As of 5:00 PM (eastern) the MLB will officially close the window on teams trying to sign their 2016 draft picks to deals. The Pittsburgh Pirates have already signed most of their upside picks, including one today.
Going back to the end of the draft, I wrote about the highest upside third day draft picks. One of them was 33rd round pick Austin Shields. Shields is a big right-handed pitcher from Canada, standing at 6’5” and 225 pounds. According to John Manuel of Baseball America, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed him.
He is from St. Mary Catholic Secondary School, which is a high school in Toronto, Canada. Shields is one of the better players in Canada currently, and he pitches for the National Junior Team. In fact, he appeared against some team’s minor leaguers during Spring Training. Minor League spring training teams will play some international teams (typically U-21) as they prepare for the season.
The best thing about Shields is his fastball, which already has been clocked as high as 94 miles per hour. With his size, and strong-arm, Shields has the potential to be a future power bullpen arm right away. However, as he works his way through the minor leagues, he could develop as a starter. The Pirates will need to be patient with him if they want to develop him as a starter. He only possesses one true plus pitch, in his fastball that sits 90-92 miles per hour, and a decent mid-80’s slider. He also has trouble repeating his mechanics. With all this being said, this is to be expected. If he did not have these issues, he would not have been available in the 33rd round. With that however, he was considered the highest upside player left for the Pittsburgh Pirates to sign (behind #41 overall pick Lodolo). Shields will report to the Pittsburgh Pirates Gulf Coast League affiliate.
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Shields was ranked as the 6th best prospect in the draft out of Canada, the Pirates got him the 33rd round. He was considered a tough sign, as he is committed to the University of British Columbia. He decided to pass on that commitment for 205,000 dollars. The Pittsburgh Pirates went 105,000 into the bonus draft pool to sign the Canadian. The Pirates now have zero dollars left in their bonus pool to go over slot on other players. (remember anyone after the 10th round has an assigned value of 100,000, anything over that goes against the bonus pool).
The other related news is a piece that was already reported. Nick Lodolo passed on the Pittsburgh Pirates last ditch offer. According to Jon Heyman, the Pirates offered him a max value of 1.75 million dollars. He is keeping his commitment to TCU even with being offered a hefty bonus. His slot value at #41 was 1.576 million dollars, the Pirates were able to offer him as high as the #36 pick was worth. Since he declined the offer, the Pirates lose his draft picks slot value. The Pirates were then able to take their additional bonus pool and offer it to Shields instead. Below is a link on Lodolo as reported a few days ago.
The Pirates are not able to sign any other players to over slot deals. Players such as 24th round pick Austin Bodrato (committed to Florida), University of Michigan catcher Harrison Wenson (39th round), and Eastern Tennessee State catcher Hagen Owenby (14th round) could have received over slot deals. This is not possible now, and they will be back into the draft next year. All were considered some of the more upside picks on day three for the Pirates, and with that tough signs.