Kansas State shortstop Austin Fisher had the opportunity to get drafted earlier than the 13th round of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
But he wanted to wait — for more money.
That has become the net result of baseball’s new slotting system, which assigns a monetary value to each pick for the first 10 rounds of the draft.
Teams get a pool of signing bonus money equal to the MLB-approved value of each pick, and there are stiff penalties, including the forfeiture of future draft picks, for going over budget on those slotted picks.
So, when teams called Fisher last Friday as the last of those 10 rounds were taking place with low-ball offers, he politely declined.
“I got a few calls, but I was going to have to take less money,” Fisher said. “I turned those away and thought I’d take my chances on day three. It actually ended up working out. I’m glad I did.”
Eventually, Cleveland picked Fisher, a Kansas State junior and Olathe Northwest graduate, in the 13th round (No. 398 overall) and offered him a $100,000 signing bonus plus tuition reimbursement to finish his degree. He signed Monday night and hopped on a plane to Cleveland on Tuesday.
“Teams were starting to run out (of money) and, as much as you want to get drafted as high as possible, you also want to get the best deal,” Fisher said. “It ended up working better for me. Most of the teams try to spend their money on the high draft picks and try to get you for less than the allotted amount later in the first 10 rounds. They have a lot more money to work with after those first 10 rounds.”
Fisher is a pro baseball legacy. His father, David, played in the Philadelphia Phillies’ organization, so baseball is in his blood.
“I think I might have been a disappointment if I didn’t play baseball,” Fisher said. “I was expected to play professionally, so I was glad to get the call today. My dad put a little more pressure on me than other dads, but I respect his opinion and take it for what it’s worth. I got a little tough love growing up. It’s helped me become a better player.”
Of course, the system won’t work as favorably for Fisher’s former Ravens' teammate, Arkansas Tech senior right-hander Ryan Taylor, who was selected one pick later (No. 399 overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Fisher, who had a year of college eligibility remaining, had leverage that Taylor doesn’t have in contract negotiations. Fisher could have returned to school and have taken his chances in the draft next year.
Thus, Taylor probably might not finagle the same signing bonus Fisher was offered.
Still, the chance to pitch for one of the most storied franchises in the major leagues — a club known for Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke — is a great opportunity of its own.
“I’ve been waiting for this,” Taylor said. “It’s a great place to go.”
Taylor, who played with Fisher on Olathe Northwest’s 2009 state-qualifying squad, said he talked to the Royals during the fall and only recently heard from the Dodgers.
Of course, LA obviously liked what it saw.
“After the second day, my adviser said (the Dodgers) almost took me in the 10th round, but at the last second they switched,” Taylor said. “After that, I was told I might go early today, but that was the only clue that I had. I had only been talking to them for about two weeks, so I was new to them.”
Middle Tennessee right-hander Matt Blackham also was drafted last Saturday. That makes for three former Ravens selected on the same day. He went in the 29th round to the Mets.
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