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Insider

Top draft picks remain unsigned

7/30/2009

We're seven weeks into the draft signing period and 18 days from the Aug. 17 deadline, and just three of the top 10 picks have signed: Pittsburgh catcher Tony Sanchez (No. 4), Baltimore right-hander Matt Hobgood (No. 5) and Washington RHP Drew Storen (No. 10).

The Stephen Strasburg negotiations haven't gone very far, but agent Scott Boras is known to delay until the deadline. Boras represents six first-round picks, including each of the top three selections, and reports indicate that deals aren't close for No. 1 pick Strasburg and the Nationals, No. 2 pick Dustin Ackley and the Mariners or No. 3 pick Donavan Tate and the Padres.

One of the more interesting scenarios among first-round picks is the Colorado Rockies and their shot to sign No. 11 pick Tyler Matzek, the left-hander out of Capistrano Valley, Calif. The Denver Post reported Tuesday that negotiations are not close and that Matzek has been assigned a dorm room at the University of Oregon, where he'll attend school if he does not sign a pro deal.

The majority of club executives who responded to a minipoll said they believe Matzek will go to school because Colorado is unlikely to match the bonus demands. Another scouting director's best guess on the most likely of the prep pitching class to choose college over starting a professional career was Klein High School (Spring, Texas) left-hander Matt Purke. "He was asking for huge money going in, and they aren't in a great position," the scouting director said of the Texas Rangers and the No. 14 pick. "It might get awfully tough for them."

There is word out of Atlanta that the Braves and No. 7 pick Mike Minor are making progress on a contract, according to a team source. The Vanderbilt lefty's status is holding up potential signings of other college pitchers right below his draft slot, where RHP Mike Leake went at No. 8 to Cincinnati, RHP Aaron Crow went at No. 12 to Kansas City and RHP Alex White went at No. 15 to Cleveland.

If the consensus opinion wins out, at least 24 of the 32 first-round picks will sign, and one GM said this week that the economy actually helps that number. "Clubs went for signability just a little bit more, leaving the tougher signs for someone else. I wouldn't be surprised if 27 or 28 [first-round picks] signed by the deadline."

Other news

•Left-hander Rex Brothers (No. 34, Colorado) made his professional debut Friday, tossing a scoreless inning in relief and striking out two. He has made two more appearances out of the bullpen and has an 8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four innings of scoreless baseball, pitching for Tri-City in the short-season Northwest League.

•Los Angeles Dodgers supplemental first-round pick Aaron Miller is off to a similar start in the strikeout column, fanning 10 in 5 2/3 innings, but the left-hander has allowed eight hits and four earned runs in the process.

•Milwaukee signed sandwich-round pick Kyle Heckathorn this past weekend and gave the right-hander a $776,000 bonus. Heckathorn has been assigned to Helena of the Pioneer League and is expected to debut as early as this weekend.

•Seattle signed former Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress this week and has assigned the 51st overall pick to Double-A West Tennessee of the Southern League. It's quite the aggressive move to start any draftee that high in the minors, but one scout who observed Poythress all spring likes the move, saying, "It's a great way to get him in and see what he's got. If you send him to a short-season club, he's facing so-so pitching, and it's more of a get comfortable thing. This way, if he struggles, it's only for three or four weeks, and if he does well, you have yourself a power bat who hit in a good league right out of the draft room."

•Minnesota RHP Ben Tootle has made four shutout appearances and picked up two saves in the Appalachian League. He's yet to walk or strike out a batter but has induced many ground-ball outs.

•Nationals fourth-round pick A.J. Morris has gone five perfect innings to start his pro career, doing so in two relief appearances after signing for $270,000 earlier in July. The right-hander out of Kansas State has recorded four strikeouts.

•San Francisco Giants reliever Jason Stoffel fell to Round 4 thanks to a soft showing during the spring's final two months, but he's showing well as a pro so far. One opposing batter called Stoffel's breaking ball "a lot harder and sharper than it was in school this year." The Arizona product has allowed just one earned run on two hits and owns a 2-to-0 strikeout-to-walk ratio in limited innings pitched.

•Rockies fifth-round pick Joseph Sanders was bailing on pitch after pitch so often during a game last week that one had to wonder how Colorado felt about its selection. But a little digging unearthed the reason: Sanders was hit by a pitch this spring -- an event that went unreported, at least off the campus of Auburn University -- which resulted in quite an injury to his jaw. Sanders is still fighting off the fear factor but sure squares it up during batting practice, and he played well at third base.

•Cardinals draftee Ryan Jackson (fifth round) is off to a slow start, hitting just .216/.273/.224 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 32 games for Batavia in the New York-Penn League. Jackson's calling card is plus defense, but his bat worried scouts heading into the draft. His first month as a pro is resulting in very much of the same: some patience (10 walks), good contact rates (18 strikeouts in 130 plate appearances) and just one extra-base hit.

•To compare, Yankees' 13th-rounder DeAngelo Mack is hitting .292 with 16 extra-base hits in the same number of games in the same league as Jackson.

•Cincinnati has signed its 10th round pick, Indiana prep catcher Tucker Barnhart, for an above-slot bonus of $250000, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. Barnhart had committed to Georgia Tech.