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Updated: Nov 9th, 2010
Encouraging Examples of Players Who Didn't Sign Early
By: Jeff Spelman |

Cincinnati - College Baseball’s Early Signing Period has begun and runs now through November 17th.

It’s a time of celebration for many. But for those high school seniors who aren’t signing this week, it can be a very long week full of bewilderment.

I’ve been watching college baseball recruiting for over 20 years.  I’ve seen the stress that the Early Signing Period can place on senior prospects and their families.

Let me offer some hope for that group.

I’ll tell two stories.

The first story involves a young prospect I saw years ago. He was an infielder from Florida who did not sign in the Early Period his senior year. At that time, I used to run a Tryout for the top underclass prospects in the state of Florida every December or January. A lot of future Major League players went through that event – guys like Casey Kotchman, Brett Myers, Denard Span, Zach Greinke  and Mike Napoli .

The event drew countless Major League scouts and college recruiters. In the mid-1990s we decided to add an “Unsigned Senior” Showcase on one of the fields. College coaches with specific needs would stop over at that field looking for players to sign in the Spring.  During a couple year time period, we helped over 100 players who didn’t sign early, catch on with Division I schools.

One such player was the infielder I mentioned from Florida.

He was unsigned senior who attracted the attention of the University of Mississippi. He signed with the Rebels later that Spring. A strong senior year of high school vaulted him into the 18th round of the Draft. He opted for college. It turned out to be a wise choice.

A couple of years later he was a first-round draft pick. Then, in 2009, this former “unsigned senior” won National League Rookie-of-the-Year honors. Chris Coghlan is living proof that the Early Signing period can merely be a bump in the road, not a career-ending stop sign.

The second story I always think of in regards to great players who didn’t sign early, involves another prep infielder from Florida.  In our current rating system he probably would have carried a “3” PW rating going into his senior year: a definite Division I prospect, with a high level of playability, but lacking certain present tools coveted by scouts.

This player lived a few hours from a perennial top-10 team in the country. It seemed that most people in college baseball thought this young man would sign with that school. The problem was that they wanted him to convert to catcher. The young man didn’t want to.

So he dropped through the cracks and did not sign during the Early Period of his senior year. I remember talking with his family and trying to find out what happened. He had attended several showcases I ran. He was the kind of player you would “go to bat” for.

I spoke with some college recruiters in the ACC. One had space and money available. The other didn’t. It turned out to be a good match for the first school and the player.

Over the next four years, this player became one of college baseball’s most productive players. He earned first-team All-American honors, won the Golden Spikes Award and went to the College World Series. His good fortunes didn’t end there. He became a first-round draft pick, later finished high in the NL Rookie-of-the-Year Award and earned over $14 million in his Major League career.

Not bad for an “unsigned” player.

And, by the way, Khalil Greene never switched to catcher.

About Jeff Spelman
Jeff Spelman is one of the most experienced and respected people in the amateur baseball scouting world. Spelman was the early pioneer of the showcase industry in 1992 and was the founder of Team One Baseball. Team One ran the country's top showcases throughout the 1990s and early 2000s with hundreds of future MLB Stars coming through their events. In fact, Spelman's Team One Baseball was responsible for 10,000+ players going on to play college ball, saw 2,000+ selected in the MLB Draft and had alumni of his events collectively earn over $500 million in college scholarships. Spelman sold the company to Baseball Factory in 2004. Spelman also helped form the Cape Cod Classic, was in charge of player selection and helped to get it televised on ESPNU. The Cape Cod Classic later became the Under Armour All-American Game. Spelman has also served as an amateur baseball scout and writer for CBS Sports/Yahoo!, and has served as the national scouting director for Rivals.com Baseball.
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