Mark Appel and six other first-round picks remain unsigned as Friday’s deadline approaches

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As part of the new collective bargaining agreement MLB moved the deadline for draft picks to sign from mid-August to mid-July, so this year’s unsigned picks have until Friday at 5:00 p.m. eastern time to ink deals.

Most early selections signed within two weeks of the draft, but seven of the 31 first-round picks remain unsigned and that includes several of the draft’s biggest names.

#4 Kevin Gausman, LSU right-hander (Orioles)
#6 Albert Almora, high school outfielder (Cubs)
#8 Mark Appel, Stanford right-hander (Pirates)
#9 Andrew Heaney, Oklahoma St. left-hander (Marlins)
#16 Lucas Giolito, high school right-hander (Nationals)
#25 Richie Shaffer, Clemson third baseman (Rays)
#30 Ty Hensley, high school right-hander (Yankees)

Giolito fell to the Nationals at No. 16 in part because of his elbow injury and in part because of his presumed bonus demands, and Appel’s fall to the Pirates at No. 8 is well-documented. Almora immediately made it clear he’d be a tough sign when the Cubs took him No. 6, and not coincidentally both Appel and Almora are “advised” by agent Scott Boras.

Most draft analysts seem to think at most one or two first-round picks will go unsigned, largely because the new CBA also put in place a slot bonus system that makes holding out for more money very difficult. Of course, that doesn’t mean Appel and Boras, for instance, won’t try.

UPDATE: We can cross Almora off the list, as he’s apparently agreed to terms with the Cubs for an over-slot bonus.

Rene Rivera out 4-6 weeks after undergoing knee surgery

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Angels catcher Rene Rivera will be sidelined for up to six weeks, the club announced Friday. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list with right knee inflammation last Sunday and underwent surgery for a torn meniscus.

Rivera, 34, signed on as a backup catcher to the Angels’ Martin Maldonado back in January. Since then, he’s slashed a healthy .259/.322/.481 with six extra-base hits and an .804 OPS in 59 plate appearances this spring. While manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t anticipate any complications with the veteran catcher’s recovery process, the team will have to wait and see whether he can maintain that kind of consistent production upon his return this summer.

In the interim, rookie backstop Jose Briceno is expected to shoulder Rivera’s workload. The 25-year-old is working through his second year in the Angels’ organization and currently batting .261/.272/.500 with six home runs in 92 PA for Triple-A Salt Lake. He’s likely to make his big league debut sometime in the next week.