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February 10, 2015

An Agent's Take

So, Your Kid Might Get Drafted

by Joshua Kusnick

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It's February, which means things are coming on like a freight train in the baseball world. I am in the process of closing deals on all my clients' endorsements, filing my 2014 MLBPA paperwork, finalizing spring training responsibilities, and just overall getting ready for game season. I say game season because I don't actually get to experience an "off"season. No agent ever does. The closest I ever came to an offseason was the 10 days I spent in the Bahamas with my wife on my honeymoon, and even there by Day Five I had to deal with a now-former client getting arrested! A vendor who didn't know I was out of the country (and out of the loop) sent me an email: “Sorry about your guy.” I responded accordingly, then proceeded to flip out after Google confirmed the story.

I spoke to the player from the Bahamas, the first time my phone was actually on during the honeymoon. I needed to hear his side of the story and tell him not to lie to his ball club and not to talk to the press. Of course the exact opposite happened, which made things vastly more complicated. I spoke to the club's farm director, who informed me that my then client was getting released; later that night he called me back explaining my client was not getting released, due to the owner's intervention. Said position player has bounced to a couple clubs and agents since that dubious situation. I did have a good laugh this offseason when the player's image made it into a David Letterman routine about players being busted for nonviolent offenses. Guy has potential and a good glove, and man, if he could get his stuff straight off the field he’d be a big-name guy.

So, like I said, there is no offseason. Notice one thing I purposely omitted from my offseason responsibilities: the draft. Recruiting for it, planning for it. I spend none of my time working the draft outside of a few rare exceptions. It has to be a client’s relative or a rock-solid referral of a friend or someone who is an alumni from my college or high school. I’ve worked for two first-round picks in the past but have had only two draft clients since 2010. I have written about this a little bit before, but opting out of the draft was not a hasty decision. I absolutely hate where the industry has gone with respect to the showcase circuit and kids retaining draft advisors younger and younger. High school freshmen have advisors! If you go to a four-year university almost every freshman who is a guy has someone, too.

I get questions all the time from parents about the right time to hire an advisor. I don’t have the perfect answer, and every situation is different, but here is what I firmly believe in: High school kids don’t really need one before the junior year. An advisor can help sift through the college selection process and help deal with the onslaught of draft information clubs will be inundating draftable kids with. For college kids at four-year schools, you don’t need one until after your sophomore year if you haven’t already retained one in high school. You only help the agent and his prestige level by retaining someone that early. And, believe it or not, hiring someone to early can damage your mental focus.

If you have an advisor out of high school but end up going to college, after the draft is done you should evaluate the job your advisor did. If he did absolutely everything he could for your family then it would likely be wise to retain him for the next time you're draft-eligible. If you do not have an advisor going into college you do not need one until after your sophomore year (unless you’re a draft-eligible sophomore). Freshmen can’t get drafted. The vast majority of sophomores can't get drafted. But pick someone before you play summer ball after that sophomore year. Otherwise, you're going to be slammed by every agent in the business. You could do the world tour and wait to pick someone while you're playing in the cape, but you probably want to have that part of your business settled before summer ball. You don’t want a distraction.

I have also seen from the outside a growing draft trend where certain agents just camp out at certain schools. I love getting kids from my high school, but that's not a yearly occurence. I'll sometimes see an agent just taking every kid from a school every year. If a guy has four or five guys on one college team it screams conflict, distraction, I mean every kind of red flag imaginable. It saddens me to see kids jumping in with advisors because of friendship. Baseball is a business and hiring an advisor is a hard business decision one prefers to do only once in a lifetime. Picking someone too early because of friends or convenience is a scary prospect that only benefits the agent. Remember that.

I fortunately don’t have to deal with this anymore. I prefer not to rake in draft revenue and focus instead on MLB revenue. That way, 100 percent of my attention goes to the clients I have, not the guys I don’t have. Quitting the draft might have been costly financially but it was one of the wisest things I’ve ever done in my career. I owe it to the guys I work for to give them 100 percent of my attention, and searching for the next big thing would be disingenuous and a distraction. Don’t get me wrong, if I see the next big thing or get a referral I will always investigate it. I'm just at a different point in my career where I can choose to opt in or out of the draft as I see fit. Draft day is painful and I am happy to not have to go through it every year. It can be so heartbreaking even when things go “well.” And I have been there when they've gone well: two first-rounders, a fifth-rounder who got almost $400,000, a 30th-rounder who got $500,000, etc. But the longer I am away from the draft the more I notice it getting uglier and uglier.

Joshua Kusnick is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joshua's other articles. You can contact Joshua by clicking here

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