That’s the number of top ten draft picks since 2000 who ultimately never reached a deal with the team who drafted them.
That’s how many of those six players did not accept a deal and returned to college ball their senior year. That one guy is Mark Appel.
Each of the previous players who failed to sign with their teams were in totally different scenarios.
In 2000, which may be the most famous of all cases, the Colorado Rockies selected Matt Harrington with the #7 overall pick. Harrington was looking for a signing bonus of $4.95 million, but the Rockies final offer was for $4 million. He had just graduated from high school and was seen as one of the top talents in the draft. But instead of going to college, Harrington simply sat out a year. He then got picked 58th overall in 2001 and declined a $1.2 million deal. After playing Independent League ball and being drafted another three times over the next three years without signing, his career was basically over.
In 2004, the Orioles picked Rice pitcher Wade Townsend 8th overall following Townsend’s junior season. However, Townsend actually signed an agent, thus forfeiting his amateur status for his senior season. After not accepting Baltimore’s $1.85 million offer, he simply went back to Rice to finish his degree, which he obtained in the Fall semester of that year. He re-entered the draft in 2005 and was once again picked 8th overall, this time by Tampa Bay. He would sign for $1.5 million. Townsend suffered through multiple arm injuries in the minors and has not played since 2009.
In 2008, Aaron Crow was selected 9th overall by the Nationals following his junior season at Missouri. The Nats offered Crow $3.5 million and Crow rejected the deal. However, instead of going back to Missouri his senior year, Crow joined the Fort Worth Cats of the American Association, an Independent League team, the following season. He re-entered the 2009 draft and was taken 12th overall by Kansas City and ended up accepting a $1.5 million signing bonus, including a Major League deal that pushed his total guaranteed money up to $3 million. Crow is currently in the Royals bullpen serving as their setup man and made the American League All-Star team last year as a rookie.
In 2010, in what is probably the weirdest situation of all, the Diamondbacks selected Barret Loux 6th overall because the two sides had agreed to a $2 million pre-draft deal well below slot. However, Loux failed his physical as team doctors determined he had a torn labrum that required surgery. Officially, no deal was ever offered to Loux because of the injury and he was granted free agency by MLB since no offer was made. He ended up signing with the Rangers for $312,000 bonus and is currently in Double-A putting up some fairly good numbers.
Also in 2010, the Padres selected RHP Karsten Whitson 9th overall after being named by Baseball America as the #3 high school prospect in the draft. San Diego’s final offer to Whitson was for $2.1 million, which he declined to go play at Florida. He was named College Baseball’s Freshman Pitcher of the Year. He did, however, take a step back this season due to some injuries, only starting in 14 games. He is still seen as one of the top pitchers heading into next year’s draft if he’s able to bounce back successfuly.
So as you can see, Appel is actually the only one of these players who is choosing to actually go back and play his senior year of college after not signing with the club that drafted them. As you can also see, it is a pretty big risk turning down “Top 10″ money. None of the players who declined offers the first time around ended up signing for more the second time around. The other thing that hurts Appel is that with him being a college senior next season, he doesn’t have much leverage in negotiations. Whichever team drafts him next season will practically be able to offer him whatever they choose because Appel really does not have a choice. He could go play Indy League ball, but that just wastes another year of development/time and pays very, very little. The only other legitimate option would be to play in Japan, where the money is actually pretty good. But I can’t imagine that being a scenario that Appel would want.
Personally, I think it is a poor choice by Appel to turn down the $3.8 million the Pirates had offered him, but we really will not know for another 12 months. History shows it is a bad move, but history also has not seen a case like this.