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Draft Day 2: Chances for clubs to gamble, win

Draft Day 2: Chances for clubs to gamble, win

PHILADELPHIA -- The opening night of the Draft gets the glitz, the bright lights, the national TV audience, the dignitaries. The first round is where the big prospects, the future stars, are supposed to be taken.

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Of course, it doesn't always work that way. That's when the real fun begins.

On Day 2 of the Draft, after those top 50 picks go off the board, all 30 teams' scouting staffs hunker down for a 28-round marathon, followed by 20 more rounds on Wednesday. It's a time for scouts to really shine, as most will say that finding a big leaguer in the later stages of the Draft fills them with as much, if not more pride, then finding big-time talent in the first round.

Adding to the intrigue in the later rounds are the players who were expected to go on Monday -- at least based on talent. The signability factor can come into play, sending elite players into the later rounds because of bonus demands.

"The first pick is the one that gets all the attention," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "But it's Day 2 and 3 that make the overall depth and impact of your Draft. For us to be successful, we need multiple big leaguers out of our Draft."

The Pirates are among several teams that have been more aggressive, in recent seasons, later on in the Draft, taking chances on "tough signs" and bringing much-needed talent into the system as a result. This year was no different, and it started just three picks into the second round.

St. Edward (Ohio.) High School right-hander Stetson Allie is a first-round talent in nearly every book, a fireballing pitcher who has hit triple-digits at times on the radar gun. But when buzz began spreading that he was looking for a bonus well above slot, he slid out of the first night's festivities and was left for the Pirates to scoop up at the very beginning of Day 2.

"We were surprised," said Huntington, whose Pirates are looking at several other Day 2 picks that will require some extra negotiations to get signed. "We thought that Stetson would go in the first round. When he was available to us at 52, because of the resources given us, [we were] able to select him. While it will be a challenging sign, we're optimistic."

The Pirates, of course, didn't invent the wheel here. Several teams took shots with signability picks over the course of the 29 rounds completed on Tuesday. The Boston Red Sox have nearly perfected the strategy, using their resources to select, and often sign, players who seemed unsignable.

Having already taken Anthony Ranaudo, who may not be the simplest sign, in Compensation Round A on Monday, the Red Sox continued being aggressive as Day 2 began. First up was University of Texas right-hander Brandon Workman, who reportedly wanted first-round money as he slid out of it. Next came Sean Coyle, the Eastern Pennsylvania high school infielder, who will need an over-slot bonus to sign him away from playing with his brother at the University of North Carolina.

The pick after that was Georgia prep infielder Garin Cecchini. He may have been considered a first-round talent, had he played at all this spring. Cecchini tore his ACL and didn't play at all. But the LSU recruit is still well regarded, and it was circulated that he would need $1.75 million to not head to Baton Rouge. Whether the Red Sox sign all these players remains to be seen, but they do have a pretty good track record.

Perhaps the most intriguing slider is Austin Wilson. The California high school outfielder is considered to have one of the better packages of tools in the class, a player who, one day, could develop into the prototypical right fielder. He also comes from a family that deeply respects education and Wilson has a commitment to Stanford University that many feel will be impossible to lure him from.

"I've heard people say, 'Austin Wilson is going to college,'" Wilson told MLB.com in March. "That's not true at all. I don't know where that comes from. I feel that people, once I signed with Stanford, they said, 'I don't think he wants to play pro baseball.' That's always been one of my dreams. Stanford has great academics and great baseball. It's a way I can excel both ways. I hope people can respect that."

The St. Louis Cardinals clearly did their homework, however, when they decided to take a shot and take Wilson in the 12th round, about 350, or so, picks later than many felt he'd go, based on his tools. Cardinals vice president of player procurement Jeff Luhnow went to California to meet with Wilson and his parents to gauge his interests.

"I have a pretty good sense of how they were looking at the college opportunity vs. pro ball," Luhnow said. "Obviously, it's not until after the player is selected that you can enter into serious negotiations."

Meeting with a family prior to taking the plunge on such a player is fairly common. It's never 100 percent possible to know what the negotiating period will look like, but those pre-draft meetings certainly can help minimize the risk.

"We did have some conversations with him and his family and got a sense of how they value their alternatives," Luhnow said. "We know that in this case, that's attractive to them.

"We've loved Austin and have followed him throughout his amateur career. We wanted to have the rights to negotiate with him over the course of the summer. We thought it would be great if he signed with us, but understand the probability there. We thought there was value in being able to sit down and talk to him."

Teams like the Cardinals, Red Sox and Pirates, among others, see plenty of value in going down this road. Sure, there are times an agreement won't come to fruition, and there's the inevitable issues of public -- and perhaps even industry -- perception that a team is overpaying for a player. All of it is worth it, though, if it means adding high-end talent to a system. It makes what some may think is an endless drone of names being called into a day of excitement and intrigue.

"With the resources that [Pirates owner] Bob Nutting has given us in our three years here, [it is]," Huntington said. "In the later rounds, whether the second round or into the teens, the entire Draft becomes an enjoyable process for us. We felt great about our first year and last year. At the end of Day 2 here, we are excited to add another quality draft class to the system.

"We know we have a handful of challenging signs. We felt the ability was worth the risk. Because of the strategy and depth of the Draft, we feel that when the signing deadline comes and goes, we'll have added another deep pool."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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