LHP Brady Aiken, last year’s number one overall pick, has enrolled at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The talented lefty is now eligible to enter the MLB draft for a second consecutive time in 2015.
IMG Academy Director, Dan Simmons, released a statement regarding Aiken joining the training facility.
IMG announcement: “We’re excited for Brady [Aiken] to join us at IMG Academy,” said IMG Academy’s Director of Baseball, Dan Simonds.
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 26, 2015
Aiken will join right-handed pitcher Jacob Nix, who arrived at the academy earlier this month. By now, Nix has a few starts under his belt at IMG. Aiken and Nix were selected by the Houston Astros, Aiken with the first pick and Nix with a fifth-round pick, in the 2014 Rule 4 draft. Likewise, they did not come to an agreement with Houston by the July 15 signing deadline. It took legal action, as Nix filed a grievance against the Astros and came to terms in November.
The Astros became the first team in 31 years to not sign the first overall pick, since the Minnesota Twins, who failed to sign Tim Belcher in 1983.
There was a great deal of controversy surrounding the incapacity of the Astros and the number one pick to come to terms last summer. Aiken failed to sign with the Astros last year because of issues with his ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow. Houston was reluctant to give the left-hander the $6.5 million dollar signing bonus, and instead shot it down to $5 million at the deadline. As you can imagine, Aiken was hesitant in not signing for the reason that he knew he was better than a $5 million signing bonus.
“We are disappointed that we were not able to reach an agreement with Brady Aiken today,” the Astros said in a statement. “As an organization, we devoted a great deal of time and resources to these negotiations. Despite our best efforts, a deal could not be reached.”
Tony Clark, MLB Players Association Head, blamed the Astros of coordinating unjust negotiations with Aiken and Nix last year.
“Today, two young men should be one step closer to realizing their dreams of becoming Major League ballplayers,” Clark declared. “Because of the actions of the Houston Astros, they are not. The MLBPA, the players and their advisers are exploring all legal options.”
Both pitchers were originally committed to attend UCLA, but by pitching for the academy, they both will be draft eligible now. Aiken is believed to report to IMG this week, and should be ready to face hitters in live action in a matter of a couple of weeks. Aiken is predicted to make between seven and nine starts for the academy, enough for professional scouts to evaluate and assess him while regulating his inning limits. Correctly managing his innings will allow him to pitch a full summer for the major league team that drafts and signs him.
Before being drafted, he pitched for the USA Under-18 national team in 2013 and posted a 1.09 ERA along with 260 strikeouts during his career at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, California.
Houston has the second overall pick in this year’s draft as compensation for failing to sign Aiken, but cannot draft him again unless he gives the AL West team advanced authorization. Aiken is expected to be taken within the top five picks when the draft begins June 8th.
The IMG Academy is a multisport private school and training facility for youth, high school, collegiate and professional athletes. The academy offers programs including tennis, golf, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer, football, track & field, cross-country, and athletic and personal development. Notable baseball alumni and trainees include Pittsburgh Pirates Pedro Alvarez, Cincinnati Reds Joey Votto, and retired shortstop Nomar Garciaparra.