Since the current draft rules came into place in the 2012 draft, it’s become uncommon for teams not to sign their picks in the top ten rounds. In last year’s draft, only two players from those rounds did not sign. According to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, that will be the case again this year. Unfortunately for the Orioles, it’s one of their early round picks who won’t be signing.
The lone unsigned Orioles draft pick from the early rounds is fourth rounder Jack Conlon, a right-handed pitcher from a Texas high school who was committed to attend Texas A&M in the fall. With a 5pm signing deadline approaching tonight, Callis reported that the O’s won’t be signing Conlon.
This is a surprise because the Orioles, with senior sign players in rounds 6-10, had something in the realm of $500,000 to offer Conlon in addition to his pick slot money of $409,400.
Part of the process of scouting an amateur player now is doing groundwork in finding out what it will take to sign him. The Orioles shouldn’t have drafted Conlon if they weren’t certain that he would sign for the money that they were going to offer him. If something like this happens, someone messed up somewhere.
It’s not an isolated incident for the Orioles. This is actually the third time since the 2012 draft that they will fail to sign one of their picks from the top ten rounds.
In 2012, it was fifth rounder Colin Poche, who chose the University of Arkansas instead of the O’s. In 2015, it was second rounder Jonathan Hughes going to Georgia Tech. Now Conlon joins the list. This uncommon league-wide occurrence visits the Orioles much more often than it should.
These non-signings on their own aren’t what would have fixed any of the problems facing the thin Orioles farm system. Poche was drafted again as a college senior by the Diamondbacks last year and appears to be a lefty reliever with command problems. Hughes pitched in just nine games for Georgia Tech as a sophomore and also had command problems.
It’s unlikely they would have been on the path to the big leagues in the O’s system. Still, the O’s liked their potential enough to pick them at all. They should have gotten all of these guys into the system without incident, like nearly every other team has managed to do with their top ten picks nearly every year.
At least with Hughes, the Orioles got a compensation pick for not signing him. That won’t be the case with Conlon, as Callis notes that those picks are only given for the top three rounds.
Conlon was rated as the #175 draft prospect, according to MLB Pipeline’s pre-draft rankings. The chances of the 175th-best prospect out of a given draft becoming an MLBer are not great, but if they don’t sign the guy at all, those chances are zero, at least for him becoming a big leaguer for the Orioles. Now someone else might draft him out of college.
Being so far below their total pool spending means that the Orioles aren’t going to face any difficulty with overspending penalties after not signing Conlon. The money from his pick vanishes from their pool, but they still have extra money they saved from other picks.
Perhaps in the last few hours they’ll even take a run at 16th rounder Logan Allen or 17th rounder Greg Jones, either of whom they could still offer about $625,000. That probably won’t be enough to sign either player, though. If it would have been enough, someone would have drafted them with a higher pick.
Was there a surprise in the physical and the O’s decided to say no thanks? That’s what happened with the other player from the top 10 rounds who won’t be signing with the team that drafted him, Rays #31 overall pick Drew Rasmussen.
Baseball America’s Hudson Belinsky reported that it was indeed a failed physical for Conlon. We’ll find out quickly whether other teams are waiting to swoop in to capitalize on this latest failed O’s physical because Belinsky also notes that Conlon becomes an unrestricted free agent. He can go to Texas A&M or see what other teams offer him.
The Orioles keep screwing up the basic step of signing all of their top ten picks. Conlon will become the latest. This doesn’t happen every year, but often enough that you have to wonder what the heck is going on.