The Major League Baseball Draft is now less than a month away and as always, it will have a major impact on the immediate future of LSU's Baseball Program. LSU has fared very poorly in the draft before, such as in 2009 when stud high school pitchers Zack Von Rosenberg and Brody Colvin signed pro contracts after assuring everyone they'd play in college. LSU was left scrambling to find starting pitching for the following season, especially when Anthony Ranaudo was injured for most of the year. But LSU has also made out well in the draft, at times. Look no further than Alex Bregman. A hand injury forced Bregman to miss his senior season, causing him to slide in the draft. LSU now has a stud shortstop for three years. You win some. You lose some.
Projecting the draft is as difficult as its ever been. 2013 will be the second year incorporating significant changes to how the draft operates. Each team receives a cap on the amount of money they can spend on their picks in the Top-10 rounds, and each pick has a bonus amount assigned to it. What we saw is that many college seniors, who have no negotiating leverage, were picked in the Top-10 rounds well above where they were projected to go. Then, the pro teams jammed those guys on their signing bonuses and used that additional money to ensure their top picks signed. For example, Austin Nola was unexpectedly selected in the fifth round (#167 overall) and signed for $75,000 despite the slot money for that pick being much higher. The slot money for #167 overall in the 2013 draft is $270,000.
For the same reasons, you may also see pro teams draft high school players in the Top-10 rounds that have indicated they're interested in playing pro ball ahead of college and will sign for under slot money. Former Evangel High School outfielder Hayden Jennings is an example of this. The LSU signee was not projected to go in the first 20 rounds of the draft but was taken in the sixth round and signed for well below slot value. All in all, these new rules seem to be positive for the college game. This article discusses the effect they had in the first year and has some quotes from Paul Maineri.
In this first part of a two part series, we'll take a look at the projections for current Tigers in the draft. Part Two will look at LSU's signing class.
First, the seniors...
Mason Katz may have helped himself the most this season. Undrafted a year ago, his excellent season for LSU could pay dividends. Despite his smaller size, he's now seen as a promising prospect and similar to Austin Nola a year ago, may find himself picked somewhere in the Top 10 rounds.
Raph Rhymes was selected in the 30th round a year ago, and I suspect his stock has not increased all that much, if at all. Rhymes didn't match his insane 2012 production, but he did further prove that he could hit the ball at a very high level and can do so consistently. In three seasons, his career batting average is .380. Rhymes doesn't project anywhere defensively, nor does he offer much speed or power. But he'll hit....and he'll make his managers in minor league ball very, very happy.
Joey Bourgeois went undrafted a year ago, but I expect him to get his name called somewhere this year. He'll get the chance to pitch professionally and try to work his way up through a farm system.
Chris Cotton, also undrafted a year ago, will likely get an opportunity somewhere. His stuff isn't great and not what scouts look for, but Cotton is effective and he gets people out. Nearly every Major League team has a lefty specialist who can pitch in spots to lefty hitters. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Cotton filled that role professionally.
Brent Bonvillain is also hoping to hear his name called. He was not selected a year ago, and despite having an excellent senior season, I'm not sure he's done anything to convince scouts they need to take him this year.
I don't expect Kevin Berry, Alex Edward or Casey Yocum to be drafted.
Now, the juniors....
Ryan Eades is considered by many to be a first round draft pick and is nearly a consensus Top 50 prospect in this draft. That means that Ryan Eades will likely be joining the millionaire's club pretty soon. Eades has not shown the consistent dominance that we've seen from guys like Louis Coleman in 2009, Kevin Gausman in 2012, or even Aaron Nola this year. But Eades has been awfully good for the better part of the last two seasons and when he's commanding his pitches, he's as good as anyone. The consistency is what he needs to fine tune. Out of high school, Eades could fall into the category of Alex Bregman, considering that LSU caught a bit of a break with him. Like Bregman, Eades suffered an injury late in his high school career which drove him down the draft boards a bit. Considering he's expecting to be picked so high in June, that has to be considered a blessing to Eades. We won't see Eades back at LSU.
Second baseman Jacoby Jones is another guy expected to go in the Top 100 picks. A few first round mocks even have Jones going in the first 31 picks. Has Jones played like a first rounder? No, not really. For all his talent, he has some really pitiful at bats and strikes out an awful lot. He's got speed. He's excellent defensively and can project at several different positions. And he's shown flashes of power. If he keeps making strides in his approach and discipline at the plate, he may put it all together. Some team will take a chance that he will do just that. You can pencil this in as Jones' last season in Baton Rouge.
Ty Ross will likely be the next off the board, probably somewhere before the end of Round 10. Ross has been a little bit of a disappointment at the plate, hovering around the .200 mark. That comes after an excellent sophomore season where he was above .300 for most of the season before finishing at .292. Regardless, Ross shows enough flashes of power and plate discipline that, when combined with his excellent defense, make him a top catcher prospect. The odds certainly favor Ross getting selected high enough for him to turn pro after this season.
After those three, the futures of a few others are a bit unclear.
Unlike Chris Cotton, Nick Rumbelow has the "stuff" that scouts look for. His 90 + fastball and sharp breaking ball could land Rumbelow in the Top 10 rounds of the draft. His excellent performance last summer in the Cape Cod league (53 strikeouts in 31 innings) did not go unnoticed. Anywhere in the Top 10 rounds nets a slot bonus of six figures, so that could be tough for Rumbelow to turn down, assuming he's offered slot money. If he returns, I suspect he'll receive strong consideration to be LSU's closer in 2014, and that could motivate him to return.
Will Lamarche was selected in the 18th round last year, and he's expected to go high again. Obviously, scouts are in love with his 95 + fastball, and some team will be willing to take a chance on the issues he's had with his control and command. I'd love to see Lamarche work with Alan Dunn for one more season, and maybe he'll be motivated to do so if he believes he's got a chance to be the closer or even a weekend starter. But I suspect he'll go pro if selected in a similar spot as last year.
Christian Ibarra is having an excellent season for LSU, both at the plate and in the field. However, it doesn't seem like the scouts are all that high on Ibarra. He's excellent defensively and is one of the top hitters in the Southeastern conference. He's also shown some pop in his bat with five home runs. But his name is nowhere to be found on any draft boards, and unless he's really just itching to get started on his professional career, I suspect he'll return to LSU for his senior season. However, he's certainly a name to watch.
I don't expect Nate Fury, Kurt McCune, or Sean McMullen to get drafted.
The best, realistic case for LSU is that the only damage done to the current roster is with Eades, Jones and Ross.