Pro Draft Puts Colleges in a Bind
West Virginia could have four or five, five or six, or perhaps even seven or eight players taken in professional baseball’s first-year player draft, which begins Thursday afternoon and continues through Saturday.
That means Mountaineer coach Randy Mazey might have to find replacements for as many as seven or eight players when school resumes this fall.
Baseball is the only college sport where team rosters are not fully determined until right up to the start of the school year. The deadline is July 15 for players drafted by major league teams to declare their intentions of signing with a pro organization, returning to college or enrolling in college for the first time.
Nice way for a college baseball coach to make a living, huh?
“I stopped trying to figure (the draft) out years ago,” joked Mazey.
If players X, Y and Z are being counted on for the following season and X, Y and Z end up getting drafted and sign a pro contract, that means college coaches have basically no time to find adequate replacements. And if those three players happen to be your starting catcher, shortstop and center fielder, then the entire middle of your defense has vanished at a snap of the finger.
“You’ve got a month to recover, but at that point there are very few available players left,” Mazey explained.
Or consider this scenario: college player X signs in the 37th round, doesn’t sign right away, but has an outstanding summer and is offered even more money than he would have normally received at the spot he was selected when the organization that drafted him can’t sign some of the players ahead of him in his draft class.
“They will offer him a lot of money because for some reason they didn’t sign their second round pick or their third round pick and a lot of money opens up and it kind of filters down to the lower-round guys,” said Mazey. “That’s why you never really know what is going to happen until the deadline strikes on the 15th.”
There were more than 1,200 players taken in last year’s MLB draft, lasting 40 rounds over three days, whereas NFL teams took about 250 players over seven rounds in last spring’s draft and NBA teams will pick roughly 60 players over two rounds in this year’s draft coming up later this month. The NFL has never drafted high school players and the NBA no longer does as well, but it does draft college freshmen.
Compare that to last year's MLB draft when about 30 percent of the picks were high school players that would have otherwise gone to college to play baseball.
Most college baseball coaches are in agreement that most high school players should go to college first and then take their chances with the draft three years later when they are older, more mature and already have three years of a college education under their belts. They have a mountain of data to back up their position.
“The best case scenario would be for high school kids to go to college for a lot of reasons,” said Mazey. “The chances of a high school kid making it to the big leagues is so low. So many of them try because the light at the end of the tunnel is so bright and a lot of kids who sign out of high school never go back and get their college degree. They sacrifice a lot and chase a dream that very few kids ever get to realize.”
On the flip side, pro scouts are telling the top young prospects that their best chance of making it to the bigs is by getting into their organization early, learning how to become pro ballplayers, and working their way up through the system. That has always been a pretty compelling argument for an 18-year-old kid, and that’s why most early-round prospects end up signing pro contracts instead of going to college.
“Experience is a pretty good teacher as far as that goes as far as what guys are going to do,” Mazey said. “If you are recruiting a guy who is going to get drafted in the third round, very few guys like that end up going to college, even though they should.
“Every kid is different, but past history dictates that most kids in the top 10 rounds are going to sign. It takes a kid with a lot of confidence to go to college in that scenario.”
Some top prospects will use college as leverage to get more money from pro teams and some college programs will not pursue those players, choosing instead to focus on the players a rung below and develop them in their program. I recall Ohio State once using an approach similar to that with great success when Bob Todd was coaching the Buckeyes.
“If you get a guy who goes in the top three rounds and you end up convincing him that college is the best way to go a kid like that can be a program changer,” he explained. “We signed Matt Purke at TCU and he went in the first round with the Rangers but didn’t sign pro and went to college and he went 16-0 as a freshman and won two games at the College World Series.
“You try and not overlook anybody, and if people are willing to listen about the benefits of getting your college degree before you play pro ball, then there is nobody that I won’t go after.”
Some college coaches treat pro baseball and pro scouts with disdain because they are competing for many of the same players. However, that can turn into a double-edged sword for them because the bottom line is all good players want to play professional baseball, and if a college program doesn’t have a strong history of getting its players drafted then that can be an even more inhibiting factor in the end.
“You don’t want to have an adversarial relationship with the pro scouts because we can help each other out,” explained Mazey. “You want them to draft the kids from your team, but at the same time, it’s a business and your competing against each other sometimes. As long as everybody knows that going into it that everybody’s got a job to do then it’s hard to get mad at scouts for doing their job, and they shouldn’t get mad at us for doing ours.”
As for telling a drafted player what he should do, Mazey says he will never go quite that far.
“It’s not my job to make decisions for them, but it is my job to educate them and let them know what minor league baseball is all about,” he said. “What are your chances of making the big leagues if you go in the 12th round? What does history say a 12th-rounder’s chances are of making the big leagues? Once I educate them then the decision is up to them.
“If it were up to me, all of the high school kids should go to college because I’ve seen the advantages and the disadvantages of both sides.”
2013 First-Year Player Draft
When: June 6, 2013 - June 8, 2013
How to Follow: MLB Network and MLB.com
West Virginia’s Top Draft Prospects, according to Baseball America
1. Harrison Musgrave, LHP (No. 4 prospect in Mid-Atlantic Region, No. 335 prospect nationally)
2. Corey Walter, RHP (No. 10 prospect in Mid-Atlantic Region)
3. Corey Holmes, RHP (No. 13 prospect in Mid-Atlantic Region)
West Virginia’s Top Draft Prospects, according to Perfect Game USA
1. Corey Walter, RHP (4th to 10th round)
2. Corey Holmes, RHP (11th to 25th round)
3. Ryan McBroom, 1B (Later round choice)
4. Matt Frazer, OF (Later round choice)
5. Brady Wilson, OF (Later round choice)
6. Harrison Musgrave, LHP (Later round choice)
7. Sean Carley, RHP (Later round choice)
8. Jacob Rice, OF (Later round choice)
2013 First-Year Player Draft, major league baseball, Randy Mazey, West Virginia Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 Conference baseball
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