How Many Players Sign?
It can be very difficult to pass on signing a professional contract when one is laid before you. Your dream of playing professional ball is only a signature away, but turning pro is not always the best decision. The circumstances need to be ideal for any player to forego a college education. Not signing may end up being the best decision you can make.
In fact, about 36% of the selected players do not sign—18% of college players and roughly 83% of high school players. Although these players face the uncertainty of whether or not they will be drafted again in the future, they have the benefit of pursuing (and finishing) a college degree while still retaining the possibility of making it to the pros. Choosing whether or not to sign should be a rational process, and you need to evaluate the pros and cons of both the professional and collegiate path when making your decision. Looking at trends of past players not signing can help you better understand the situation.
Players sign with the intention of playing Major League Baseball despite knowing that less than 10% of drafted players eventually make it to the Big Stage. Many indicators can be used to evaluate a player’s probability of making it; these correlate directly to which players choose not to sign.
The first criterion you should evaluate is your odds of making the Majors. There are two significant indicators of this probability; the round a player was selected in and the signing bonus he will receive.
Additionally, you should weigh the opportunity cost of foregoing a college degree from your prospective university. Every school is different in how they prepare student-athletes for the world of business and for the world of baseball. Highly ranked academic schools can provide endless options for players after college, while schools with a strong baseball program can help improve your draft stock. Either one of these options may be better than spending the next several years in the minor leagues.
Lastly, you should understand how you will fare in a future Draft. There is no certainty you will be drafted again, but if you continue to develop through college, you have the opportunity to improve your draft stock and your probability of reaching the Majors. Therefore, it is vital to look back and see how past high school players with similar profiles have fared in reentering the draft.
Every high school player drafted by a professional club faces the same decision. For many players, not signing is the right choice. Let’s take a look at the chart below and see what trends exist for players who do not sign.
The graphs above and below depict the percentage of players that do not sign out of high school, 4-year college, and junior college. The first thing to take note of is the progression through the rounds. Early in the draft, a majority of players choose to sign. These players are believed to have the best probability of playing in the big leagues and are offered huge signing bonuses. The combined prospect of a high draft pick and huge bonus convinces most of these players to enter the professional ranks. In the later rounds of the draft, most players do not sign out of high school. As recalled in the Re-Draft article linked above, these players have a great shot at improving their draft stock by attending college while also having the opportunity to obtain a degree. The majority of college players sign, even in the late rounds. For them, the opportunity of playing professional baseball, coupled with the chance of making the MLB, is too enticing an option to pass on before entering the real world.
When comparing positions, it can be noted that pitchers in both high school and 4-year college are the least likely group to sign in the top rounds of the draft. Pitchers’ value is more volatile than position players from year to year, so some choose not to sign in an attempt to move up in the draft the following year. High school pitchers do this by attending junior college and retaining their draft eligibility, while 4 year college juniors have a year of NCAA eligibility remaining. However, college juniors need to be aware of the leverage they lose by not signing and playing their senior season. An illustrative example of this would be Jason Varitek, who moved up in the draft after his senior season at Georgia Tech but was offered less money to sign due to his loss of leverage.
Shortstop is the position most likely to sign throughout the draft. Even in the later rounds, shortstops are considered the most talented and most athletic position in the field. Teams pay for talent and athleticism; therefore, they offer more money to shortstops. Another position with a high signing rate is catcher. Catching is unique; catchers usually do not change positions, and other positions are rarely converted into catchers. This puts catchers in a league of their own, as teams always need to keep their Minor League system stocked with this position.
Every other position follows its own downward trend dictated by the round.
With the information above, you should be more prepared to weigh the probability of making the Major Leagues versus the value of obtaining a college degree. Professional and collegiate baseball are both exciting endeavors; you should make your decision based on what path is right for you. Not signing the first contract laid before you is not the end of your dream of playing professional baseball. You should not be afraid to pass on the present opportunity if the timing is wrong and situation is not ideal.
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