The baseball world understood that the Red Sox took a big right-handed college pitcher who would prove challenging to sign.
Anthony Ranaudo, who entered the 2010 season rated as one of the best college arms available, has certainly reinforced that notion with his performance in the Cape League this summer. The No. 39 overall pick, who reportedly will return to LSU if he does not receive top-10 money, tossed six no-hit innings for Brewster on Thursday, and has yet to permit an earned run in 23 2/3 innings.
Yet Ranaudo might not prove the most challenging college draftee for the Sox to sign this summer. That title could end up going to Texas starter Brandon Workman, whom the Sox selected with their second-round pick.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander had a tremendous junior year, going 12-2 with a 3.35 ERA, striking out 101 and walking 23 in 104 2/3 innings. Prior to the draft, he was viewed as a potential first-round pick, thanks to the development of a wipeout cutter to complement a low-90s fastball that peaks around 95 mph and a solid curveball.
“He’s a horse,” said a talent evaluator. “When he’s right, he’s got three solid-average to plus pitches.”
He made a significant step forward as a junior thanks to the development of his cutter. Prior to this season, many teams believed that his big league future would come as a reliever.
And while that still may prove the case, the emergence of a third pitch gives him a chance to emerge as a starter. Certainly, he will pitch out of the rotation in the minors.
“I think people worried prior to this year that he was really just a two-pitch guy,” said Workman’s advisor, Kevin Hubbard. “Number one, he’s always had a changeup. He’s just never thrown it that much. I think with the addition of the cutter, I think a lot of the teams changed their mind on what Brandon can be in the major leagues.”
His big frame and solid fastball have elicited some comparisons to current Red Sox starter John Lackey. Workman was one of many players contacted by the Sox before they made their first-round pick (No. 20 overall, a pick they used on Kolbrin Vitek). At that time, according to multiple sources, the Sox were told that Workman would accept the MLB recommended slot bonus of $1.359 million.
Multiple clubs picking early in the sandwich round, however, were told that Workman would not sign for the recommended slot bonus in the high six-figure range. The Sox used their sandwich picks on power-hitting outfielder Bryce Brentz (who signed for the slot recommendation of $889,200) and Ranaudo.
Then, the draft turned over into the second round, and the Sox were pleasantly surprised to see that Workman – a player who many in the industry thought would be gone by the end of the first round – was still on the board. The Sox grabbed the big right-hander with the No. 57 overall pick.
That pick comes with a recommended slot value in the low- to mid-$600,000 range. (In 2009, the Reds signed the No. 57 overall choice, high school shortstop Billy Hamilton, for a bonus of $623,600.) But based on their suggestion that they wouldn’t accept slot money from the sandwich round, Workman and his advisor, Hubbard, have already given their indication that -- while the pitcher is excited at the prospect of being a part of the Red Sox' organization, for whom a pipeline of talented Texas pitchers has been in place -- he has no plans to sign for second-round money.
The Sox front office had limited contact with Workman’s camp right after the draft, and while the pitcher and his advisor have remained in touch with the Red Sox' area scout, there has been little in the way of actual contract negotiations thus far. That is not unusual, since players who seek money above slot often don’t end up signing until later in the summer, closer to the mid-August deadline.
Workman did not take part in a workout for Sox draftees at Fenway Park this week, though he has pitched in Fenway before, earning the win in last summer’s Cape League All-Star game. After making every start this year for the Longhorns, Workman has been working out in Austin, where he is staying in shape for the possible start to his pro career.
When the two sides do begin formal contract negotiations, the result would appear hard to predict, particularly given that Workman has shown in the past that he is willing to walk away from an opportunity to turn pro when his asking price wasn’t met.
In 2007, he was selected in the third round by the Phillies with the No. 107 overall pick. He was excited by the prospect of starting his pro career, but ended up walking away from Philadelphia’s offer to go to college.
“[Phillies GM] Pat Gillick and basically everybody was in the conference call. They called and asked us what it would take to sign,” said Hubbard. “The Workmans gave him the number that it would take to sign, which was $350,000 at that time. And we asked them not to take him if they weren’t willing to pay $350,000, and like I said, all the players were in the room.
“They took him, and after they took him, they called on the phone later and said they wanted to come in the house. We asked how much they had on the contract, and they said $267,000. We said, ‘Until you get 350, there’s no reason to come. We were firm on our number. We warned you on the front end.’”
That decision has, in some ways, paid off, since even a slot bonus for the second-round pick would represent more than twice what Workman would have received from the Phillies. Now, Workman’s advisor suggests that the 21-year-old would be prepared once again to turn down an offer that he perceived as inadequate.
“We’ve looked at all contingencies,” said Hubbard.
If Workman doesn’t get what he views as a fair bonus, he would consider pitching in the independent American Association and then re-entering the draft in 2011. The pitcher's hope is that it will not come to that, and that talks with the Sox will soon commence that will lead to the start of a journey to Boston.
Yet while the Sox view Workman as a very talented pitcher, and one whom they were thrilled to take with a second-day pick, there is no guarantee that they will meet his asking price.
The team can cite the recent precedent of a pitcher like Alex Wilson, whom it took in the second round (No. 77 overall) of the 2009 draft, as a relevant point of comparison. Wilson had, at one point, been viewed as a first-round talent, and even last year, he anticipated going higher in the draft than where he ended up being taken by the Sox.
The right-hander turned down an offer of roughly $600,000 after the Cubs took him in the 10th round in the 2008 draft. But when he re-entered the draft in 2009, he ended up signing almost immediately with the Sox for the recommended bonus of $475,000.
By signing quickly and then dominating for Lowell last summer, he has been able to advance to Double-A Portland. He will likely be on the team’s major league radar for next season, meaning that big league paychecks could soon make up for any money “lost” in his bonus.
The Sox are hopeful that they can find middle ground with Workman, and that he can follow a path not unlike the one being traveled by Wilson. If Workman and Ranaudo join Vitek and Brentz, it could be one of the more talented Red Sox college draft classes in years.
But it remains to be seen whether the two sides will come together. If Workman continues to hold out for first-round money or even early sandwich-pick money, early indications are that the Sox might not be inclined to meet that asking price. While the Sox typically sign their top draft picks, the team did walk away from negotiations with 2007 second-rounder Hunter Morris.
And so, while Ranaudo’s Cape League performance has created the basis for fascinating negotiations, they may not be the most challenging talks between the Sox and one of their college picks.
OTHER DRAFT NOTES
--Third-round pick Sean Coyle and fourth-round pick Garin Cecchini were among the draft picks who took part in the Sox’ Fenway Park workout this week.
Both are high school players with outstanding performance records and strong commitments to college. Coyle has a scholarship to UNC, where his brother plays, and said on the day that he was drafted that he was undecided about his future. He is considered likely to need a seven-figure bonus to pass on his college commitment.
Cecchini, who outperformed top overall pick Bryce Harper while with Team USA last summer, told teams that it would take a $1.75 million signing bonus for him to pass on a scholarship offer to LSU. (For more on Cecchini, click here.)
Cecchini wasn’t able to play in the game between draftees, but he took batting practice and looked good, making the Sox more comfortable about the condition of his surgically repaired ACL.
--The Sox were pleased to sign pitcher Jacob Dahlstrand, their 10th round pick, for $150,000. The high school pitcher has a big (6-foot-5), strong frame, and a three-pitch arsenal (including a power sinker that aready touched the low-90s) that makes him an interesting player to project, despite the need for significant instruction.