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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Help may be on the way for recruiters

College baseball recruiters have an unenviable job at times.

It’s not enough for them to correctly evaluate talent and then get kids to commit — and eventually sign — with their program.

They also have to gauge whether or not a prospective player “values the college experience” or will jump to the pro ranks if selected in the Major League Baseball Draft.

Well, relief for recruiters such as Ole Miss coordinator Carl Lafferty may be on the way in the near future.

Recently there have been murmurs that when the current collective bargaining agreement expires after this season that a “hard slotting system” may be part of the next agreement.

While no system is set in stone, in theory a hard slotting system would set what drafted players are offered when it comes time to negotiate signing bonuses.

“The collective bargaining agreement is up after this season so they’ll have to negotiate a new one and part of what has been talked about is revamping the draft system with universal agreement that it doesn’t work as it’s intended,” MLB.com senior writer Jonathan Mayo said. “You don’t even have to assign blame or reasons why, but it just doesn’t really work. The purpose of the draft is for the teams that aren’t doing well to be able to improve and get better and because of the financial landscape of how the draft operates now, that hasn’t always been the case.”

One suggestion for fixing the draft process is to install a hard slotting system.

“Right now there is the suggested slot that largely gets ignored — not by all teams, some teams stick to slot. But very few teams stick to slot throughout the draft. Even if they stick to slot for their first round, they’ll probably go above a little bit with their next picks. Some are more egregious than others,” Mayo said. “What ends up happening often is certain players price themselves out, either to a team they’d rather go to or to some team that’s willing to meet their price whether it’s later in the first round, the fifth round or 11th round.

“I think the Boston Red Sox have done this as effectively as anybody where they have used their resources to go after seemingly unsignable players and getting them signed.”

Two prime examples are former Ole Miss and LSU signees David Renfroe and Garin Cecchini.

Both players were drafted in the third and fourth rounds of the 2009 and 2010 drafts by the Boston Red Sox and signed for well over the suggest slots at $1.4 and $1.3 million respectively.

In Renfroe’s case, the suggested slot for a player selected 107th overall was reportedly $294,300.

“If they take it to the fullest extent that they can take it (and implement a steadfast slot), that scenario could not happen,” Mayo said.

The idea, as it pertains to the MLB teams, is simple. No organization is keen on handing over multi-million dollar signing bonuses to unproven commodities before they face a professional fastball or hurl their first backdoor curveball in the minor leagues.

As for colleges, a new system could mean more recruits end up on campus and recruiters aren’t left sweating until the last possible second to discover their No. 1 left-handed signee is going pro.

“That’s probably the best part for colleges is you have time to cover your losses,” Baseball America national college baseball writer Aaron Fitt said. “If you lose a guy in the first two rounds, you know he’s probably going to sign — especially since I imagine teams will be really diligent with their picks now and they’re not going to spend a top two round pick on a guy if he’s not going to sign — now you know you have time to recruit a replacement because he’s going to sign a pro contract.

“The way it is now, it goes down to deadline and it leaves you no time to make a contingency plan if you’re a recruiting coordinator.”

Added Mayo: “I think it’ll clean up a lot of what goes on in the draft in terms of holdouts and waiting until the deadline at 11:59:58 (p.m.) and all that kind of stuff where more often than not teams blink because they want to get their players signed. Now it’s a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and both sides will have a much clearer idea of what’s going to happen if they pick a certain guy.”

More aggressive
Fitt also believes a new slotting system could alter how recruiters piece together their classes.

“It’s interesting too because Ole Miss typically uses a conservative approach when it comes to recruiting top prospects,” he said. “They’ve had a few like (Drew) Pomeranz of course and Bobby Wahl was kind of a big deal, but typically Mike Bianco doesn’t like to take those kinds of risks. He wants guys he feels very strongly are going to show up.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ole Miss become more aggressive if you have hard slotting.”

How long will it last?
Should a hard slotting system be implemented, Lafferty believes that while it could change how the first couple of classes handle the draft, he wouldn’t be surprised if it’s only a matter of time until trends revert back to how they are now.

“It may be in the first couple of years where some of these kids that are used to seeing other kids signing bigger signing bonuses, maybe it gets a few more kids into school,” he said, “but I think after a few years it’ll go back to the old rule where the guys that want to sign will sign and the guys that don’t won’t.”

As for the immediate time being, Lafferty’s recruiting strategy isn’t going to change.

“Nothing is going to change. We’re going to sign the best players in the country,” he said. “We’re going out and trying to do that with our 2011 signing class, we’re really excited about that, and even classes on down the line.” (April 29, 2011, Page 6A)

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