It's been more than five weeks since the selections were made in the 2011 Major League Baseball first-year player draft and a few major talents have agreed to terms. Most of the key signings have yet to take place, and contrary to what most may expect, the most important signings for clubs aren't always the organization's highest selection.
Let's take a look at those critical picks and signings, team-by-team, starting with the American League.
Dylan Bundy is a must-get, due to his overall talent and the potential fallout that will head Baltimore's way if it fails to get him signed, but if it is able to find a way to get third baseman/catcher Nick Delmonico signed by the Aug. 15 deadline, the O's' draft could go from mediocre to above average. Delmonico, the club's sixth-round pick, gets high grades for his work ethic and makeup, not to mention a solid hit tool and the chance to hit for some power. It might take first-round money to get it done, however.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had four of the top 40 selections and are known to get their high picks signed. Jackie Bradley Jr. might be a tough one to get done, but Blake Swihart is the key to the club's draft class. The No. 26 overall pick out of Cleveland High School in New Mexico was the top prep catcher in the class and brings an ability to switch hit with power potential. He has the highest ceiling in the club's entire class.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have their top pick, outfielder Keenyn Walker, under contract already, as well as their second through sixth-round picks, but have yet to sign eighth-round selection Ian Gardeck, perhaps the key to getting impact out of this year's class. Gardeck, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-hander out of Angelina College, has touched the upper-90s with his fastball and could be a late-inning reliever inside of two years.
The Indians' first two picks -- prep shortstop Francisco Lindor at No. 8 overall and Searcy (Ark.) High School right-hander Dillon Howard in Round 2 -- are equally key to the Tribe's draft class. Lindor is key because he brings upside potential as a star middle infielder with a plus bat, and Howard because the Indians sorely lack high-ceiling pitching in their organization after spending first-round picks on college arms in each of the past two drafts.
The Tigers did not have a pick until No. 76 overall and used that choice on Arkansas catcher James McCann, who has not signed yet, but the key draftee still without a deal might be Texas shortstop Brandon Loy. Scouts aren't convinced he'll hit, but the general consensus is he will defend the position, which makes him a solid selection at No. 167 overall. But for the Tigers to benefit from any of it, they have to get him signed or Loy will return to Texas with a chance to go higher than Round 5 next year.
Kansas City Royals
While I loved the selection of prep backstop Cam Gallagher in Round 2, the Royals have to sign Bubba Starling or their 2011 collection lacks a potential all-star, despite selecting high in each round. Starling is likely to command more than $6 million, but the Royals knew the price would be high going in and Starling, a Kansas native, might have handpicked KC if he had the choice, leading most to believe he puts his name on the dotted line and gives up football.
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels already have their top two selections signed in first-rounder C.J. Cron and third-rounder Nick Maronde. But due to the lack of a second-round selection, college right-handers Mike Clevinger and Austin Wood -- Los Angeles' fourth- and sixth-round picks, respectively -- become somewhat key to their class. Clevinger and Wood have above-average velocity and a chance to pitch in a big league bullpen.
The Twins have inked but one of their top five selections, and first-round pick Levi Michael remains unsigned as July winds down. Sandwich-rounders Travis Harrison, a power-hitting corner infielder, and Hudson Boyd, a sturdy right-hander, were two of the top prep players in the draft and might be more important to the Twins' future than Michael, whose value is very much wrapped up in his timetable and defensive value.
New York Yankees
The Yankees' uninspiring draft class has no chance to look better after Aug. 15, but prep first-base prospect Austin Jones could turn out to be a steal in the seventh round. The Yankees, even in all their glory and bottomless pockets, can't afford to lose out on young talent, especially with their nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, piling up quality players every year out of the draft.
Considering how quickly Vanderbilt hurler Sonny Gray, the A's first-round pick and No. 18 overall, could move through the minors and the impact he could have in a starting role at the big league level, Oakland's only must-sign is its top pick this time around. Third-round pick B.A. Vollmuth has big raw power, but his ability to make consistent contact and hit for average are still major questions. The A's need all the offense they can muster.
The Seattle Mariners had the chance to take Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon at No. 2 and passed in favor of pitching, and while they might have good reason to have done so -- we'll see in a few years -- the organization needs power, and third-round pick Kevin Cron has it. The brother of Angels first-rounder C.J. is committed to TCU and isn't likely to sign for slot, but the M's would be wise to consider paying to get Cron in their system. He would immediately become their best slugging prospect, thanks to 70-grade raw power.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays' farm system is loaded with talent, though it's a little light on hitters, which could make Mikie Mahtook the more important of the Rays' two remaining unsigned first-round selections. Mahtook, an outfielder out of LSU, could be among the fastest movers and an eventual replacement for B.J. Upton should Desmond Jennings flop.
The Rangers have deals with each of their first five picks, including left-hander Will Lamb, who might be the key to their class. He's a prototypical left-hander at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds. He's a good athlete who played center field for Clemson this past season and hit .344, but has touched the mid-90s on the mound, in college and now in pro ball. There are questions to his future role -- starter or reliever -- but it's a live, fresh arm used sparingly in college with upside as a mid-rotation starter or better.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays, who had several extra picks thanks to the free-agent compensation system, have a lot of work to do still, having signed but one of their first 23 picks. Right-hander Tyler Beede (Lawrence Academy, Groton, Mass., No. 21) and second-round pick Daniel Norris, the top prep lefty in the draft, are the keys to the haul for Toronto. If they get both signed, it's a huge draft. If Toronto signs only one of them -- more likely Beede, it seems -- sandwich-rounders Dwight Smith Jr., an outfielder from McIntosh High School (Ga.) with big league bloodlines, and Kevin Comer, a right-hander from Seneca (N.J.) High School, become crucial signings.