Feeling the Draft: The Ones Who Got Away

It's not just the players who will be drafted and signed out of the first-year player draft that will run Monday through Wednesday. 

There are gambles teams will take in the later rounds of the draft that sometimes hit, like when the Rockies used the their seventh-round selection in the 1998 draft on high school third baseman Matt Holliday, who was committed to play quarterback at Oklahoma State, where his father was the head baseball coach.

With the late Jerry McMorris taking a hands-on role in the negotiations, the Rockies were able to come up with a contract that convinced Holliday to puruse a career on the diamond instead of the gridiron.

Then there was the Marlins, using the No. 2 pick in the 1992 draft, on right-handed pitcher John Lynch out of Stanford, signing him after he was emphatic that he was going to give up football, only to be lured back for a senior year in college when Dennis Green left Stanford and Bill Walsh became the head coach.

Usually the gambles, so to speak, are in the later rounds, and they came more often before baseball eliminated the draft-and-follow, which allowed teams to select a junior college player and retain signing rights until a week before the draft the following year.

Now, there is a mid-August deadline to sign a player or lose the rights to him.

The Rockies did hit on the likes of a Holliday and Dexter Fowler, a 14th-round draft choice out of high school in 2004, belatedly signed in mid-August when the Rockies, having saved $2 million in salary by the trade of Larry Walker to the Cardinals gave scouting director Bill Schmidt a portion of that to lure Fowler from his commitment to the University of Miami.

And they have had some misses. A look at the 11 players they did not sign after drafting, who have a career WAR higher than 2.0 at the big-league level.

Year Round Player School WAR
2007 21st LHP Chris Sale Lakeland, Fla. HS 38.8
2010 1st Signed White Sox Florida Gulf Coast University

The Rockies did offer Sale a $150,000 signing bonus, which was way above market given he was drafted in the 21st round, but he chose to attend college, instead. At least the Rockies tried to sign him. When he came out of college, D-Backs scouts were set on selecting Sale, but general manager Jerry DiPoto ordered they draft Barret Loux from Texas A&M, who one of his big-league scouts saw and liked, even though the D-Backs area scout argueD he had arm problems. Loux failed his physical, as the scouts predicted, and Sale slipped to the White Sox.

Year Round Player School
2004 37th 3B Todd Frazier Toms River South HS, N.J. 22.7
2007 1st Signed with Reds Rutgers University

Frazier was very strongly committed to Rutgers. The Rockies, however, saw his skill set and at that point in the draft took a gamble in case he changed his mind.

Year Round Player School
2002 40th Matt Garza Washington Union HS, Fresno 12.1
2005 1st Signed with Twins Fresno State University

Garza initially committed to Bakersfield Junior College, and the draft-and-follow was in place so the Rockies felt they could watch him the following spring and decide on an offer. A coaching change at Fresno State, however, led to a late offer that Garza accepted.

Year Round Player School
2006 18th Andrew Cashner Angelina Junior College 8.6
2005 20th Drafted by Braves Conroe (Tx) High School
2007 29th Drafted by Cubs Angelina Junior College
2008 1st Signed with Cubs TCU

The Rockies selection was the second of what were four times Cashner was selected, the last two times by the Cubs, who eventually signed him as a first-round pick.

Year Round Player School 6.8
1998 42nd Niger Morgan Rogers Secondary, Nelson, B.C.
2002 33rd Signed with Pirates Walla Walla CC

A native of San Francisco, who at the age of 16 went to Canada to play junior hockey, Morgan was a talented enough athlete original Rockies scouting director Pat Daughtery took a chance. Morgan, however, wasn't ready to give up hockey at that time. Four years later he signed with the Pirates as a 33rd-round selection.

Year Round Player School
2003 29th David Hernandez Elk Grove, Ca., HS 5.2
2004 34th Drafted by D-Backs Consumnes River CC
2005 16th Signed with Orioles Consumnes River CC

Signed as a draft-and-follow, the Rockies never got in serious negotiations. Turned out the D-Backs took the same approach in 2004, and didn't sign him either.

Year Round Player School
2003 37th Jesse Litch Dixie Hollins HS, St. Petersburg, Fl. 3.9
2004 24th Signed by Blue Jays South Florida CC

A draft-and-follow, the Rockies never had serious negotiations.

Year Round Player School
2002 2nd Micah Owings Gainsville (Ga.) HS 3.3
2004 19th Drafted by Cubs Georiga Tech University
2005 3rd Signed with D-Backs Tulane University

Rockies thought they had a deal at $800,000, but when it came time to sign the contract, Owings explained that "God told me not to take less than $1 million." 

Year Round Player School
2011 9th Ross Stripling Texas A&M 3.2
2012 5th Signed with Dodgers Texas A&M

Talks never got serious. Stripling returned to Texas A&M and signed after his senior season with the Dodgers.

Year Round Player School
1997 36th Alredo Amazega Miami Senior High School 3.1
1998 14th Drafted by Rockies St. Petersburg Junior College
1999 13th Signed by Angels St. Petersburg Junior College

The Rockies original administration like Amazega enough to draft him in back-to-back years, but couldn't come to agreement.

Year Round Player School
2012 38th Dansby Swanson Marietta (Ga.) HS 2.1
2015 1st Signed with D-Backs Vanderbilt

It was a flyer. Swanson made it clear he was a strong commit to Vanderbilt, but in the 38th round of what had become a 40-round draft the Rockies selected him, just in case he changed his mind.