The sheer numbers, with no analysis at all, points to some folks walking away unsigned. For instance, the Rays alone will have to swing four deals tomorrow, and that's a ton to pull off in one day.
Muddying this year's negotiations are uncertainties over next year. Teams want stronger slotting of some sort, which would make draft picks cheaper to sign. Of course, players do not want that (and frankly, I side with the players on this one). Either way, the 2012 draft class also projects to be much weaker than the one drafted in June, so many prospects could conceivably make more money next season, even with a slotting system, simply because they are picked much higher.
Here are my fearless predictions on who will and won't sign:
- Danny Hultzen, LHP (#2 overall, Mariners) - It's pretty simple with Hultzen. He's not going any higher. He is unlikely to make more money in next year's draft. There is no reason for him not to sign, and the Mariners know that. He will get a big contract, but I doubt it will be as high as the $13 million rumors. I could see him getting a guaranteed MLB deal though.
- Gerrit Cole, RHP (#1 overall, Pirates) - Similar logic to Hultzen. Cole definitely won't go higher, and unless he really hates the direction Pittsburgh is going in (which he shouldn't), he will sign. He will cost plenty of pennies, but I'm sure Pittsburgh knew that going in. They have shown a willingness to go over slot in recent years.
- Dylan Bundy, RHP (#4 overall, Orioles) - Sensing a theme at the top? The top picks have little incentive to sign until before the deadline, if they are trying to maximize their money (and most of them are)
- Archie Bradley, RHP (#7 overall, Diamondbacks) - Arizona doesn't get anything back if they don't sign Bradley, since this is already a compensation pick for not signing Barret Loux last year. I'm sure Archie knows this, and so he maximizes his value by waiting things out. Arizona already has their other big pick, Trever Bauer, signed. This could be a pricey deal, but it will be a deal.
- Any remaining college player - I could go pick-by-pick, but that would be a tedious, uninteresting post. There's only one potential exception I see this year, who I will touch on later.
- Any remaining high schooler who went in the top 15 - They don't have much value to add to their draft status by going to college, but plenty to lose. The list is relatively short: 3B Javier Baez, OF Brandon Nimmo, and RHP Jose Fernandez.
- OF Bubba Starling (#5 overall, Royals) - The potential Nebraska QB has a heck of a decision to make. Scouts seem sure he will sign, and Kansas City goes over slot when they want to (and they most certainly do with Starling). However, he could blossom into a football star for one of America's premier football programs. If Starling isn't sold on baseball as his life, why would he sign?
- 3B Anthony Rendon (#6 overall, Nationals) - The only reason that Rendon "fell" was thanks to a shoulder that scared many teams. If he can fully heal and regain his insane production from his freshman and sophomore seasons, he could easily rocket back to the very top of the draft. Furthermore, the Nats still have to sign RHP Alex Meyer and OF Brian Goodwin, so they don't have all day to negotiate with Rendon.
- RHP Taylor Guerrieri (#24 overall, Rays) - Like I already mentioned earlier, the Rays will be busy, and maybe too busy. Guerrieri has some red flags in his past, and while Tampa Bay certainly already knew about them and still drafted him, you'd have to think they will have to prioritize discussions somehow tomorrow. I would bet on Guerrieri being the odd man out if there is an odd man out for Tampa Bay.