The surgery came just six days after Aiken made his first pitching appearance since last May. He planned on showcasing his stuff with IMG Academy's (Bradenton, Fla.) post-graduate program, but lasted only 13 pitches on March 19 before leaving for reasons undisclosed at the time.
Ranked No. 3 on MLBPipeline.com's initial 2015 Draft Top 50 in December, Aiken still could go very early in the 2015 Draft. Jeff Hoffman had Tommy John surgery last May and signed for $3,080,000 as the No. 9 overall choice by the Blue Jays in June. The Nationals took Erick Fedde at No. 18 and paid him $2,511,100 despite knowing that his elbow needed to be reconstructed.
In 2012, Washington spent the No. 16 selection and $2,925,000 on Lucas Giolito, who had been sidelined for three months after spraining his elbow that March. He made one Minor League appearance before requiring Tommy John surgery, and since has recovered and blossomed into the best pitching prospect in baseball.
The day before news of Aiken's surgery broke, an American League scouting executive suggested that elbow reconstruction wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to him.
"Why not just go ahead and get the Tommy John surgery if that's what you need?" the executive said. "After Hoffman and Giolito and Fedde, you'll get paid. It's better than the uncertainty. The whole thing has been so cloak and dagger that I think it works against him."
A left-hander from San Diego's Cathedral Catholic High, Aiken showed advanced command of three plus pitches and had no physical issues while emerging as the consensus best prospect in the 2014 Draft last spring. On June 7, two days after the Astros selected him with their third consecutive No. 1 overall choice, he agreed to a $6.5 million bonus that tied Jameson Taillon's (Pirates, 2010) for the largest ever for a prep pitcher.
Aiken flew to Houston on June 23 for a physical that was the final step in making the deal official, but the results left the Astros concerned about the size of the UCL in his left elbow. They reduced their offer to $3,168,840, matching the minimum 40 percent of his assigned pick value ($7,922,100) required to receive the No. 2 overall choice in 2015 as compensation for Aiken not signing.
Houston eventually offered Aiken slightly more than $5 million on the day of the July 18 signing deadline, but he declined to accept it. He became the third No. 1 overall pick in Draft history to not come to terms, following Danny Goodwin (White Sox) in 1971 and Tim Belcher (Twins) in 1983.
Aiken originally committed to UCLA, but attending a four-year school would have left him ineligible to re-enter the Draft until 2018.