- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Georgia coach David Perno predicted before the draft that baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement would help the Bulldogs keep some of the top talent in their highly touted signing class.
From that perspective, so far, so good.
It was a no-doubter that the Bulldogs would lose signee Byron Buxton, who went second overall to Minnesota. Two more signees, third baseman Joe DeCarlo and outfielder/pitcher Duane Underwood, went early in the second round -- DeCarlo with the 64th overall pick to the Seattle Mariners and Underwood minutes later at No. 67 to the Chicago Cubs.
With 15 rounds complete, the only other UGA player or signee to be picked was All-SEC sophomore pitcher Alex Wood, who went near the end of the second round, 85th overall, to the Atlanta Braves.
More than 400 picks elapsed -- 403 to be exact -- between Wood’s selection and the end of Tuesday’s picks. Rounds 16-40 will be held Wednesday starting at noon ET. But Georgia is almost in the clear with regard to losing signees, thanks to the new draft rules that place a premium on players’ signability and reduce the bonuses teams are allowed to throw around after Round 10. (More on that here and here)
I’ve already used most of this lengthy quote in draft previews, but to refresh your memory, here is what an optimistic Perno had to say about the new draft rules affecting teams’ ability to sign players:
“It’s changing now. This year’s totally different,” Perno said. “From what I understand, it’s going to be a totally different animal from what we’ve been dealing with in years past. I think this year with the new CBA agreement, we’ve got a good chance. We’ve got a chance to do really, really good.
“We’ve always been getting those guys that are really good players and come on late and do some things that the pros like, but also they’re the type of freshmen that come in and help. For example, [UGA freshman pitchers] Pete Nagel this year and Luke Crumley, those are guys that we would in years past be sweating out, where now with the changes, we’ve got a chance to really get some special guys in here. That could change our talent level tremendously in one year. So I’m really excited about the new collective bargaining agreement and the possibility that we may get our best class ever on campus.
“Right now, it’s the best class we’ve ever signed top to bottom, no question, from a talent standpoint. We’ve had some classes that compare to that, but now, this is going to be probably the best one I would say that gets to campus.”
Even if Buxton, DeCarlo and Underwood sign professional contracts -- which is not a certainty, but is highly likely -- the Bulldogs have a number of star-caliber players left in a signing class that Perfect Game USA ranked as the nation’s second-best class.
Leading the way are Columbus (Ga.) High School teammates Kyle Carter and J.T. Phillips, who led their high school team to three straight state titles and their Columbus team to the Little League World Series title in 2006.
Outfielder/pitcher Carter ranks as the No. 58 player on the ESPN 100 list of top high school prospects and remains undrafted. Carter (No. 193) and infielder Phillips (No. 398) are among seven Georgia signees on Baseball America’s list of top 500 draft prospects -- four of whom remain undrafted. Joining them in that group are outfielder/pitcher Sean McLaughlin (No. 330) and pitcher David Gonzalez (No. 348).
Active Bulldogs Kyle Farmer (No. 346) and Curt Powell (No. 477) also remain undrafted among Baseball America top 500 designees.
Nothing is certain yet, but MLB’s new draft rules will certainly allow college coaches to sleep much easier tonight than during past drafts. With a new signing deadline of July 13 and the limits on signing bonuses, pro teams will not be able to throw a ton of money at a college-bound player at the 11th hour to sign him as in past years.
Certainly that disappoints prospects like Gonzalez -- he tweeted “This hurts right now man, not gonna lie. Lately I've been falling short but I swear this is where it all ends. New beginning for me,” during Tuesday’s middle rounds -- who hoped to hear their names called. But it also created a run on college seniors with little bargaining leverage instead of the many high school prospects who typically go in the middle rounds.
That’s why coaches like Perno are smiling tonight, where they spent much of June, July and August with uneasy feelings after previous drafts.
“They used to be able to draft those guys and you were never safe,” Perno said. “They could draft them in the 22nd round and then they had two months to watch them all summer and then they could pay them $1 million. But now, if your guys don’t go in the top 10 rounds -- and even if they go in the six, seven, eight, nine, 10 -- it’s limited on what they can get financially. It’s going to just be so much more enjoyable going through this draft than it has been in years past. We’ve gotten crushed in years past. We’ve lost 12th-rounders, 18th-rounders and the whole deal. You just want to know.
“And the other side of it is, a guy like Kyle Farmer has got to make his decision by July 13. You don’t have until Aug. 15, until 24 hours before school, so at least I get the whole month of July to really shape our roster and know who’s playing where and kind of have an idea, where in years past we wouldn’t know until the Sunday before classes start.”
GEORGIA PLAYERS/SIGNEES SELECTED
2. Byron Buxton/OF, Minnesota
64. Joe DeCarlo/3B, Seattle
67. Duane Underwood/P-OF, Chicago Cubs
85. Alex Wood/P, Atlanta