05/25/06 1:15 PM ET
Draft-and-follow throws curve into plans
Junior college players can re-enter draft pool if they don't sign
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Every year, teams take players -- there are 50 rounds, after all -- who they don't sign. High schoolers (and some junior college students) who don't sign have two options: They can go to a four-year school, which would mean the team selecting them would immediately lose their rights, or they can go to a junior college. If they choose the latter, the team that drafts them retains negotiating rights up until the week before the next draft. If they don't sign by then, they re-enter the draft pool.
It's called draft-and-follow and it's a strategy almost every team uses, usually purposefully, to further build its farm system. In many cases, a high schooler is too raw or is coming off of an injury, so the organization doesn't want to sign him. They convince the player to go to junior college, so they can monitor his performance and see how he progresses. Then a determination is made whether or not to sign him. Occasionally, a raw high schooler will blossom so much in that year that he turns himself into a first-round-caliber talent, making the decision a little tougher.
Who were the top draft-and-follows from last year's draft? What is their current status in terms of signing or re-entering the draft? Here's a list of 10 names to know and where things stand with each.
Pedro Beato, RHP, St. Petersburg JC
The Mets don't have a first-round pick, but many believe their 17th-round pick from a year ago is of first-round caliber. A year removed from Tommy John surgery, Beato's velocity hadn't come all the way back when the Mets drafted him. This year, he's back up to the low-to-mid 90s. He's got a plus curve and an improving changeup as secondary pitches. At 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, he's extremely projectable. There was no indication that a deal was imminent, but the Mets do have the resources to make sure he signs.
Sean O'Sullivan, RHP, Grossmont JC
O'Sullivan turned down a sizeable bonus from the Angels after they took him in the third round, hoping to improve his draft status. He had a down senior year of high school, a big reason why he slid to the third round. A very good athlete who played two ways in junior college, he's performed fairly well and there's a chance he'd go faster than he did last year if he re-enters. The Angels are still working with him and hope to come to a fair agreement. This is one that could come down to the wire.
Bryan Morris, RHP, Motlow State JC
This one is a little more complicated. After the Devil Rays took him in the third round -- he's the highest drafted player from last year still unsigned -- he almost came to terms last summer. But negotiations fell apart and Morris headed to Motlow. He dominated on the mound there while also playing the outfield. The Rays have new management now and they've been having an ongoing dialogue with Morris in the hopes of signing him. Chances are, this will be an announcement that comes at midnight on deadline day. If he goes back into the draft, he could go as high as the end of the first round.
Milton Loo, SS/3B, Yavapai JC
The Reds drafted Loo in the ninth round last year out of JC, but he went back for a second year. He's turned down two offers from the Reds, but there was still hope he'd sign. He's got plenty of tools, with the ability to steal a base and hit for power. He's good defensively at two positions, though an elbow injury made him a designated hitter only for part of this past season.
Bryan Casey, RHP/3B, Arizona Western JC
The Royals took the 6-3, 205-pounder in the 20th round last year, and he's generated interest as both a pitcher and a hitter. He's new to pitching, but he's been clocked as high as 97 mph this season, perhaps the reason why the Royals just signed him. As a converted pitcher, he'll start as a reliever with Idaho Falls in the rookie-level Pioneer League. If he progresses as hoped, he could be a starter somewhere in the Royals system next season.
Tommy Hanson, RHP, Riverside CC, Calif.
The Braves took the 6-5 right-hander in the 27th round last year and watched him throw very well at Riverside this season. His fastball has hit 95 mph and he's got good command to boot. The Braves announced this week that they had signed him, one of six draft-and-follows they have inked this spring. Another key signee was Travis Flowers, the first baseman out of Chipola JC in Florida.
Aaron Breit, RHP, Garden City CC, Kansas
Drew Miller, RHP, Seminole State JC, Oklahoma
Both of these pitchers are under the Padres' control. The Friars took Breit in the 12th round out of Garden City CC and he returned for another go-round. So did Miller, whom the Pads took in the 37th round out of Seminole State. Both are big-armed right-handers. The Padres have offers out to them, hoping both will sign.
Steven Marquardt, 3B/SS, Columbia Basin JC, Washington
Marquardt returned to the Pacific Northwest and his junior college after the Rangers took him in the 23rd round, and he continued to perform well. He's big and strong and pretty athletic with power potential as a future corner infielder. He's shown some strength at the plate, but he hasn't had a consistent approach from at-bat to at-bat. He was drafted by the Phillies out of high school and didn't sign, went to Washington State very briefly, then left and ended at Columbia Basin. It was still up in the air whether Texas would be able to come to an agreement with him.
Jonthan Holdzkom, RHP, Salt Lake CC, Utah
The Mariners took the right-hander out of Rancho Cucamonga high school in the 15th round, and he went to Salt Lake ... for a while. While his velocity was reportedly into the upper-90s at times, he struggled with command, walking almost as many as he struck out. He left the school and went home, where he was pitching in weekend leagues to stay sharp if he re-enters the draft. His brother is Lincoln Holdzkom, now with the Cubs organization.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.