Signability Question Mark Benefits Baseball

The Major League Baseball Draft has come and gone. Worried Mississippi State baseball fans gave a sigh of relief once the 50th round was completed because only one signee from an outstanding recruiting class was drafted. But it could have been a sigh of disbelief.

The one signee drafted was Jarred Holloway, a hard-throwing lefthander from Russellville (AR) High School who was selected by the Washington Nationals in the 49th round. He was expected to be drafted although in a higher round, a much higher round. But also expected to be drafted were other signees such as multi-position player Connor Powers and shortstops Jet Butler and Ryan Powers. One signee, Jared Wesson, another hard-throwing lefty who played at Itawamba Community College, was a draft-and-follow guy from the 2005 draft who turned down the Marlins final offer a little over a week and a half ago.

There was talk that Holloway could have been a top five round pick. What happened? How did he last until the 49th round?

"It was strictly signability," said Mark Holloway, Jarred's dad. "We heard quite a bit of talk that he would be drafted in the 3rd round. But Jarred was pretty much upfront where his cutoff (signing bonus) was. And it was pretty high. We had quite a few scouts call back and tell us they appreciated that (we told them that). But we still had a handful of last minute calls asking us if we were sure that was where our cutoff was."

And there was a valid reason why so many pro teams continued to call him even with a high bonus demand.

"He was invited to seven or eight (pro workouts). He ended up going to two workouts, the Mets and the Cardinals, about three weeks ago because they were close by," said Mark. "The Cardinals workout was their main pre-draft workout. I think he topped out at 92 (miles per hour) and was (consistently) throwing 90 to 91. At the Mets (workout), he was consistently at 91-92 and once hit 95."

Normally those kind of numbers make you think first round, especially when the pitcher throwing them is a tall lefty with a huge upside. But this is not a fantasy draft, but a real draft that is all about business.

"What most people don't know - and I didn't know this four months ago - is the draft is not what everybody thinks it is. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes," said Mark. "Unless you've had a kid that has gone through it or had a close friend's kid go through it, you have no idea what goes on. Really, inside of 5 or 6 rounds if you aren't (willing) to commit to signing, they aren't going to pick you. If you look there aren't many players inside of five rounds that go unsigned. (The scouts) could lose their jobs over that. They told us that." (Editor's Note: 7 players in the 1st five rounds of the 2005 draft went unsigned)

So, it all comes back to the all-important signability issue. And in Jarred's case, signing him would have required more than teams were willing to fork out. However, if things had remained the same as in the early part of the season that might not have been the case.

"It started out in the year he was getting a lot of scouting directors and cross checkers coming to his games. They were saying he would go in the late first round at that time," said Mark. But things don't always go according to plan as the Holloway's found out.

"His high school coach was asked by the (pros) to have him throw this or throw that pitch. Almost every game he was throwing different pitches and being asked to do stuff that he hadn't done before. That cost him in accuracy," said Mark. "I've even read where they talk about him being inconsistent at times. And he was inconsistent."

Hence, he wound up a 49th round draft pick. But one thing to remember is once a player is drafted outside of the first 10 rounds, teams can offer whatever they want to offer. Will Jarred get his cutoff bonus or will he go to State? My bet is on State, but we'll know for sure when he sets foot in his first fall class at MSU.

As for the other signees, of the ones expected to be significant drafts, Illinois corner infielder/outfielder Connor Powers was drawing the most interest around the time of the draft.

"The Phillies called me the (first) day (of the draft) in the 8th round and they said they could take me in the next four rounds. Monday, the Tigers called me to check on my signability. They said they could have drafted me from the 5th to the 6th round. I told them I wasn't going to sign for anything but 3rd or 4th money so they didn't need to waste a draft pick on me," said Connor.

Those two teams were just a few that called him.

"(Other) teams that have called me the last week were the Cubs, Rangers, Oakland. They were calling to check on my signability," said Connor, a power hitter who ended up hitting 16 home runs in 33 games this past season.

Two other signees, Florida shortstop Jet Butler and New York shortstop Ryan Powers, also had to deal with Major League Baseball scouts the past few days or weeks.

"There were about 6 clubs that were talking to (Jet) near the end. We had one call us the night before the draft and a few days before the draft there were three other clubs. We had some calls where they wanted to know if he would sign in a certain (round)," said Jet's dad, Skip Butler. "Most of them were (saying) 8th to 10th (rounds), but it ranged from 6th to 15th. There was one that threw out 6th, that was the last one (that called), the rest were 8 to 10 or 10 to 12. We even had several clubs ask him to go to junior college (so that the pros could draft him next year), but we were never going to do that. That's not an option. He's going to Mississippi State. He's fired up and ready to get started."

As for Ryan Powers, he also had some interest thrown his way, although the pros seem to think playing for MSU the next three years is the way to go for now.

"About two weeks ago, the California Angels said they think he is going to be a great player, but that he could use a little bit more development. We also found out through the grapevine that the Milwaukee Brewers had him rated kind of high. And we think there were a few others that did, too. They said where they would be drafting him, they knew that he wouldn't consider giving up playing at Mississippi State," said Tom Powers, Ryan's dad. " They knew we wouldn't sign for low round money, because (Ryan) was excited about playing at (Mississippi) State."

Four highly touted players, but only one wound up being drafted. Surprising? Not according to Skip Butler.

"In our area we had several SEC signees that ended up not getting drafted and they could have gone high," he said. "Two of Jet's friends signed with LSU and one with Florida. And that's just from our area. They were projected to go in about the same range as Jet but they went undrafted. From a signability standpoint, it just happens. People don't understand how big signability it. It is huge. A top-10 round guy, they want a commitment from him before the draft."

And that's something these five MSU signees wouldn't give to the pros. And there are many MSU fans that couldn't be happier.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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