Nate turns his attention to the individual big bonus players from the last decade, and determines whether their teams would do it all over again.
What follows is a comprehensive roster of all players between 1998 and 2006 who were drafted with one of the first 100 selections and who also went for at least $500,000 over slot, considering both their signing bonus and any guaranteed MLB money. I've used the 2006 slot values for all seasons from 2000-2006, as MLB has generally been very successful at containing draft inflation during this period (in fact, the draft slots went down in 2007). The slots do appear to have been a little lower in 1999 and 1998, and so I've scaled those back by five percent and 10 percent respectively, rounding off to the nearest "big" number. I've also indicated those cases where the player's alternative careers in football or basketball could have influenced his signing bonus. Finally, I've posed a simple question: If the team had perfect knowledge of what that player was going to do, would they commit the same money again?
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The Drew Henson Saga, of course, is more than that; it's one of the most interesting stories in Prospectdom. He may not be six-year, $17 million interesting though, which is the contract the Yankees gave him to give up football. And now we're off to the races with what is one of the most-debated topics of prospect analysis: Can plate discipline be taught? Can someone like Henson, who's extremely strong, shorten his swing, get the bat around faster so he can make more contact? Can he learn to recognize the curve and hit it? And will that help him stop swinging at bad breaking pitches, draw some walks, and get better pitches to drive? Are humans inherently good or evil? I was the lone voice in favor of including Henson in BP's Top 40 Prospects list, at least in the Honorable Mention section. The only thing that's changed is that he's had a repeat year, the highlight of which was that for a brief while we heard he was catching on and had a better approach at the plate. His defense at third is still bad. What kind of improvement would have been required for Henson to be adequate, or even considered a good prospect again?
Year Level Age G AB AVG OBP* SLG H 2B HR BB K
1998 R 18 10 38 .316 .366 .474 12 3 1 3 9
1999 A 19 69 254 .280 .346 .480 71 12 13 26 71
2000 AA 20 59 223 .287 .345 .439 64 9 7 20 75
2001 AAA 21 71 270 .222 .250 .367 60 6 11 10 85
2002 AAA 22 128 471 .240 .301 .435 113 30 18 37 151
2003 AAA 23 133 483 .234 .291 .412 113 40 14 32 122
1998-2001 OBPs approximated based on available data.
Lines after 1998 with few games at a level and Arizona Fall League omitted.
"If you have kids who might [grow up to] be major league baseball players, we're fighting for your kids, possibly. If I work for your newspaper and you're in the union fighting for your equality and rights, sure I would strike, and so would you..."
--Barry Bonds, Giants outfielder
Two weeks ago, the Cincinnati Reds undid perhaps the best part of last
July's trade in which they sent a broken-down Denny Neagle to the
Yankees for four prospects, one of which was erstwhile college football
star Drew Henson. Henson's situation illustrates a problem far more
important for competitive balance than disparities in the free-agent
market: the vast differences in amateur and international signing budgets.