On the 2015 MLB Draft's second day, the St. Louis Cardinals selected slugging prospect Kep Brown in the tenth round, with the 311th pick. Brown fit the profile of some of their early picks: a high-school bat with high upside. The prep's power didn't come without questions. Prior to having his senior season end due to a torn Achilles tendon, Brown was projected to go in the first round, but the injury sapped his value. The fall in Brown's draft stock made signability—especially given his selection in the tenth round, which has the lowest slot values of the draft—an open question mark.
On Friday, the South Carolina prep answered the second question: he will honor his commitment to the University of Miami to play college baseball and not turn pro by signing with the Cardinals. Scott Eisberg, the sports director for WCIV in Charleston, South Carolina, tweeted on Friday:
Just heard from Wando grad Kep Brown- he will forego professional baseball for now and play college ball- 10th round pick of Cardinals.— Scott Eisberg (@SEisbergWCIV) June 13, 2015
Brown will continue to rehab his Achilles and head to University of Miami- was projected 1st rounder before the injury - great get for Canes— Scott Eisberg (@SEisbergWCIV) June 13, 2015
That Brown will not sign for a bonus in the low-to-mid six figures is not surprising news. In their analyses of the Brown selection, both RB and Eric found the pick curious due to the unlikelihood that St. Louis would be able to sign the high-schooler to a pro contract.
Seeing the Cardinals select two high schoolers in the back half of the first ten rounds was flat-out inexplicable. I'm hoping they know something I don't about how much bonus money they're going to be able to free up to sign Brown and Ian Oxnevad, the lefty from the Pacific Northwest, but it feels like a very long shot they're going to be able to get either of those guys, much less both. There's an interesting game theory element to this situation, in that the Redbirds basically took two guys who would normally fit in the 11th-13th round range, where the bonuses have that 100K buffer and don't cost you anything not to sign, and took them earlier, before anyone else would be able to take them first. They traded a whole lot of downside risk for an opportunity that very well might not have come along at all later on, when the risk was lower. I'm really afraid it's not going to pay off for them, but it's a really interesting tactic all the same.
The worst part is that the Cardinals literally cannot sign both [Brown and eighth-round pick, Oxnevad], if the signability concerns have any merit (and why wouldn't they if both players fell that far in the draft?), which means they're going to lose the slot money from those two players, money that could have been banked by going with college seniors (who the Cardinals have had a good track record of success with anyway) there to ensure that all the high-upside players in the first few rounds get signed, even if the team has to go over slot to do so. If you take both of those guys in the 11th and 12th rounds, you can offer them slightly less to sign, but you don't lose anything except the player when they don't.
Lending further credence to the signability concerns regarding Brown this draft, the outfielder waffled on whether he would even negotiate with St. Louis. After the Cardinals selected Brown, Rob Rains of StL Sports Page tweeted that that Miami commit reiterated his plans to join the Hurricanes.
Cards 10th rd pick HS OF Kep Brown sends text to Pal m Beach Post that he plans to honor commitment to Miami. #STLCards #MLBDraft— Rob Rains (@RobRains) June 10, 2015
But the Palm Beach Post later reported that the 18-year-old had changed his mind:
However, Brown later amended those comments, saying he was still open to listening to the Cardinals, who have until July 17 to sign him.
Thus, it appears that Brown's inclination was to go to Miami from the moment the Cardinals used their tenth-round pick on him and it seems that the Cards could not come up with enough money to change his mind.
The Cardinals' draft pool is consequently reduced by the $149,700 slot valued that MLB assigned to the 311th overall pick. That money is gone. That's not nothing, to be sure, but it also isn't a major hit. The drop in the Cardinals' overall pool from $7,387,600 to $7,237,900 constitutes a 2.03% decrease in the club's draft pool. Essentially, the St. Louis front office were willing to wager a tad over 2% of their allotted bonus pool on being able to sign Brown, a former first-round talent, and lost.
Now we'll see whether the $167,400 gamble on prep port-sider Ian Oxnevad pans out.