Following college baseball recruiting can be exceedingly difficult for fans as exposure to the players is substantially less than it is for college basketball or football recruits. In order to bring you coverage of the upcoming MLB Draft (June 4-6) and what it may mean for the Longhorns, we asked David Rawnsley, National Scouting Director for baseball scouting service Perfect Game for his thoughts on the upcoming Longhorn recruiting class and his assessment of which players have the best chances to end up playing for Texas. To read more by David Rawnsley and the Perfect Game team of analysts/writers/scouts on the 2012 draft, college baseball and the top high school prospects around the country, visit perfectgame.org.
Texas Longhorn fans are accustomed to being hit hard by the Major League draft that is held in the first week of June every year. When you try to recruit the best players not only from the state of Texas but nationally as well, it’s bound to happen that deep pocketed big league teams will take their pick of the recruiting class.
The 2011 draft hit Texas especially hard, though. They were able get their four of their top pitching recruits to campus in right handers Parker French, John Curtiss, Ricky Jazquez and left hander Dillon Peters, while never really expecting to get Oklahoma high school standout RHP Dylan Bundy to Austin. The Longhorns also lost RHP Connor Sedzeck (Howard Junior College) from their pitching class when he unexpectedly signed with the Texas Rangers for $350,000 as an 11th round pick.
It was offensively, though, where Texas was hit the hardest. They had recruited three high level national prospects in OF Josh Bell, C Blake Swihart and 3B Matt Dean and had a realistic expectation that perhaps all three, and certainly two, would forgo professional baseball for at least three years. That didn’t happen, as the Boston Red Sox paid Swihart $2.5M in the first round, the Pirates gave Bell an astounding $5M bonus in the second round and the Blue Jays coaxed Dean into signing for $737,000 in the 13th round. All three signing bonuses were well above the normal "slots" for where the players were picked.
Even though Major League Baseball has since implemented new draft rules that are designed to limit spending and eliminate the bonuses that players like Bell, Swihart and Dean received last year, the bad news for Longhorn fans (not to mention the coaching staff) is that the 2012 draft projects to hit Texas recruiting class just as hard as the 2011 did and perhaps even harder.
The worst part about that is the hit is going to likely come just where the Texas roster can afford it the least, offensively.
Perfect Game currently lists Texas as having the fourth best high school recruiting class in the country behind Florida, Arizona State and Miami. After the jump is a quick rundown on 13 players in the class, including one that might not actually be in the class.
OF Billy "Nick" Williams (Ball HS, Galveston, TX): Williams is one of the most perplexing players in the country to scouts and he could go anywhere from the supplemental first round (picks 32-60) to the fifth round. He has enormous physical talent but hasn’t shown the ability to use it consistently. More importantly for Texas fans, it is believed that Williams has never actually signed a National Letter of Intent with Texas. He has never been mentioned in any press releases about Longhorn recruits and two sources close to the program say that Williams is no longer considered to be part of the recruiting class despite Williams’ public comments to the contrary. Longhorn Potential : Uncertain but unlikely
OF Courtney Hawkins (Carroll HS, Corpus Christi, TX): Hawkins has emerged as one of the top high school bats in the country and will likely be among the top 15 picks in the first round. He has classic right field tools and well above average power projection. Longhorn Potential: 1%
RHP/SS Tyler Gonzales (Madison HS, San Antonio, TX): Gonzales has picked up 4 mph on his fastball this spring and is now topping out at 96 mph, while his mid-80’s slider was already considered one of the top breaking balls nationally in the 2012 class. He also is a year older than most high school seniors and comes from a family with deep ties to professional baseball. That combination of factors, and the money he will likely get as a supplemental first round/second round pick means it’s improbable he plays a game of college baseball. Longhorn Potential: 5%
C/SS/RHP Wyatt Mathieson (Calallan HS, Corpus Cristi, TX): Mathieson has been the most dominant high school player in the state this year. He can play virtually every position on the field but scouts see him as a catcher at the next level. Unfortunately for Texas fans, he will probably be picked in the supplemental first round or second round and is considered signable by scouts. Longhorn Potential: 15%
C Stephen Bean (Rockwall HS, Rockwall, TX): When UT signed Bean back in November, they probably considered him a sure thing to get to campus. But Bean has been one of the fastest rising prospects in the country this spring as scouts rushed in to see him and his teammate SS Spencer Edwards (below). Bean is now considered one of the top two or three high school catchers in the country and should be picked in the top two or three rounds. Longhorn Potential: 25%
SS Spencer Edwards (Rockwall HS, Rockwall, TX): While Bean has surpassed Edwards on most scouts lists, Edwards is still a likely top 5 round pick due to his overall athleticism and powerful bat. Many see him moving to centerfield or perhaps second base at the next level but his advanced offensive potential would probably mean he would be an immediate starter somewhere on the field at Texas. Longhorn Potential: 40%
1B Austin Dean (Klein Collins HS, Spring, TX): Dean is a hard profile for scouts, as he is a right handed hitting first baseman with 6.7 speed, a very unusual combination, but as much as scouts would like to see him at another position his arm probably won’t allow it. His right handed bat is so good and so advanced though that it doesn’t matter, though. He projects to go in the third to fifth rounds and is probably the one "realistic" recruit on this list that the Longhorn coach staff is really hoping makes it through the draft and to campus. Longhorn Potential: 50%
RHP Chad Hollingsworth (Robinson HS, Waco, TX): Hollingsworth reportedly hit 95 mph a number of times this spring and obviously has a big-time right arm. His secondary pitches and command lag well behind his velocity, however, and many teams would rather see him go to school and develop further in the college environment. Longhorn Potential: 70%
OF Ben Johnson (Westwood HS, Austin, TX): Johnson is the least polished of all the Longhorn position recruits and therefore least likely to contribute immediately. But he is extremely athletic and has significantly improved his swing this spring and is getting plenty of late looks from scouts. His 6.4 speed makes him the fastest player in the class. A team could pop him in the 5th-7th round area if he were signable. Longhorn Potential: 75%
SS C.J. Hinojosa (Klein Collins HS, Spring, TX): Hinojosa almost joined Texas for the spring semester but wasn’t able to pass enough credits to academically qualify. That became a moot point when he had to undergo surgery on his left shoulder early in the spring to tighten ligaments that were causing his left shoulder to frequently dislocate. Hinojosa has huge offensive potential for a middle infielder but scouts have backed off him due to his health and commitment to UT. Longhorn Potential: 80%
RHP Holden Helmink (Willis HS, Conroe, TX): Helmink is very similar to Chad Hollingsworth without quite the present arm strength, although he will touch 92-93 mph occasionally. Helmink is a slender and loose 6-5/185 and projects very well if he can get stronger and develop more consistency in his pitching mechanics. Longhorn Potential: 90%
LHP Travis Duke (Dawson HS, Pearland, TX) and LHP Ty Culbreth (Bryan HS, Bryan, TX): Both Duke and Culbreth are solid college left handers who currently throw in the mid to upper 80’s. They aren’t considered pro prospects at this point but could develop up to that level while in Austin. Longhorn Potential: 99%