High School : : General
Thursday, November 24, 2011

Open letter to high school prospects

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m sure you’ve spent some time in the past few days thinking about the new draft rules that were announced on Tuesday. Most of you have advisors to talk to, along with the ability to bounce questions off the coaches at colleges where you’ve signed and pro scouts you have relationships with.

Those are all good resources, as long as you keep your head on straight and realize that each of those groups has a vested interest in your future. The scouts want you to sign and play professional baseball, the college coaches want you to attend their school and help them win games and the advisors are businessmen who are looking to make money off your skills. That’s what each does for a living, it’s not a criticism of any group.

So what you need to do is to educate yourself using all the sources available to you. We’re all going to be working under a different system now, we all are on a learning curve and need to pay attention.

Here’s my take on the changes, as it applies to you, the top high school prospects in the country. I feel I have a relationship with you as I’ve seen virtually every one of you play somewhere, whether it was at a Perfect Game/WWBA event or some other gathering of top prospects. I watch you, I try to educate myself about you. Knowing you is my professional business.

The money is still in the system. There have been no draconian cuts in what Major League Baseball as a whole is going to spend on signing bonuses for young players, such as yourselves, to enter this great game at the professional level.

The Houston Astros, for instance, are going to have approximately $11.5M to sign their draft picks over the first 10 rounds and will be able to spend up to $100K to sign each pick after the 10
th round, with the ability to spend more than that if they wish to pay what amounts to a very stiff tax to go more than 5% over their limits.

The numbers do go down from there (the Astros hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, so they have the most money to spend according to the new system) but the numbers are keyed off the bonuses paid to players in 2011. And I’m pretty sure you are familiar with the basic numbers, especially the number of zero’s involved.

So if you’re good and the teams (or at least one team) recognize that, the money is there.

What is NOT going to be there that was in the old system is the tendency and temptation for teams to “overpay” for a player for the round he’s drafted in. It’s not a slotted system (thank goodness) in that it does give teams the latitude to save money in one round (by signing a college senior, let’s say, or maybe doing a pre-draft deal for someone at under what “slot” is considered to be) and spend it in another round. But the penalties are just too significant to expect any team to really “overpay” by much.

For example, the mantra for high school players in Southern California last year seemed to be to throw out a signability figure of $1.5M. Sort of as a conversation starter if nothing else. The advisors were accustomed to players getting overpaid for the MLB slots where those players were drafted, especially from that part of the country, so that’s what they told their clients to say to scouts.

Well, that’s not going to work this year and beyond. The advisors know this, they are the supporting structure of the Player’s Union, they are involved in the negotiating strategies that determined this CBA.

So many, if not most, of you are going to have to decide to accept what is become known as “slot” money, or close to it, for where you are drafted. Either that or go to college. That is Major League Baseball’s intent in the new system and that’s how they’ve set up the rules.

Again, the base money is there, but the extra money has been taken away. The owners want cost certainly, just like your parents want their own version of cost certainly in their lives.

That being said, College Baseball is a wonderful thing; you will not find many more enthusiastic supporters of College Baseball than myself or anyone on the Perfect Game staff. The ability to go to college and have someone else pay for a significant part of the cost is something that only parents (and I’m one of them) can truly appreciate. The experience of playing baseball for your college is an irreplaceable part of your life experience and you’ll benefit in ways too numerous to mention. Don’t ever disrespect the opportunity to play College Baseball.

And the reality is that there will likely be more of you who choose to play College Baseball than would have previously. The decision makers in Major League Baseball know this and support it. I wish they would support College Baseball more in real (i.e. $$$) terms, but this new CBA is a big winner for college baseball.

So, in summary, what has happened is this: Major League Baseball has taken away your realistic ability to say “I want to be overpaid to sign out of high school” and have a strong chance of getting that. They have NOT taken away your ability to sign out of high school for a very significant amount of money. And they have said that, yes, we support College Baseball and their ability to develop you as a player and a person, should you not want to sign out of high school.

After that, the decision for a high school prospect is where it has always been; with the player and his family, weighing the different options and figuring out what is right for their own unique situation. That hasn’t changed a bit, just some of the numbers and details.

It’s still the same issues: The importance of the bottom dollar figure. The importance of continuing your education. The opportunity to start one’s professional baseball career now, with no guarantee that opportunity will ever come around again.

Thanks for listening. I hope you all have a great Holiday Season and an outstanding spring, both on and off the field.

David Rawnsley
National Scouting Director
Perfect Game USA

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