BEVO BEAT Baseball

Waiting game begins for Texas after MLB teams use draft picks on UT underclassmen

Posted June 15th, 2017

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Texas had its name called a lot over the course of this week’s three-day, 40-round MLB amateur draft. Eleven Longhorns were taken, tied with Michigan for the most in the country.

Was that, though, a good or bad thing for the Longhorns?

Besides the 11 Longhorns — including eight who still have eligibility left and can decide to come back to school — four members of Texas’ 2017 signing class also were selected.

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Read more: Texas’ Morgan Cooper eager to sign with Dodgers, start his pro career

Texas' 2017 draft class

 GradePositionRound draftedTeam
Tristen LutzHSOFCBA (34th overall)Milwaukee
Landon LeachHSRHP2nd (37)Minnesota
Morgan CooperR-JRRHP2nd (62)LA Dodgers
Nick KennedySOPHLHP5th (146)Colorado
Kyle JohnstonJRRHP6th (193)Washington
Bret BoswellR-JRINF8th (236)Colorado
Kacy ClemensSR1B8th (249)Toronto
Tyler SchimpfJRRHP13th (396)San Francisco
Patrick MathisJROF22nd (661)Houston
Donny DiazSOPH (Juco)RHP23rd (701)Boston
Connor MayesJRRHP24th (720)Kansas City
Zane GurwitzSRINF26th (775)LA Angels
Blake PflughauptSOPH (Juco)LHP27th (799)Tampa Bay
Travis JonesJROF29th (870)Kansas City
Jon MalminSRLHP31st (925)LA Angels

Those draftees who aren’t college seniors — in other words, everybody except Kacy Clemens, Zane Gurwitz and Jon Malmin — have until July 15 to decide whether they’ll play ball professionally or be at Texas for the 2017-18 school year. That includes the two high school standouts and the two junior college pitchers the Longhorns signed. Pitcher Morgan Cooper, who was taken in the second round by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and infielder Bret Boswell (eighth round, Colorado Rockies) aren’t expected back since they have already graduated.

However, question marks surround the underclassmen.

There will be financial incentives for some of the players to sign. For example, first-day picks Tristen Lutz and Landon Leach, both high schoolers, are in line for signing bonuses estimated at $2 million and $1.8 million). The desire to kick-start one’s career, changing collegiate roles or classroom fatigue are other pros for going pro. Partial scholarships also are commonplace in college baseball, including at Texas, so many draftees would essentially be paying to return to school.

Players, though, could conceivably work toward a degree and improve their draft stock should they decide to come back. Cooper and Boswell were 34th and 40th round picks in 2016. One year later, Cooper’s looking at an estimated signing bonus of $1 million by being a second-rounder and Boswell’s pick value is $162,800.

Texas Baseball Head Coach David Pierce talks to Nick Kennedy after he walked a batter in the seventh inning at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday April 8, 2017. Daulton Venglar/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

So what will Texas coach David Pierce’s pitch be as he tries to recruit players who are already on his roster?

“I’ve never tried to convince a kid to sign or not to sign; it’s not my job,” Pierce said. “It’s my job to tell them the benefits that we offer and what happens in percentages when you look at kids going to school versus not going to school and the percentages of minor-league baseball of kids that make it.”

Continued Pierce: “We really want to have that relationship where they trust that we’re going to tell them the right things. There’s definitely fifth-rounders that I say, ‘This is a situation you ought to sign. This is your best option.’ There’s a same guy that’s a fifth-rounder, and I don’t think that should happen. It’s an individual basis. We have some decisions to make with a couple of guys right now that we would definitely want back.”

In its first season under Pierce, Texas went 39-24. UT returned to the NCAA postseason and won two games at the regional, but 4-3 and 2-1 losses to Long Beach State ended the Longhorns’ season.

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