Unsigned No. 1 pick Aiken to pitch for IMG Academy
Astros' 2014 selection to play for post-graduate team, now eligible for '15 Draft
Brady Aiken hasn't shown his stuff for scouts since last May, when he struck out 14 in a playoff game for San Diego's Cathedral Catholic High. That's about to change with the announcement Thursday that he'll pitch for the IMG Academy's post-graduate team.
If everything had gone according to plan, Aiken would be an Astro right now. Houston selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, and the Astros agreed to pay him a $6.5 million bonus that would have matched the highest given to a drafted high school pitcher (Jameson Taillon, Pirates, 2010).
But Aiken unexpectedly failed a post-Draft physical that made the Astros concerned about his left elbow. When he declined a reduced offer of $5 million, he joined Danny Goodwin (White Sox, 1971) and Tim Belcher (Twins, 1983) as the only No. 1 overall choices not to sign.
Aiken, a left-hander who showed advanced command of three plus pitches and had no physical problems as a Cathedral Catholic senior, originally committed to UCLA. Had he attended a four-year college, he wouldn't have been able to re-enter the Draft until 2017. Going to IMG makes him Draft-eligible in 2015, and he's a candidate to go No. 1 overall again after ranking third on MLBPipeline.com's Top 50 Draft Prospects list in December.
The IMG Academy is a multisport training and education complex in Bradenton, Fla., and its high school baseball program has produced big leaguers J.R. Murphy and Tyler Pastornicky. Aiken is expected to arrive in Bradenton this weekend and make seven to 10 starts this spring, with the first probably coming in a week or two. IMG's post-graduate team has a schedule that runs from Jan. 23 through May 9 against NCAA Division III junior varsity teams, junior colleges and other academies.
At IMG, Aiken will be reunited with former Team USA 18-and-under teammate and fellow 2014 Astros pick Jacob Nix. A right-hander from Los Alamitos (Calif.) High, Nix went in the fifth round, agreed to a $1.5 million bonus and passed his physical.
When Aiken's deal fell apart, Houston decided not to sign Nix because doing so would have caused it to exceed its assigned bonus pool for the first 10 rounds by more than 15 percent. That would have cost the Astros two future first-round picks, which would been the second and fifth choices in the 2015 Draft. The No. 2 overall selection is their compensation for not signing Aiken.
The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance on Nix's behalf, which was dropped after he and the Astros reached an undisclosed settlement in December.