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MLB Draft Overview: The Surprise Signings

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Every year, we see a few players in each draft class that insist to all 30 MLB teams that they have no interest in signing with a professional baseball team. They're young kids with college scholarships, and they don't want to forgo that experience in order to begin the daily grind of riding buses, staying in cheap hotels and living the generally unglamorous life of a minor league baseball player. The MLB teams go with the standard response, "You sure? We do have [more money than most people can ever dream of making] on the table at the moment? It's really going to suck if you get hurt next year at a frat party."

But every year, we're reminded of the magical power of the dollar sign. College might be cool, but do you know what's probably even cooler? Seeing seven figures in your bank account when you're 19. And alas, that's why we seen dozens of supposedly "unsignable" players happily ink on the dotted line each year- turning down a one-time offer for that much money is really, really hard.

Here's a list of some of the most shocking signings of the night:

  • The Pirates sign Texas prep outfielder Josh Bell, a second-round pick (61st overall), to a $5 million signing bonus. Bell, considered the best prep hitter in the draft, had a commitment to play for the University of Texas, and told all 30 teams that he had no interest in playing professionally yet. That was obviously before negotiating with the Pirates, who offered him the largest bonus ever handed out to a player drafted outside of the first round. The Pirates also signed their ninth-round pick, Clay Holmes, for $1.2 million. The Holmes signing is the largest bonus ever given to a ninth-round pick.
  • There were mixed opinions on whether New Mexico prep catcher Blake Swihart would sign with the Red Sox given his commitment to the University of Texas, but Boston offered him a cool $2.5 million and he passed on his scholarship to play in Austin. Some were also surprised to see the Red Sox sign South Carolina center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who struggled with some injuries this spring.
  • The Blue Jays loaded up on guys that were expected to be tough to sign, and while they didn't land all of them, they did get a few. Prep pitchers Daniel Norris, Tyler Beede and Kevin Comer were all expected to be very difficult signs, and while the Jays couldn't get a deal done with Beede, they were able to reel in Norris and Comer. It wasn't cheap, though, as Norris took $2 million and Comer got $1.65 million.
  • When the Nationals selected Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer, Brian Goodwin and Matt Purke with their first four picks, many in the industry expected that one of them might fall through the cracks given their substantial contract demands. But the Nationals managed to get all four of them signed- Rendon for $7.2 million, Meyer for $2 million, Goodwin for $3 million and Purke for $4.4 million.
  • Most people think of Bubba Starling as Kansas City's difficult-to-sign prep star, but the Royals had another one in third-round pick Bryan Brickhouse. Brickhouse, a highly-rated prep pitcher out of The Woodlands in Texas (the same school that produced Kyle Drabek and Jameson Taillon), had a commitment to pitch for the University of North Carolina, but he's bypassing that scholarship now after the Royals offered him $1.5 million.
  • The Twins aren't known for drafting hard-to-sign players, but they did fork up to sign prep third baseman Travis Harrison yesterday. A commit to USC, the Twins had to give Harrison $1.05 million in order to sign.
  • The Padres landed a host of difficult to sign players: Joe Ross for $2.75 million, Michael Kelly for $718K and Austin Hedges for $3 million. Ross and Hedges should quickly become two of the best prospects in San Diego's farm system.
  • The Cubs had a host of difficult-to-sign players, and they came away with practically all of them. Second-round pick Dan Vogelbach signed for $1.6 million, seventh-round pick Shawon Dunston Jr. signed for $1.275 million and 14th-round pick Dillon Maples signed for $2.5 million. Maples was certainly the most surprising sign; he dropped to the 14th-round because of a strong commitment to the University of North Carolina.
  • Some people were iffy on whether Illinois prep outfielder Charlie Tilson would sign with the Cardinals or follow through on his scholarship to the University of Illinois, but Tilson ultimately signed with St. Louis for $1.275 million.