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TON -- Right-hander Mike Augliera would not have been drafted if it weren't for his growth at a school that's been playing Division I baseball for about as long as David Ortiz has been in Boston.
The likelihood, too, is that Augliera, the Red Sox's fifth-round pick, would not have been taken quite this high if it weren't for the signing-bonus caps implemented this year. That makes the college senior as much an out-of-nowhere success story as he is a possible model for the direction the overhauled First-Year Player Draft is going. He's already agreed to a deal, which a source said is below the $218,000 slot, and will be reporting to short-season Class A Lowell.
"Certainly with the penalties and the strict parameters around the [Collective Bargaining Agreement], we had to play within the rules, and we did," Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye said after Day 2 of the Draft on Tuesday, during which Augliera was taken. "Senior players are certainly more attractive, and not just seniors, but players who can help fit our budget parameters, and that's what we had to do and that's what we did in order to find the most impactful players up top and make sure we got the most return for the top few picks."
Augliera's fastball climbed from the mid-80s as a recruit out of high school in New Jersey to as high as 94 these days. The 6-foot, 195-pound pitcher leaves Binghamton University in New York as the school's all-time leader in wins (23) and innings (298 1/3). The state school, which played its first Division I baseball season in 2002, is about an hour south of Syracuse, N.Y., and belongs to the America East Conference.
"The evolution over the past four years has been remarkable, and he really is very deserving of this opportunity," Binghamton's baseball coach Tim Sinicki said. "I thought he was going to be a good college pitcher. He had a decent fastball in the kind of mid-80s range, decent secondary stuff. [I] really kind of thought if he developed and worked like he did, he'd turn into a really good college pitcher. I'd be lying if I said my crystal ball told me he'd be a fifth-rounder. He's just gone way above and beyond his expectations, and it's all because of his hard work."
When Augliera was being recruited out of Old Bridge High School in New Jersey, there were two schools seriously pursuing him: Binghamton and Monmouth University. Augliera was a Yankees fan growing up -- he admits this will be a change to be on the other side of the rivalry -- and Rutgers University was close by, so he always dreamed that was where he'd play his college ball. He ended up becoming the highest Draft pick to come out of Binghamton.
The school has only produced one Major Leaguer -- lefty Scott Diamond of the Twins, who had to make it as an undrafted player. Said Diamond, whose Twins share a Spring Training city with the Sox in Fort Myers, Fla.: "This is an exciting day ... I'm sure I'll see him in Spring Training next year. [The] first dinner is on me."
No matter where Augliera went, this stat was going to get him recognized: Through Monday, he had the best NCAA Division I strikeout-to-walk ratio in the nation this season after fanning 83 and issuing just seven free passes. He posted a 3.16 ERA in 82 2/3 innings and 13 starts.
"He's a guy that's thrown a lot of innings this year, so we're typically pretty cautious their first year out there, but he's actually a guy who was very impressive this year," Sawdaye said. "Week in and week out, he threw consistent outings. And we know he was in a smaller conference, but he was up to 94 [mph with] really heavy sink, and [he's] a guy that could mix pitches pretty well, had a pretty good slider and flashed a good changeup. He is a guy that throws a lot of strikes, keeps the ball down and gets guys to roll some ground balls. He is a very intriguing guy for us."
An intriguing guy and, potentially, a domino that could land the Sox a big arm. By signing Augliera below slot, the move should give the Red Sox some money to play with to sign a player like high-school righty Ty Buttrey, a potential top-40 pick who fell to Boston in the fourth round. The Sox were prepared to take Augliera in the fourth round, but seeing Buttrey still there, they wanted to wait.
"In the fourth round, they called and asked me if I would sign if I'm not taken in the fourth round," Augliera said. "Then a couple minutes later, they said there's someone that was still on the board they're going to take if he's there, and we're going to put you to the fifth. I was waiting for the fifth, and to see my name called was a dream come true."
Augliera's goal all along was just to be drafted. His being taken in the fifth round was a result of his lack of leverage as a senior at a small school, but it was also a tribute to how much ability he showed.
"You think that if I was drafted in the fifth round [as a junior], I would've gotten all this money," Augliera said. "But I don't believe I would've ever had a chance to go in the fifth round if it wasn't for being a senior. I think being a senior boosted me into that next level of prospects for them. I couldn't be happier with how it worked out."