Something that was lost in the shuffle amongst last night's excitement is the news that the Rangers have signed their 10th round draft pick, Oregon righthanded pitcher Cole Wiper, to a deal that includes a $700,000 signing bonus.
That bonus, for a player picked that late in the draft, is significant. Slot money for that spot in the draft is $135,300, and signing Wiper for that much means that most of the Rangers' remaining draft pool allotment has gone to Wiper. The Rangers have signed all of their picks from the first ten rounds now, so that's less of an issue than it would be otherwise, but if any picks remaining sign for more than $100,000, the Rangers will have to pay a penalty, and they can spend an aggregate of only approximately $350,000 above that $100,000 per player limit on their remaining draftees without incurring a draft pick penalty.
To put this in perspective, $700,000 is high third round slot money. Wiper got the third largest bonus in the 2013 draft class, behind only first rounders Chi Chi Gonzalez and Travis Demeritte. Wiper's bonus is larger than all but three of the Rangers' 2012 draftees received -- Nick Williams and Jamie Jarmon, among others, received less than Wiper. Only Kevin Matthews and Zach Cone got more than Wiper from the 2011 draft class, and neither of those players got significantly more than Wiper.
And yet, Wiper didn't even make Baseball America's list of the top 500 prospects in the draft.
So who is Cole Wiper, and why did the Rangers pay him so much to sign?
Wiper is an unusual case, in that he is a draft-eligible redshirt freshman. That gave him a significant amount of leverage, as he had three years of college eligibility remaining, rather than the usual one year. He was well regarded coming out of high school, and was a 14th round pick of the Blue Jays in 2011, but went to Oregon instead of signing with Toronto.
Wiper missed all of the 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and pitched just 12.2 innings in 2013 (with 10 walks, 4 Ks, and a 7.11 ERA), so he was expected to go back to school and attempt to re-build his draft stock. The Rangers, however, saw enough to give him a high six figure bonus as their primary "over slot" signee this year.
I have to assume that the Rangers had a strong grade on him coming out of high school in 2011, and didn't draft him because they didn't think they could sign him -- that was the year the Rangers devoted most of their money to signing Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman, and had little available in their budget for draft pick signings. Wiper was #75 on BA's high school top 100 prospects in November, 2010, and ended up being #192 on their final top 200 list for the 2011 draft.
Wiper is listed at 6'3", 180 lbs., and pre-injury was described as athletic (of course) and having an above-average curveball to go along with a slider and changeup, as well as a fastball he could throw in the low 90s. Wiper was born on June 3, 1992, which makes him 21, the age of most college junior draft picks -- that's why he was draft-eligible as a red-shirt freshman out of a four year college.
Given his lack of pitching experience the last couple of years, I'd expect him to start in the Arizona Rookie League, rather than Spokane in the short-season A Northwest League, where most college draft picks start out. He's not listed on either Spokane's roster or the Rangers' AZL affiliate roster at this time, so we'll have to see where he ends up.
But this is an intriguing pick, who the Rangers clearly think has significant potential, given the resources devoted to landing him. I'll be keeping on eye on him going forward.