Texas Baseball Hopes To Avoid Another Crushing MLB Draft

Former Longhorn Brandon Belt - Thearon W. Henderson

The MLB draft starts tonight on the MLB Network and MLB.com. The Longhorns have their share of current players and incoming seniors whose draft position will impact the 2014 season.

We're still working on a Texas baseball post-mortem but with the MLB Draft tonight (June 6th to 8th) we decided it was time for our annual "Let's Be Optimistic That Some Talented Players Will Go To College Ahead Of All Of Them Deciding To Go Pro Within An Hour Of The MLB Signing Deadline."

As you know, high school baseball recruiting can be difficult to follow. It's hard to know what's going on behind the scene or how a high school senior who is fully committed to attending college will respond to a pro team offering him a record $5 million signing bonus (a la Josh Bell in 2011). The good news is that the 2013-2014 recruiting class appears to be less risky than last year's disaster with only a few high risk-high reward players in the class.

When deciding whether to get optimistic about a highly rated players coming to Texas one should consider the history of four MLB draft success stories for Texas. Kyle Russell, Jordan Danks, Taylor Jungmann and CJ Hinojosa were all thought of as high level talent leaving high school yet that wasn't reflected in their respective draft positions. Russell wasn't drafted in 2005, Danks went in that draft's 19th round, Jungmann lasted until the 24th round in 2008 and Hinojosa went in the 26th round a year ago. All were rock solid about going to Texas and their draft positions plummeted as a result.

Compare that to Texas draft failures such as Bell (2nd round), Robbie Grossman (6th), Blake Swihart (1st) or Wyatt Matthieson (2nd) and it's plain to see that teams know which players they can throw money at and whose commitments to college are squishier. In other words, there isn't a great track record of high school seniors passing up professional baseball money once it's on the table to attend Texas.

If they're drafted early then it's not good for Texas.

If they're already saying things like "I’m not really too worried about it. I just have to focus on what I’m doing and what we’re doing. (The scouts) are going to do their job, and I’ll do mine," then it's not good for Texas.

Before getting to the seniors though, here are the draft eligible players on the current Texas roster who may be going pro this year:

  • Mark Payton - Payton flirted with .400 (.393) this season and led the team in pretty much every meaningful offensive category. Payton is one of the few players to improve dramatically over the last three years and there's no doubt he'll be drafted. Payton clearly loves Texas and we would love to have him back, but there's not much more for college ball to offer. We have a hard time seeing Payton back in 2014 though maybe teams will be scared by his 5'8" 180 pound frame.

  • Erich Weiss - Weiss is the anti-Payton, devolving from a solid defensive third baseman who hit .348 as a freshman to a strong hitting defensive liability his sophomore year to a man without a position who lost all his power offensively. Weiss' strikeout rate increased each of the last three years, his OBP fell and his slugging plummeted. Weiss slugged .518 and .547 his first two years in burnt orange before slugging just .390 with a single home run in 2013. Weiss should be drafted relatively early (think top 10 rounds) but could benefit significantly from another year at Texas to gain a position on defense and work out the kinks offensively. Conversely a pro team may want him out of the Texas system to teach Weiss a new position and help him improve his hitting. For an excellent Draft Profile of Weiss, check out the review from Crawfish Boxes, SB Nation's Houston Astros blog.

  • Nathan Thornhill - A pitcher's wins and losses is a useless stat and no player proves that more so than Texas's Sunday starter Nathan Thornhill whose 3-6 record belies his 2.21 ERA with a pair of complete games and 60 Ks compared to only 15 walks. Thornhill was the victim of poor Texas defense more than any other pitcher on the Longhorn roster which resulted in 14 unearned runs being scored against him. There's not much for Thornhill to gain in another year at Texas but the Horns have had luck in the past (Cole Green and Sam Stafford sort of come to mind) getting junior pitchers to return for their senior year.
  • Corey Knebel - What a sad end to what should have been a glorious college career. Knebel clashed with the Texas coaching staff and was suspended as a result allegedly for providing urine for a teammate. Knebel should be drafted early and is unlikely to return to the 40 Acres. For a Draft Profile of Knebel, again we refer you to Crawfish Boxes, who provides another excellent review.
  • Juniors Jacob Felts, Josh Urban, Weston Hall and Madison Carter could get drafted but it's hard to see any of them leaving to pursue pro dreams.

The real impact for the 2014 season and beyond comes from the high school recruits whose future enrollment at Texas will be largely impacted by their draft position. One of those players is a sure-fire first round pick though several could go early. Overall the class appears to have a lower ceiling than last year's class that largely went pro but there also appear to be fewer risks.

Here are the players who signed with Texas in November:

  • Trey Ball (New Castle, Indiana/New Castle HS) - Ball, a likely future pitcher from Indiana is projected to go early in the first round with Keith Law pegging him at 16. Maybe something will go wrong with contract negotiations otherwise there's no way Ball will find his way to college. His twitter profile says Ball is "Heading to Texas", so we've got that going for us!
  • Tres Barrera (McAllen, Texas/Sharyland HS) - A catcher or third baseman who mashed in high school, Barrera is one of those borderline players who could make or break this class. Coming to Texas could make Barrera some money if he can succeed at catcher. We'd expect Barrera in the top 10 rounds though it's hard to say where exactly.
  • Infielder Bret Boswell (Rockwall, Texas/Heath HS) - Boswell is a left handed shortstop who could slide over to second base if he ever makes it on campus. Another likely top 10 round draft pick who is likely a toss up to ever go to Texas.
  • First baseman/right-handed pitcher Kacy Clemens (Houston, Texas/Memorial HS) - Roger Clemens has spawned another child and he appears to be a legit MLB prospect. The chance to follow in Roger's footsteps and his dad's departure from pro ball could provide incentive for Clemens to come to college.
  • Right-handed pitcher Morgan Cooper (Jarrell, Texas/Jarrell HS) - A pitcher who should end up at Texas. Huzzah.
  • Right-handed pitcher Blake Goins (Pearland, Texas/Pearland HS) - A pitcher whose 6'0" frame may keep down his considerable draft stock. Goins seems a strong candidate to end up at Texas based on his public comments such as "When you step on the campus, it’s a great feeling. Once you step on the field, it feels like home. It’ll be fun playing at Texas because I already have a relationship with my future teammates and now we get to play at the next level."
  • Infielder Zane Gurwitz (San Antonio, Texas/Churchill HS) - A strong hitter whose family history at Texas makes him a good candidate to end up on campus.
  • Left-handed pitcher Jon Malmin (Troy, Texas/Troy HS) - Malmin said the following about attending school at Texas "I’ve always been a big fan of (Texas). It’s always kind of been a dream to go there. I mean, you grow up thinking I’m going to go play for Texas or something like that, thinking you’re going to go do that, but the opportunity is kind of like a dream come true." Strong chance he ends up in burnt orange.
  • Infielder Andy McGuire (Oakton, Virginia/James Madison HS) - McGuire would be a huge get for Texas if he ever makes it onto campus but that is a huge if. Keith Law has McGuire as his 74th ranked player in the draft and he is considered one of the top ten middle infielders in the draft. McGuire is the only Virginia high schooler ever to commit to Texas. McGuire's draft position will likely dictate his future status with the Longhorns.
  • Right-handed pitcher Lukas Schiraldi (Cedar Park, Texas/St. Michael's HS/Navarro College) - The only JUCO transfer identified in this year's class so far, Schiraldi is the son of former Longhorn Calvin Schiraldi. The younger Shiraldi was a dominating reliever at Navarro in 2012 and would provide instant depth to the bullpen should he make it on campus.

Drafted players have until July 12th at 5 PM to sign. This'll be your MLB Draft open thread and we'll try to update as the Horns and future Horns go off the board.

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