Why are these top-tier talents even available following the top 10 rounds? The answer tends to be one word: signability. Some prospects make it clear before the Draft that they are heading to school, or that it would take an exorbitant number in terms of a bonus to talk them out of it. Sometimes a player will be deemed signable if taken within, say, the first two rounds of the Draft. Once Day 1 concludes, however, and Day 2 unfolds, it becomes less and less likely that these prospects will do anything other than go on to college.
In years past, a team could take a tough sign later in the Draft and perhaps make a serious run at signing him with a well over-slot deal. Sometimes it worked. The Dodgers took Joc Pederson in the 11th round of the 2010 Draft and signed him for $600,000. He's now the organization's No. 3 prospect and No. 77 overall. Sometimes it didn't. A round later in '10, the Cardinals took Austin Wilson out of high school with the hopes of adding him to the fold. The sides never actually exchanged bonus figures and Wilson went on to Stanford en route to being a second-round pick on Thursday.
That kind of aggressive spending in the latter stages of the Draft is a lot tougher with the new system. Teams can spend whatever they want within their allotted pool in the first ten rounds without any penalty. After the tenth round, teams can spend only up to $100,000 on each pick or have the extra cost against their pool. Financial flexibility in the later rounds is a thing of the past.
"It certainly is limited to an extent," Phillies assistant general manager of amateur scouting Marti Wolever said. "But things change, and they can change at the drop of a hat. You'd kick yourself if you didn't take the opportunity [to take a talented player] if something does change."
Wolever and the Phillies did take the opportunity in the 29th round, a time when the signability talent storyline dovetailed nicely with the MLB bloodlines storyline in the person of Cavan Biggio. Craig's son could have been taken in the Draft's early rounds, but wasn't. In all likelihood, he'll go on to play with his brother at Notre Dame. If a player taken in the top 10 rounds doesn't sign, the team loses that pool money. If Biggio doesn't sign now, there's no loss incurred by the Phillies. Wolever, like many of the scouting directors who took top talent on Day 3, use a "Hey, you never know" philosophy in making these decisions.
"We've always taken kids like this over the years with the possibility that things change, and they do change often," Wolever said. "From coaching changes, to parents and kids changing their minds, you have to take advantage of the situation."
The Phillies were far from alone in rolling the dice with picking high school talent in rounds 11-40. The Tigers took A.J. Puk, the big Iowa left-hander with a strong commitment to be a two-way player at the University of Florida, in the 35th round. Do the Tigers know something the other teams didn't about Puk's desire to play for the Gators? Not at all.
"My thought process is you never know what can happen," Tigers vice president of scouting David Chadd said. "Minds change, demands may change, but the talent doesn't. So we will see. Tyler Alexander (23rd round) was another high school name we like a lot. It's probably a long shot to sign either, but you never know."
Late-round selections can often be an homage of sorts, both to the player and the scouts. Area scouts work tirelessly uncovering and evaluating talent. Taking a player in their area is notification of a job well done. And sometimes, it's good just to tip one's cap to a player and his talent.
"We have no real thought of signing him," Marlins scouting director Stan Meek said about taking Chandler Eden, the projectable right-hander from California who was No. 82 on the Draft Top 100 and is likely headed to Oregon State. "We know the family. He plays on the same team as the son of our West Coast supervisor. We're just acknowledging his ability."
Building a bond between team and player, even if it doesn't lead to a signing, shouldn't be underestimated, either. The Cardinals, when they took Wilson three years ago, obviously wanted to sign him, but they also wanted the opportunity to meet with him over the course of the summer and establish that relationship.
That can always come in handy down the line. Just ask the Seattle Mariners. They took D.J. Peterson in the 33rd round of the 2010 Draft and made attempts to sign him, but it didn't work out. Three years later, they got their man, taking Peterson 12th overall. It's a scenario the Cubs wouldn't necessarily mind see happening with catching prospect Jeremy Martinez, who's headed to USC if he doesn't sign.
"He's a premium position guy with a long history of performing at the highest level," said Cubs amateur scouting director Jaron Madison after taking Martinez in round 37. "He has great makeup and a lot of the qualities that we look for in a Major League player. We really liked him last summer and all spring, so we will stay with him and watch him over the summer, and depending on what happens on some of our higher picks, we may have some money available to make a run at a guy or two that we took after the 10th.
"So we will play it by ear and be ready to adjust as the deadline approaches. Worst-case, we get an opportunity to get to know Jeremy better and begin building a relationship with him through his college career."