It's a new year, with a new Draft class full of new names. Yet there seems to be one constant, particularly with some of those names that seem headed toward first-round selection: Scott Boras.
The agent had five players taken in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, including Pedro Alvarez and Eric Hosmer, selected No. 2 and No. 3. This year is shaping up to be no different. If anything, Boras could have more of an impact, with the potential for seven players who are advised by him to go in the first 32 picks of the Draft.
It all starts, of course, with Stephen Strasburg, the presumptive top pick in the Draft. In many ways, though, that might be where the Boras imprint is felt the least, even with the reported $50 million price tag that's floating out there. Might Boras get more for Strasburg than a different agent? It's possible, but in the end, the player taken first overall -- especially one as heralded as Strasburg -- is going to be handsomely compensated, regardless of his advisor.
It's after that top pick that things could get interesting. In the Boras fold are two of the better college hitters in the class, two top college left-handed pitchers, a college right-hander and perhaps the toolsiest player in the Draft, a high school outfielder.
"The more players he has high in the Draft, the longer you'll see this thing stretched out like last year," said one scouting director, referring to the protracted negotiations for Alvarez and Hosmer in particular. "With the format put in place by Major League Baseball with the deadline, you'll see anything that can be exposed exposed. I think you'll see a lot of players that aren't being signed. He has control of the outcome of the dollars and teams will have to make decisions.
"I think you'll see the college players sign and the high school players will either slide or not sign and go to college."
The college bats are Dustin Ackley, the North Carolina first baseman/outfielder, and University of Southern California shortstop Grant Green. Both could find their way into the top 10. Ackley seems almost certain to be gone in the first five picks, while an uneven season by Green leaves his status a bit more unclear. And that's where the Boras effect can be felt. If a guy like Green is billed as "the best infielder" or "best shortstop," there might be the sentiment that he should be paid as such, forcing more of a slide than one would think.
The two college lefties have interesting stories in their own right. Oklahoma State's Andy Oliver had been initially suspended by the NCAA for reportedly having a representative present during negotiations with the Twins when he was drafted out of high school. That suspension was overturned in court and he's pitched this season -- inconsistently, but with a big arm -- as a junior. His case is currently in court and it could conceivably greatly alter the landscape of how amateurs and negotiations with pro teams are handled across all sports.
The other southpaw in the Boras camp is Kentucky's James Paxton, a big lefty with two potentially plus power pitches who was rising up Draft boards quickly this spring. Then came the late news that he had signed on with Boras. That won't scare away some teams, but for those who tend to shy away from his clients, Paxton was sliding back down almost as quickly as he was rising.
Then there are the high school guys. Jacob Turner began the year slowly, but was coming on late and had sneaked into top 10 talk with some of the top prep arms in the class. In the backs of some minds, most likely, is the memory of some other Boras clients who were high school pitchers. Rick Porcello was a top first-round talent who slid to the Tigers at No. 27 in 2007. Last year, the Yankees took Gerrit Cole at No. 28, but never came close to signing him as Cole went on to UCLA. There are those who feel that's Boras' ideal scenario with his high schoolers, that they go on to college instead of signing.
The final first-round talent in the Boras 2009 crop might be the most intriguing: Donavan Tate. His raw tools are undeniable, though there is a split among scouts about his hitting ability, now and in the future. Throw in the fact he's a big-time football recruit and it's nearly impossible to pinpoint where the outfielder might go. He could go in the top 10, but he could slide out of the first round if teams believe it will be too costly to sign him away from football.
"There are a lot of things to think about," a National League scouting director said. "There's the market the last couple of years, where you take the player and who the player is based on your financial assessment. If he is a Boras client, you have to understand, hopefully, where he stands on those players."
Boras, for his part, won't comment directly about where his players stand at this point, other than to say that many of his potential draftees have "had good seasons." He says that doesn't mean he's assigned dollar figures to their performances.
"We don't discuss paramaters of what players are worth," Boras said. "Teams do that and they let you know. The process moves more fluidly when teams do that."
However the first round unfolds and wherever his players get taken, Boras seems to believe it won't be all that different than in the past. There has been concern expressed in some quarters that the downturn in the economy would have as much impact as how many players Boras had in the class. According to the agent, at least, that won't really hold water.
"The attendance in baseball has been at levels we've seen. Baseball will be near record revenue, above $6 billion," Boras claimed. "That [includes] a drop in revenue. It should be the second-most revenue take by baseball."