The 11th round starts the third day of the MLB Draft, and it isn’t an arbitrary cutoff. Beginning with the 11th round, teams no longer face penalties for failing to sign players. Any signing bonus they pay over $100,000 is deducted from the bonus pool money they have to sign their selections from the first 10 rounds, but if a player fails to sign, it doesn’t affect their ability to agree to terms with any other picks. With that in mind, we see quite a few high-upside players who slipped due to bonus demands get selected in the 11th round or shortly thereafter. After all, there isn’t much to lose and quite a bit to gain if you can somehow reel them in.
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By talent alone did Tulane right-hander Ian Gibaut really deserve to slip all the way to the 11th round? He was selected at 328th overall and was only the 472nd best prospect in the draft according to Baseball America. He wasn’t dominant out of the Tulane bullpen this season, managing just a 3.11 ERA and a 4.5 BB/9 in 27 appearances. However, when you hear about his stuff, he doesn’t sound like he should have been on the board as the Rays prepared to make their 11th pick.
Gibaut gives the Tampa Bay Rays two things that evaluators love: a durable 6’3″, 235 frame, and a fastball that reaches 97 MPH in short stints. It remained in the 92 to 94 MPH range even in his longest appearances, and its solid movement away from right-handed hitters is another factor that makes the pitch difficult to hit. He also has shown three other pitches, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. He only threw the curveball a handful of times this season, and he didn’t need the changeup much in relief, but all three pitches have shown promise.
At its best, the slider hits the high-80’s with sharp late movement, although he needs to do a better job driving it down in the zone. The Rays may prefer the curveball, which was only in the high-70’s but showed more consistent break. Gibaut also does a solid job selling his changeup, which has shown signs of good bite as well. When we hear about Gibaut’s four-pitch arsenal, it is tempting to say that the Rays should even give him a chance to start. The counterargument is that his control and command never improved as hoped as his college career progressed.
The keys for Ian Gibaut moving forward will be to do a better job repeating his delivery and find more consistency on his secondary pitches. Mechanical problems hurt him significantly this season, and he won’t able to throw as many fastballs as a professional. The good news is that Gibaut has the type of power arm that could fit in the late innings with reasonable improvement or even in the rotation if he makes major strides. On the other hand, he is still around at this point in the draft because teams have questions about whether he will pan out to any extent.
Our best guess as to why Ian Gibaut slipped to the 11th round is that he wanted say seventh or eighth round money, but teams gave him a worse grade than that. He is only a junior–he certainly doesn’t have to sign–but the Rays can dangle up to $100,000 plus whatever money they have left over in their bonus pool and feel reasonably confident that they can agree to terms with him. Gibaut is the type of pitcher who could be drafted much higher if he returns to school, but given his inconsistency, he would risking a lot if he did so. A chance to be developed in the Rays system will likely be too much to pass up.
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