Phillies quiet on NCAA investigation of draft picks

Phillies director of scouting Marti Wolever. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies reportedly accused two college draft picks who did not sign contracts last summer to the NCAA for potential violations, a decision that could affect their future negotiations with amateur talent.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed there is an ongoing investigation, first reported by Baseball America, but would not comment. He referred inquiries to Marti Wolever, the team's assistant general manager in charge of amateur scouting.

At issue is the eligibility of Ben Wetzler, a senior lefthander at Oregon State University. The Phillies drafted him in the fifth round of last year's draft (151st overall) but could not reach an agreement. Wetzler returned to school as the ace for the No. 2 team in the country until the NCAA intervened. The Beavers' season started Feb. 14 without Wetzler.

A source said the Phillies offered Wetzler a signing bonus above the suggested $315,200.

The Phillies, according to Baseball America, believed Wetzler violated the NCAA's rules against retaining an agent. It is standard for amateur players to rely on an adviser — someone who does not formally represent them — during negotiations with major-league clubs. A player forfeits his amateur status if he pays someone to be their agent. Advisors are not permitted to directly negotiate with teams.

Teams who do not sign their top picks rarely report such violations, according to Baseball America, the well-regarded industry publication. College players are not expected to engage on their own in contract negotiations with billion-dollar companies.

Jason Monda, an outfielder from Washington State drafted in the sixth round, did not sign with the Phillies. He, too, was reported. Monda was cleared of no wrongdoing by the NCAA last week, Baseball America reported. Wolever was critical of Monda immediately after last June's draft.

"He agreed to the draft and then just changed his mind; he just decided to go back to school," Wolever said then.

The initial backlash in the amateur scouting community was strong, although the entire story remained a mystery because the Phillies were content on remaining quiet. A rival team's official called the Phillies' actions "petty." These incidents could sway college coaches to advise their future drafted juniors against negotiating with the Phillies.

The Phillies have publicized their disagreements with previous unsigned picks. Alec Rash, a second-round pick in 2012, enrolled at the University of Missouri instead of signing with the Phillies. Wolever told The Inquirer in July 2012 that Rash "hasn't performed like a player deserving of more than the slot" bonus.

"He seemed to have a different price for every team," Wolever said. "It changed depending on the day."

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