Could catcher Nieto pick Bulls over bucks?
When USF baseball signee Adrian Nieto was drafted in the fifth round by the Washington Nationals last month, it was widely expected that the Bulls would lose the highly touted catcher from Plantation, Fla., to the allure of pro baseball and a six-figure signing bonus.
But here it is late July, less than three weeks before the Aug. 15 deadline for MLB teams to sign draft picks, and the Nationals are "not close" to offering Nieto the signing bonus he wants. It'd be a huge bonus for USF coach Lelo Prado if the jewel of his recruiting class made it to campus this fall, and with each passing day, that's a possibility that Nieto is growing more comfortable with.
"I thought I was going to play pro ball, but not everything has gone as planned," Nieto said Thursday.
Nieto said he was in Tampa two weeks ago, spending about a week with friends in town, and said the time there reminded him why he chose to sign with USF out of American Heritage High School, where he made a name for himself as one of the top high school catchers in the country.
"I was just telling myself that I'd be comfortable going to school there," Nieto said. "USF is everything I wanted in a college, so however this works out, either way, it's good."
Nieto said he expects talks with the Nationals to heat up as the Aug. 15 deadline approaches, but he's not the only unsigned draft pick the team is working with. According to Baseball America, Washington hasn't signed its first, third or fourth-round pick.
Nieto said the Nationals told him they would "slot" their bonuses so they fell in line with picks immediately before and after in the draft. According to BA, 21 of the 30 fifth-round picks have already signed, all getting reported signing bonuses of between $155,000 and $195,000. The Nationals' sixth-round pick, however, got only $110,000 according to BA, which is the second-lowest bonus out of 24 sixth-rounders listed in BA's draft database. Nieto said he has a dollar figure in mind, though he's not sharing it publicly. Washington's initial offers aren't close enough for him to consider.
"It's not close," Nieto said. "It's not what I want and it's not what I'm worth."
Nieto said he has registered for a full courseload at USF, and if he hasn't signed with Washington by Aug. 15, he'll join the Bulls and won't be draft eligible for three more years. Prado has lost two signees to the draft in Riverview's Anthony Ferrara and Middleton's Corey Thomas, but he expects the rest of the class to report to campus as expected.