MLB draft often costly for Georgia

Signees often snatched up before high school caps, gowns turned in

Updated: June 4, 2012, 12:55 AM ET
By David Ching | DawgNation

ATHENS, Ga. -- When you're Byron Buxton, Baseball America selecting you as the No. 1 overall prospect in the upcoming MLB first-year player draft foretells an enormous payday ahead.

When you're a Georgia baseball fan, Buxton's presence on the cover of the publication's annual draft preview presents a more ominous suggestion. It means that David Perno's program will almost certainly lose its top signee before he ever reports to campus -- not that such a possibility was unexpected.

Byron Buxton Wrigley
Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP ImagesGeorgia signee Byron Buxton made an impression at Wrigley Field last summer during the Under Armour All-America Game.
"We knew that the chances of him coming to school were probably never under those circumstances," Perno said of the possibility that Buxton would go in the first few picks of the draft, which runs today through Wednesday. "That's a situation where we've had our share in the past and you kind of sign them as a PR-type situation because he's a great player. You sign him, but you never count on him coming."

The bigger question is what happens with some of the other touted members of Georgia's signing class, which Perno described as "the best class we've ever signed top to bottom, no question, from a talent standpoint. We've had some classes that compare to that, but now, this is going to be probably the best one I would say that gets to campus."

With Buxton (Baxley, Ga./Appling County) as the headliner and two more prospects -- Duane Underwood (Marietta, Ga./Pope) and Joe DeCarlo (Glen Mills, Pa./Garnet Valley) -- rated among the ESPN 100, Perno's staff signed a recruiting class ranked second nationally by Perfect Game USA.

Perno said the Bulldogs almost certainly will lose Buxton and DeCarlo and perhaps other members of this signing class, as well.

Baseball America rates pitcher/outfielder Underwood as the No. 104 overall prospect and pitcher/outfielder Kyle Carter (Columbus, Ga./Columbus) as No. 193. Both players should hear their names called today, when the first 60 picks are announced, or Tuesday during rounds 2-15.

Five Georgia signees -- outfielder Buxton, third baseman DeCarlo (No. 287 prospect), pitcher/outfielder Sean McLaughlin (No. 330), pitcher David Gonzalez (No. 348) and infielder J.T. Phillips (No. 398) -- rank on Baseball America's list of the top 500 prospects, as do current Bulldogs pitcher Alex Wood (No. 54), shortstop Kyle Farmer (No. 346) and third baseman Curt Powell (No. 477).

However, Perno said baseball's new collective-bargaining agreement might help Georgia's cause, because it the CBA places stricter rules on when teams must sign prospects and the amounts teams can offer.

"I think DeCarlo and Buxton are definitely out and from that point, I think we can hope on all of them," Perno said. "But the key is guys like Sean McLaughlin and possibly David Gonzalez.

"Teams used to be able to draft those guys and you were never safe. They could draft them in the 22nd round and then they had two months to watch them all summer and then they could pay them $1 million," Perno added. "But now, if your guys don't go in the top 10 rounds -- and even if they go in the six, seven, eight, nine, 10 -- it's limited on what they can get financially. It's going to just be so much more enjoyable going through this draft than it has been in years past. We've gotten crushed in years past. We've lost 12th-rounders, 18th-rounders and the whole deal. You just want to know."

In Perno's first 10 years as Georgia's head coach, the Bulldogs lost 29 signees to the pro ranks -- four of whom were first-round picks, including Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere.

That is only a fraction of the Georgia signees who were drafted. But losing early-round draft picks is particularly painful, and that has affected Georgia fairly frequently. Between 2003 and 2011, Georgia lost 10 signees who were picked in the draft's first three rounds.

They figure to lose at least two or three more, plus Wood, to this draft -- although Wood was still unsure late last week as to which teams were most serious about his services.

"I've got a group of teams that have probably shown the most interest in me, but I don't really have an idea of where that's at," said Wood, who expects to go somewhere in the draft's top 50 picks tonight. "Most of the teams -- there's probably four teams that probably have four or five picks just for themselves in the first round and supplemental -- so it's hard to really know what people are thinking right now."

Perno said Farmer also might go high enough to consider leaving school early, and that Powell and reliever Blake Dieterich are also possibilities as middle-round picks.

"Curt, he's an All-SEC guy that hit .350. But I know he might be undersized and Dieterich just might not throw hard enough," Perno said. "So Kyle's the one I think where the concern is. But at the same time, if he feels like it's time for him to move on, there's not much you can do on that end."

Despite the possible losses, Perno seemed to believe that a sizable chunk of its touted signing class will be on campus when classes begin this fall.

Thanks to the tightened CBA rules, Perno said those newcomers could bring a much-needed talent infusion to a Bulldogs club that narrowly missed an NCAA Regional bid after finishing 31-26 this spring.

"We've got a chance to do really, really good," Perno said. "We've always been getting those guys that are really good players and come on late and do some things that the pros like, but also they're the type of freshmen that come in and help.

"For example, [freshman pitchers] Pete Nagel this year and Luke Crumley, those are guys that we would in years past be sweating out, where now with the changes, we've got a chance to really get some special guys in here," he continued. "That could change our talent level tremendously in one year. So I'm really excited about the new collective bargaining agreement and the possibility that we may get our best class ever on campus."