APEX, N.C. -- One of the top high school baseball prospects for next year says he has become a free agent after a stealth move that kept him from being taken in last month's amateur draft.
Power-hitting catcher Landon Powell, who led Apex to the state 4-A title last month as a junior, would have been a top prospect in the 2001 draft.
But Powell passed the test for a general equivalency diploma, then wrote to commissioner Bud Selig declaring himself eligible for the 2000 draft. Because so few knew he was available, none of the 30 major league teams chose him during the June 5-6 draft, which he says makes him a free agent.
The move, made by Powell's father and guided by agent Scott Boras, may be the first of its kind and greatly will increase Powell's bargaining power with all 30 teams. If he had been drafted, Powell only could negotiate with the team that selected him.
"There are going to be some shock waves in baseball over this one," said Allan Simpson, editor of Baseball America magazine, which had listed Powell as the No. 2 high school junior prospect in the nation.
Richard Levin, a spokesman for Selig, said he was unfamiliar with Powell's situation and could not comment.
Ron Powell, the player's father, said he already has had discussions with several major league clubs. He said the move will upset some agents and scouts who were cultivating his son, who led the state with 15 home runs and 47 RBI this past season.
"This is going to make some folks mad. He was eligible for the draft and all I had to do was tell them, but that was not in his best interest," Ron Powell said. "Everywhere I go they will shun me, but it's all a business. They weren't courting Landon because they liked him. They were courting him to get their 5 percent."
Boras said the use of a GED to make a junior available in the draft was unprecedented, but he said it was not an "end run" of the draft process.
"I don't think it's an end run as much as it's our job as legal counsel to optimize situations for our clients," said Boras, whose clients include Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux and Alex Rodriguez.
Boras is acting as Powell's legal adviser rather than his agent. The distinction protects Powell's NCAA eligibility should he choose to play college baseball if he does not receive an acceptable professional offer.
Boras is an opponent of the amateur draft, saying it unfairly limits the availability and bargaining power of high school and college players in the United States. Players outside the country can negotiate with all major league teams and do not face the same age and education requirements American players must meet.
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