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Red Sox first-rounder Brian Johnson, third-rounder Austin Maddox close to deals

06.21.12 at 9:58 am ET
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According to multiple industry sources, the Red Sox are close to deals with both first-round selection (No. 31 overall pick) Brian Johnson, a left-hander out of the University of Florida, and teammate Austin Maddox, a right-hander who served as closer for the Gators. Both will be in Boston on Friday for physicals.

Johnson, according to a source, is expected to sign for the MLB slot recommendation of $1.575 million. Maddox, meanwhile, is expected to sign for less than the $400,500 slot recommendation, thus giving the Sox some potential flexibility to negotiate with players taken after the 10th round.

At this point, unless an issue emerges with Johnson or Maddox in the physical, the Sox will not sign selections from the 11th round and beyond who expect drastically more than $100,000. The new draft system defines a bonus pool for the first 10 rounds based on the slot recommended bonuses for each pick. The Sox’ allotment totaled $6.884 million. The team can spend up to that amount without incurring any penalties; it will be penalized at a 75 percent tax rate for an overage of up to 5 percent (meaning, for any spending of up to $344,200 beyond the bonus pool); if the team exceeds its draft bonus pool by more than 5 percent, then it would lose a draft pick.

The Sox are believed to be willing to pay taxes but not to give up any picks, so for practical purposes, the team’s draft bonus pool is up to $7,228,200.

Assuming that Johnson signs for his slot-recommended bonus, the Red Sox’ known commitments to their picks from the first 10 rounds total approximately $6.691 million. However, that does not include Maddox (whose precise bonus figure remains unknown) or 10th-rounder J.T. Watkins, a college senior (and the son of a Red Sox area scout, Danny Watkins) who is expected to receive a minimal bonus and play briefly before commencing his service in the armed forces.

Just as a hypothetical, if Maddox and Watkins bring the Red Sox’ commitments up to $7 million. That, in turn, would mean that the Red Sox might have a little bit of financial flexibility to sign players with signability questions who were taken in the 11th round or later. (Any overage beyond $100,000 for draftees taken in the 11th round or later counts against the Red Sox’ draft bonus pool for the first 10 rounds. So, for instance, if the Sox spent $300,000 to sign 11th-rounder Jamal Martin, it would count as $200,000 against the team’s bonus pool.)

That being the case, a player like 11th-rounder Martin is considered to be not out of the question as a potential signee for the Sox. However, unless there is an issue in Johnson’s physical (if there were an injury concern for the left-hander, as with any draftee, then his bonus could get knocked down), a player like 15th-rounder Carson Fulmer who could require a bonus of as much as seven figures in order to walk away from his commitment to Vanderbilt would be out of the question. (For more on Martin and Fulmer, click here.)

Johnson, a two-way player (first base and pitcher) at Florida, is considered a left-hander with an advanced feel and the ability to command both his fastball and his off-speed arsenal. The Sox believe that when he focuses full-time on pitching in the pro ranks, he has upside over what he showed during an impressive college career at one of the top programs in the country, one where Johnson was tested regularly by top competition.

‘€œThe fastball is at 90-94. He can pitch with a plus fastball, can spin a breaking ball, throws two different breaking balls, obviously has a feel for his changeup, very repeatable delivery and it’€™s a guy that throws strikes,” said Sox scouting director Amiel Sawdaye on the day Johnson was drafted. “He has performed in many different levels and is still performing in the College World Series. He’€™s a guy that we think is super competitive and somebody who’€™s pitched on the big stage.’€

Like college teammate Johnson, Maddox is another big-framed pitcher, running 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds (he entered college as a catcher). As a junior, he had 12 saves, a 2.24 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 10 walks in 52 1/3 innings. He can touch the mid-90s with a swing-and-miss fastball, while also featuring the makings of a slider and/or changeup.

He’€™s still new to life as a pitcher, as he did not pitch as a freshman, yet earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors while hitting .333 and blasting 17 homers while bouncing all over the field (catcher, first, third, DH). But while he continued to bounce around the field in 2011, he also emerged as a closer during his sophomore season. He was dominant in that capacity, with a 0.67 ERA, five saves, 21 strikeouts and just three walks in 27 innings. He also has showed the ability to thrive in the spotlight, tossing 2 2/3 scoreless innings in last year’€™s College World Series.

While it is possible that his future in the big leagues is as a reliever, the Red Sox are likely to develop Maddox as a starter to allow him to refine his pitch mix.

Read More: 2012 MLB Draft, austin maddox, brian johnson, carson fulment
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