Every draft is full of them, last year, the significance of quality seniors was higher than ever as draft bonuses soared, giving teams more money to work with for higher upside players. While this left the seniors with little leverage, their importance has dominated the later stages of Day 2 in the draft.
“(They) said they’d be able to give me a $100,000 bonus,” Ratledge said, “but I’d have to tell teams not to draft me the rest of the day.” So Ratledge called to ask the club offering $20,000—let’s call it Team B—not to select him.
Team B wasn’t happy; it had to find a new senior to save money, but the area scout had a plan in place and found one. Ratledge, though, had to wait a nervous night until the next day. The 11th round came and went, and the third team didn’t draft him. The same thing happened in the 12th; still no pick, and no $100,000 bonus. Ratledge says his nerves were shot. He was ready to just get it over with.
“I 100 percent believed they were going to take me, but they kept passing and passing,” he said. “I was expecting it wouldn’t be easy, and I know it’s a business, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so cutthroat.”
Teams prioritize quality seniors because they like them, and believe they will sign early in the draft for a much lower signing bonus then what is assigned. The benefits to this can be rewarding, the player could get more pull or time in the organization, even if he doesn’t have success. These players are still liked by their area scouts, they wouldn’t draft them if they didn’t, but their ability might not always match their draft status.
With that said, here are my three quality seniors.
Logan Taylor, CF, Sr. University of Louisville (Louisville, KY)
While I like Taylor—I have a Role 4 (up/down, defensive player) grade on him—he will be taken very high relative to his status. As the everyday CF for a team that was the #1 in the country for most of the year, hosting super regionals, and having success, the story is easy to sell. While lacking in power, he is a 70 runner who is a gazelle in the OF and could be an above-average defender in CF. At the plate, he makes solid contact, but most of his power is gap-to-gap and will always be a light hitter.
Phoenix Sanders, RHP, Sr. University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
The Friday starter for USF during a record-breaking season, Sanders will be drafted high because of his statistical performance and his senior status. I like Sanders though, he throws four pitches for strikes, competes his head off, and has a chip on his shoulder. Phoenix isn’t very big (5-foot-10, 185 pounds) but that doesn’t stop him. My grade on him isn’t very high, it’s a Role 3 (quality org, up/down), but it doesn’t take much for him to work his way through an organization and exceed expectations.
Kevin Santa, SS, Sr., University of Tampa (Tampa, FL) (D2)
The University of Tampa is a powerhouse in Division II. They are usually nationally ranked, compete in the world series, and have lots of players drafted every year. While Garrett Cave is the most notable player who will be drafted by them this season, Santa has performed as the everyday SS for the team. While his ceiling might not be very high—and scouts have taken his D2 numbers with a grain of salt—he is capable of playing a smooth SS with solid hitting ability. As a senior from a small program, could mean someone calls his name earlier than expected.