "Obviously, it's a little different scenario. As the rules are, it's a use-it-or-lose-it situation.
"We're going to take the best player, but you have to have an even higher degree of confidence [that] you're going to the sign the player you take there."
The Rays didn't sign LeVon Washington, their selection at No. 30. He opted to go to Chipola Junior College in Florida, and he will again be eligible for selection this year. As a result, Tampa Bay has pick No. 31 in addition to its No. 17 pick. "We're going to do it based on a multitude of factors like we will at pick 17," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "There is an added wrinkle at 31, but not so much as to compromise our evaluation process. I'm very optimistic we'll be able to agree to terms with pick No. 31.
"Our success rate on signing players has been very high. Our guys do a great job of doing their homework in advance and putting [scouting director] R.J. Harrison in position to understand the tools, as well as the player's desire, to play pro ball. I imagine it will be more of a conversation, but I don't see it impacting us in more of a meaningful way."
While the success of the Yankees' mulligan last year is probably years away from being able to be evaluated -- Heathcott is a toolsy high school outfielder who will likely take a while to reach New York -- the Nationals seem to have hit the jackpot when it came to their compensation pick. While Stephen Strasburg has been getting most of the attention down on the farm, Storen hasn't exactly been a slouch. The Stanford product and closer of the future got to Triple-A ahead of Strasburg and has a combined 1.23 ERA in 11 relief outings this year.
Storen signed quickly and got a head start on most other draftees on his pro career. As a college reliever, he's also the type who should -- and, to his credit, has -- moved quickly through a system. Considering the use-it-or-lose-it situation, as Daniels put it, it might behoove the two teams doing it this year to follow the same path.
"Washington clearly had a plan going in and got a guy that fit that for them," Daniels said. "If that same scenario presented itself, I couldn't rule it out. We're not averse to taking a player that's going to take a little longer if that's the right player for us. I wouldn't assume we'll take a guy just because he'll move quickly."
"It's a very different situation, picking in very different spots," Friedman said. "It's more of staying consistent with the way we approach the Draft. We're optimistic we're going to add a good player at that pick."
Both teams have learned something through the process. Neither team wanted to lose the player it selected last June, just like the Nationals undoubtedly would have liked to have Crow and the Yankees, Cole. But these teams -- along with some that were compensated for unsigned second- and third-round picks -- also now understand that perhaps it's OK to avoid blinking when up against the signing deadline, giving clubs a touch more leverage.
"Same-slot compensation provides you a tail of value outside of just the pick," Friedman said. "But it's never the optimal outcome. It's a factor in the event we're unable to reach an agreement.
"That's the case in every pick we make the first three rounds. It's in the back of your mind. It's there and we certainly factor it in the decision-making process."
"You know you have that option," Daniels said. "You never want to go in exercising that option. They talk about the time value of money; there's a time value of prospects, too. The sooner you get a guy into your system, the sooner he gets through your system, the faster he's ready to contribute. You prefer not to defer Draft picks to future years, but it certainly defeats losing them."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.