2013 MLB Draft: Round 3 notes – BoSox get steal in Jon Denney

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– With all night to think about it, the Astros made North Carolina left-hander Kent Emanuel the first pick off the board Friday and 74th overall selection. That splits the difference over where MLB.com (69th) and ESPN’s Keith Law (82nd) had him ranked. Emanuel is a 6-foot-4 lefty with a decent three-pitch arsenal, but command seems to be his strong suit.

It’s interesting that the Astros, who now have one of the most sabermetrically minded front offices in the game, have gone for three college pitchers in three picks. It indicates that they’re planning to stop rebuilding and start contending come 2015 or ’16. Otherwise, it would have made sense to go with bigger upside guys in the second and third rounds. It also suggests that maybe No. 1 overall pick Mark Appel won’t be signing for less than slot. If he was prepared to give the Astros some savings, the team could have grabbed signability players in the second and third. They can still do that later, but the talent will dwindle.

– Jon Denney’s free fall stopped when the Red Sox picked him No. 81. MLB.com had the high school catcher as the draft’s No. 20 prospect, while Keith Law had him at No. 22. It’s a curious landing spot for him, given that the Red Sox don’t figure to have a lot of flexibility to go over slot. Their first pick, high school left-hander Trey Ball, probably won’t settle for less than his slot. Their second pick, Teddy Stankiewicz, rejected the Mets’ offer as a second-rounder last year, and since he’s still just a freshman, he’ll have leverage in negotiations. If the Red Sox can get Denney signed anyway, it’d be quite a coup. They already have Ryan Lavarnway, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart in the minors, but a team can never have enough catching.

– At No. 84, the Mets drafted a 6-foot-7, 190-pound high school righty named Casey Meisner. They’re probably hoping he fills out a bit.

– The Phillies grabbed outfielder Cord Sandberg with the 89th pick and now face the difficult task of luring him away from a football scholarship to play quarterback at Mississippi State. Rivals.com rated him the No. 8 high school quarterback prospect this year, so it won’t be an easy task.

– The No. 91 pick was outfielder Jacob May, going to the White Sox. He can’t be a third generation major leaguer, since his father, Lee May Jr., came up a little short after being drafted in the first round by the Mets in 1986. His grandfather, Lee, played 18 seasons and hit 354 homers in a career that ended in 1982, and his great uncle, Carlos, spent much of his 11-year career with the White Sox.

– Not to be confused with A’s left-hander Tomaso “Tommy” Milone, the Rays drafted high school outfielder Thomas Milone with the 97th overall pick. He’s an outstanding athlete in center, but one who is still learning the game after also playing football in Connecticut.

– The Yankees selected Paul O’Neill’s nephew Michael with the 103rd pick. He was the University of Michigan’s best hitter this year, finishing with a .356/.396/.498 line and 23 steals in 239 at-bats. He’s probably not going to last in center as a pro and he has limited home run power, so he’s going to have quite the uphill climb to the majors.

Agent: Nick Senzel’s reassigment ‘egregious case of service time manipulation’

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Reds prospect Nick Senzel is ready for the majors. Although he battled injuries, the 23-year-old performed well with Triple-A Louisville last season, batting .310/.378/.509 with 20 extra-base hits, 25 RBI, 23 runs scored, and eight stolen bases in 193 plate appearances. Senzel has also performed well this spring, batting .308 across 39 at-bats.

The Reds, however, announced on Friday that Senzel was among a handful of players reassigned to minor league camp. Senzel was drafted as a third baseman, began playing second base last year, and had been playing in center field during spring training. The common thought is that the Reds, who have built a competitive roster, will keep Senzel at Triple-A to begin the season and call him up right after the club secures an extra year of contractual control.

Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Senzel’s agent Joel Wolfe calls Senzel’s reassignment an “egregious case of service time manipulation.” The full quote:

I don’t believe I’ve ever made public statements on this issue in my career, but I feel compelled to do so in this case where it feels like a simply egregious case of service time manipulation.

We are well aware of the mandate from ownership for the Reds to win this year — and this seems to fly in the face of it. The NL Central was decided by one game last year. Every game matters. This is a shortsighted move that may be frugal now but could cost them dearly later.

Nick Senzel is not a young prospect. He’s a major league-ready impact-type player. He has done everything they’ve asked this spring, including working hard to become a major league center fielder.

Nick takes pride in wearing the Reds uniform. He appreciates how much support he’s received from Reds fans. He’s going to go to Triple-A and prove every day he belongs in MLB.

We have covered the service time manipulation issue pretty extensively here, so Wolfe’s statement doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Prior to an injury, the Blue Jays were going to undeservingly stuff Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. — baseball’s No. 1 prospect — at Triple-A for the first two weeks or so of the season. The White Sox were going to do the same with Eloy Jiménez before using their leverage to nudge him into inking an extension. The Braves toyed with Ronald Acuña Jr.’s playing time last year. Kris Bryant and Maikel Franco filed respective grievances against the Cubs and Phillies for service time manipulation several years ago.

Team executives don’t outright admit to gaming a prospect’s service time to gain that extra year of control because that’s how one loses a grievance. They dance around the topic by making a nebulous claim, typically about the player’s defense needing to be worked on at Triple-A. That’s what the Cubs said about Bryant, and it’s what the Jays said about Guerrero. It’s a subjective enough evaluation that it can’t be falsified. It’s why the grievances that have been filed over this have fizzled out and it’s why more and more teams have brazenly joined the service time manipulation bandwagon.

Senzel’s case is, admittedly, a bit more murky. Though he performed well this spring, Scott Schebler has outperformed him, batting .379 with five extra-base hits and 11 walks in roughly 40 trips to the plate. The starting spot in right field is taken by Yasiel Puig and left field is taken by Jesse Winker. Schebler has ostensibly earned the starting job in center. I can’t imagine Wolfe having a compelling case if he were to file a grievance on Senzel’s behalf.

That being said, it is important that agents (and the MLBPA) speak out about this when they can. Senzel’s case may not be open-and-shut, but bringing service time manipulation into the public consciousness will have a lasting impact ahead of the December 2021 expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement. Holding team executives publicly accountable may make them less willing to manipulate their players’ service time going forward, as it may sour what could otherwise be a terrific relationship between team and player. Service time manipulation is an important piece of the labor puzzle and those on the players’ side have to seize whatever they can to potentially gain leverage. Awareness leads to solidarity.