Medford native Braden Shipley had hoped to wrap up contract negotiations as quickly as possible and it appears he'll follow through on that wish in Arizona today, when the right-handed pitcher will sign his first professional contract with the Diamondbacks.
Shipley, the 15th overall selection in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft, agreed in principle with Arizona on a base contract with a $2.25 million signing bonus over the weekend. After flying to Arizona on Sunday and going through medical examinations Monday, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder will sign today prior to a 4 p.m. press conference at Chase Field.
"I'm excited and I'm ready to go because I've been sitting around for a couple weeks itching to play some ball," Shipley said Saturday night while taking in a Medford Rogues game. "I'm ready to go play. I feel like watching this (game), it kinda gets me going a little bit. I'm ready to go again."
A 2010 graduate of North Medford High, Shipley posted a 7-3 record and 2.77 ERA this past season as a junior at the University of Nevada. He struck out 102 in 107.1 innings, earning conference pitcher of the year honors for the second straight season.
Baseball America rated Shipley as its No. 8 prospect heading into the draft, and the Diamondbacks' ability to grab him with the 15th pick was considered a steal by a number of MLB analysts. The power pitcher boasts a fastball that's reached 98 miles per hour but settles in between 92-95, and he complements that with an above-average changeup for the big leagues and a promising curveball.
Shipley said he and agent Adam Karon of Sosnick Cobbe Sports had a good idea of the contract terms in the initial days following the June 6 draft and were pleased with the negotiations. The main delay was that both parties wanted to come together for the signing, and that meant waiting for the Diamondbacks to return from a six-game road trip June 10-16.
"It was a good deal and it went pretty quick," said Shipley. "I'm excited to be able to meet with all the coaches and everybody when I get down to Arizona."
One key part of the equation that will be familiar to the 21-year-old pitcher is Kevin Towers, the executive vice president and general manager of the Diamondbacks.
Towers, who's in his third season as Arizona's GM and 17th overall, is also a Medford native and routinely visits his home area in the offseason. Another former Medford standout, pitcher Brad Arnsberg, went on to a big-league playing and coaching career and is now Arizona's rehab coordinator.
That hometown feel will also carry over to Shipley's first professional destination. After signing today, Shipley will fly to Hillsboro on Wednesday morning and be in uniform for that night's game as the Hillsboro Hops play host to the Eugene Ems. The Hops are the Class A short-season farm team of the Diamondbacks and opened their first year in Hillsboro last week after the franchise moved from Yakima, Wash.
"It's the way I wanted it and I was excited for it," Shipley said of starting in Hillsboro. "Reading up on their history, they've never had a first-rounder go through there when they used to be the Yakima Bears. I think the highest guy they had there was a fifth-rounder, so I think it's a big deal to have a home-state kid come through there, especially a first-rounder, and I know the team's excited about it."
How long Shipley will remain in Hillsboro is yet to be determined, but he said the early plan is to take it slow after being on hiatus since the end of Nevada's season on May 24.
"I'm not really sure, it may be all summer or it may be until August," he said, "but I know I'll be there for a little while. They're just trying to slowly get me some innings and kind of start me over just to kinda save my arm and protect their investment."
"I'm going to throw like one or two innings my first start and they'll kinda slowly progress me up pitch count-wise," added Shipley. "They may move me to high A or Double A, it just kinda all depends on how I throw and what their needs are at the time. I know they're not trying to overuse me. They know I've had a couple weeks off so they're just kinda taking it slow with me."
Shipley's first action in the Northwest League likely will be on the road, with Hillsboro opening a five-day road trip to Everett, Wash., on Thursday and remaining on the road for games in Boise, Idaho, from June 25-27.
"I'll probably throw a couple innings in one of those games to get a little start," said Shipley, who also was a second-team all-WAC shortstop in his freshman year at Nevada after hitting .287 with 19 RBIs.
The current salary system in the minor leagues calls for a maximum of $1,100 per month for the first contract season, along with $25 per day meal money while on the road. After that, it's open to negotiation. First-year contracts from Double A to Triple A typically range from $400-$1,000 more per month.
Shipley's selection at No. 15 marked the highest any Wolfpack player had been drafted and is the highest in recent memory for someone from the Rogue Valley. Matt Smith of Grants Pass was chosen 16th overall by the Kansas City Royals in 1994, with current Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, an Ashland High product, selected 22nd overall by Cleveland in 2002.
The Diamondbacks chose 16 pitchers among their 41 draft picks, including 36th overall choice Aaron Blair, a 6-5, 225-pound right-hander from Marshall University.
"I don't know what the time line is as far as getting to the big leagues or anything like that," said Shipley, "but I know they're pushing me to be up there in a couple years."
Arizona's first-round selections the past two years included catcher Stryker Trahan (2012) and right-handed pitchers Trevor Bauer (2011) and Archie Bradley (2011). With the addition of Shipley, all but one of Arizona's first-round picks in the past six drafts have been pitchers, although the Diamondbacks have since parted ways with ex-UCLA ace Bauer and didn't sign 2010 pick Barret Loux due to injury concerns.