A Look At The Fate Of Top Unsigned MLB Draft Picks

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Phil Bickford may as well just flip a coin. Not on whether or not he should sign today, but whether or not he’ll ever be in this situation again.

Of course all players are different, but if history is any indication, the odds are about the same as to whether or not the high school pitcher will maintain his premium draft stock if he heads to college.

The righthander from Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, Calif., was drafted 10th overall by the Blue Jays, but appears to have hit a snag in signing, reports Baseball America’s Jim Callis. Major League Baseball’s recommended bonus for the 10th overall pick is $2,921,400 and the team could pay him more than $5 million without forfeiting a 2014 first-round pick.

I looked at what happened to players who were drafted in the top 10 rounds from 2000-2010 who did not sign. You can download the full chart below and it’s a group that includes 246 players (about 22 each year). Of those 246 players, 24 were never drafted again and nine of those 24 were high school righthanders.

Of the 222 players who were talented and fortunate enough to be drafted again, 50 percent of them saw their stock drop the next time around.

There are 92 high school pitchers on the list, but guys like Gerrit Cole, Matt Harvey, Kevin Gausman, Mike Leake and Danny Hultzen are the exception, not the rule. Most high school pitchers (58 percent) who don’t sign in the top 10 rounds out of high school see their stock drop in college.

There were nine first rounders who didn’t sign between 2000-2010. As a first round pick, there’s generally only one way to go—down—and only Jeremy Sowers, John Mayberry Jr., and Cole kept their status as a first-round pick after heading to college. The others—Matt Harrington, Alan Horne, LeVon Washington, Matt Purke, Karsten Whitson and Dylan Covey—all saw their stock drop after choosing not to sign.

On the flipside, the two players on this list to spurn signing out of high school in favor of attending Cal State Fullerton are Christian Colon (10th round in 2007 to 1st round in 2010) and Michael Lorenzen (7th round in 2010 to 1st round in 2013).

Still, it’s a risky move and a potentially life-changing decision. If Bickford does indeed turn his nose at more money than both his parents have likely combined to make in their lifetime, it’s basically a 50-50 chance as to whether or not he’ll have the opportunity ever again.

So . . . heads or tails?

Unsigned Picks 2000-2010  (Excel file)