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New draft rules benefitting teams, players

June 19, 2012 - Mitch Rupert

STATE COLLEGE – Phillies second-round draft pick Dylan Cozens homered Tuesday for the Gulf Coast League Phillies.

No big deal you say? Well, there’s a bit of a significance to it. In year’s past, there’s probably no chance Cozens, selected out of Chapparal High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., would have even been signed by this point. But through new draft signing procedures and deadlines implemented this year by Major League Baseball, more players are signing faster than they have in the past. And more players are getting their careers started earlier.

The Williamsport Crosscutters have benefited from the windfall of the old draft ways in which the deadline for Major League clubs to sign their draftees was Aug. 15. Under the new rules that deadline has been moved up to July 13. Because of the old rules, some of the Phillies’ top high school draft picks from last year’s draft didn’t get any time in the Gulf Coast League like Cozens is getting right now.

Players like Roman Quinn, Larry Greene and Mitch Walding all didn’t sign until near the August deadline a year ago and, in turn, were sent to instructional league in Clearwater in September. On the flip side, Tyler Greene, the Phillies’ 11th-round selection from a year ago, signed in late July at played 17 games and got 58 at-bats in the Gulf Coast League before instructionals. Greene ended up starting the 2012 season in low-A Lakewood before his struggles at the plate had him sent back to extended spring training.

The Crosscutters have eight players currently in Williamsport who were selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft just two weeks ago. With Major League Baseball establishing a spending limit for each team’s first 10 rounds worth of draft picks, teams were more reluctant to go over the recommended limit to players for fear of being penalized both monetarily and with the loss of draft picks.

The Phillies have already signed 10 of their first 12 picks from this year’s draft – all of which came within the first 10 rounds – and are currently better than $260,000 under their draft budget, according to numbers compiled by Baseball America.

“I love it. I couldn’t imagine waiting around until Aug. 15,” said Cutters first baseman Chris Serritella, a fourth-round selection who signed for less than the recommended slot bonus as the 158th draft pick. “You get into the system and you’re working out with a team and you’re adjusting to what pro ball is like. I couldn’t imagine sitting around for two months and just working out by myself back home.”

“I had planned on signing right off the bat and get right out here and get acclimated as soon as possible,” said Cutters pitcher Hoby Milner, a seventh-round selection out of the University of Texas who signed for slot money. “It’s working out for me.”

The Crosscutters have been the benefactor of the old draft rules in recent years by having players like Anthony Hewitt, Zach Collier, Jonathan Pettibone, Kelly Dugan and Kyrell Hudson come through Williamsport to start their pro careers. But the question is what system is best for the players and the organization.

The organization definitely benefits by having much of the leverage in contract negotiations, pointing to what amounts to a pretty hard draft cap. And the early signing period benefits the organization because it gives them the opportunity to get their players progressed through the system quicker.

“It benefits you as far as getting started earlier, but for the high school kid it puts you at a disadvantage money-wise,” Walding said. “But it helps the college senior out. They can get in and get some more money. But when it comes to getting your career started, it definitely helps you out.”

Walding couldn’t help but wonder just where he’d be had he been subject to the new draft rules.

“I could have played a whole other season, and if you get your career started earlier you don’t know where you could be now,” Walding said. “I think it happened for a reason, so I’m happy with the way things turned out.”


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