How tough is it? Let's use same-sized first baseman Chris Duffy as the template for what a late-signing kid can expect at the game's entry level.
Duffy was one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award last year after a big season at the University of Central Florida - .447 BA, 21 HR, 81 RBI, all school records.
Duffy is not a great athlete. He does not run well. The Phillies drafted his bat on the 26th round in June 2010 and shipped him to the Gulf Coast heat grinder. Home runs are hard to come by in the GCL. The games are at high noon after tough morning workouts. The pitchers are wild and throw hard. Duff had a decent entry-level season: tied for the lead on a Phillies club that won the GCL title with six homers in 47 games. Batted .272 with acceptable ancillary numbers. Flipped between first base and designated hitter with Patrick Murray, another large, slow-footed first baseman who hit .313 and led the league with 60 hits.
Fast forward to present time . . . Duffy and Murray both had been held back in Extended Spring Training. When it was time to post the short-season rosters, Murray was advanced to Williamsport. Duffy was held back for a second GCL tour. That's the baseball equivalent of waking up to find a horse's head in your bed.
Murray was quietly released in July, batting .230.
With the GCL Phils out of the race since falling below .500 after several key players were advanced, Duffy DH'd in yesterday's loss to the Blue Jays. He is batting .253 with just four homers and 23 RBI.
You can gauge the onrushing end of careers by the late-season GCL box scores. And the beginnings.
The Phils took promising high school outfielder Brian Pointer out of Las Vegas on the 28th round in June 2010. His agent was playing Deadline Roulette while his client played summer ball in a fast wood-bat league in Oregon. Pointer had a commitment to Oregon. The Phils signed him over slot.
Despite his summer in the college league he was overmatched in his brief GCL turn and did not appear in the playoffs.
Pointer has been the most toolsy player on this season's disappointing team but has been inconsistent and is batting .262 with just three homers but a decent .794 OPS. Yesterday, he was 0-for-4 with the Golden Sombrero - four strikeouts.
For most of these kids, getting out of the GCL is tougher than scoring a seat on the last helicopter to leave the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon.
With petite, fleet shortstop Roman Quinn probably signed out of his Florida State commitment after this edition went to press - if not, see ya, kid - the biggest Phillies baseball news of the day involved a leaving, not a signing.
It is a heavy hit, in my opinion.
The Houston Astros have taken 19-year-old Lakewood wunderkind Domingo Santana as the player to be named, the fourth member of the package that brought Hunter Pence to the Phils last month. They reportedly chose the corner outfielder over more experienced but less projectable Clearwater outfielder Leandro Castro, who has been on the DL much of the season.
Santana has a chance to develop into the best Dominican position player the Phillies have signed since Juan Samuel. The system's No. 9 rated prospect is 6-5, 225 and was having a solid repeat season at Lakewood. Because of his raw but impressive tool set, I rate Santana about dead even with No. 2-rated Jonathan Singleton, a first baseman who got a brief outfield trial.
Santana was batting .269 with 29 doubles, seven homers and a .780 OPS. But he is among the Sally League leaders with 120 strikeouts. When Singleton was shipped to Lancaster of the California League, he was batting .284 for Clearwater with 14 doubles, nine homers and an .800 OPS. Pretty much a wash. However, Singleton has been tearing up the hitter-friendly Cali League.
Ranked in upside order, mine, the Phils' package now should read Singleton and Santana (tie), Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid.
Meanwhile, the Phillies reportedly went way over slot to reel in compensation-round pick Greene with a $1 million payday. The only player to show up in person at the June draft, Greene had given up his football ride to Alabama and signed to attend Chipola College, a Florida Panhandle Juco baseball factory.
The changed rules were Greene's only real leverage. The Phils would not have received a compensation pick next June had they failed to sign him.
Some predraft reports had Quinn running a 6.135 for 60 yards. Sounds to me like somebody had an itchy stopwatch finger. Other reports had a more believable 6.57. Quinn had the clout of a Florida State commitment.
Which headline will history remember:
"Phils Sign Top Picks Greene, Quinn" or: "Houston Picks Santana as Final Player for Pence."