For the first time in three years, a first-round pick failed to come to terms with the team that selected him. The Draft signing deadline passed at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday without No. 10 overall choice Kumar Rocker reaching an accord with the Mets.
MLB Pipeline's top-rated prospect entering the season, Rocker topped NCAA Division I with 14 wins and tied Vanderbilt teammate Jack Leiter for the strikeout lead with 179. He initially reached a $6 million agreement with the Mets, pending a physical. But that exam created concerns about his shoulder and elbow, and the resulting impasse couldn't be resolved.
Rocker reportedly will pass up his two remaining years of college eligibility, turn pro and re-enter the 2022 Draft. As compensation for not signing him, the Mets get the No. 11 overall pick next year. But in their efforts to land Rocker, they created $878,500 savings by signing other players to under-slot deals and wasted it by not having a backup plan in place in case they didn't sign him.
Rocker became the first first-rounder to not sign since 2018, when three high schoolers didn't come to terms: Carter Stewart (Braves, No. 8), Matt McLain (Diamondbacks, No. 25) and J.T. Ginn (Dodgers, No. 30). McLain went in the first round again this June and signed with the Reds for $4,540,790 as the 17th overall selection.
Of the other four unsigned players in the top 10 rounds heading into Sunday, only Rangers second-rounder Aaron Zavala and Giants fourth-rounder Eric Silva signed pro contracts. One of the best pure hitters in the college class, Zavala won Pacific-12 Conference player of the year honors after batting .392/.525/.628 for Oregon but medical concerns arose from his post-Draft physical. The outfielder signed for $830,000.
A righthander from JSerra Catholic High (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), Silva signed for $1,497,500, the largest bonus after the third round in this year's Draft. The UCLA recruit runs his fastball to 97 mph, flashes a sharp slider and impresses with his feel for pitching.
Florida outfielder Jud Fabian (Red Sox, second round) and Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) shortstop Alex Ulloa (Astros, fourth) didn't turn pro. Boston will receive a second-round choice (No. 41) in the 2022 Draft, while unsigned picks after the third round garner no compensation.
Fabian offered some of the best power in the Draft and reportedly would have gotten $3 million from the Orioles had he lasted until their pick at No. 41, but the Red Sox chose him at No. 40. After signing their other selections, they couldn't have paid Fabian more than $1,975,680 without forfeiting their 2022 first-rounder as a penalty for exceeding their bonus pool by more than 5 percent.
Ulloa was the Astros' second pick after they lost their first two choices as punishment for sign-stealing. An advanced high school hitter with solid speed and a chance to stick at shortstop, he's committed to Oklahoma State.
Of the 312 players selected in the first 10 rounds, all but three signed contracts. In 2019, the last Draft that featured at least 10 rounds, just two of the 317 players chosen that early failed to turn pro.
There were a few notable signings in rounds 11-20 on Sunday. The best prospect in that group is Notre Dame first baseman Niko Kavadas, who led NCAA Division I in homers per game (0.47) and ranked third in homers (22). The Red Sox landed him for $250,000 in the 11th round.
The highest bonus after the 10th round today went to TNXL Academy (Ocoee, Fla.) right-hander Kyle Larsen, who signed with the Rangers for $575,000 as an 18th-rounder. Other bonuses of note included $497,500 for Skyview High (Vancouver, Wash.) left-hander Caden Vire (Brewers, 12th round); $485,000 for Arizona righty Chase Silseth (Angels, 11th); $347,500 for Chatfield High (Littleton, Colo.) two-way star Quinton Low (Brewers, 13th); $325,000 for State JC of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota catcher Tucker Mitchell (Rangers, 14th) and $300,000 for San Diego right-hander Jake Miller (Indians, 20th).
All told, the 30 clubs combined to spend $291,408,490 on signing bonuses in 2021, the third-highest total in Draft history behind 2019 ($316,560,984) and 2018 ($294,648,102), both of which consisted of 40 rounds compared to 20 this July.
Leiter, who went No. 2 overall to the Rangers, received the highest bonus in the 2021 Draft and the fourth-highest ever at $7,922,000. The 28 first-rounders who signed averaged $4,066,993, just short of the record $4,080,308 established a year ago.
The Tigers led all teams by spending $16,165,700, followed by the Pirates at $15,938,700, the fourth- and fifth-highest amounts in Draft history. Thirteen clubs topped $10 million.
Here's a team-by-team breakdown of Draft spending:
Red Sox: $10,761,900
White Sox: $8,087,000
Blue Jays: $6,884,200