The MLB draft starts tonight at 6 PM on the MLB Network and, as usual, it'll be critical for the future of Texas baseball. It's probably not much of a coincidence that Texas baseball's resurrection from the dead began with not getting slaughtered in the 2013 MLB draft as they had in 2011 and 2012.
What has been interesting is observing the change in recruiting being undertaken by the Texas coaches. The Texas coaching staff is looking for guys whose desire to come to Texas will scare away the MLB. Sometimes you might get a Taylor Jungmann or Jordan Danks to campus, but more often then not you get guys like Trey Ball, Homer Bailey, Scott Kazmir and Courtney Hawkins.
Maybe it's a strategic change, maybe it's just luck that none of their recruits blew up their senior years, either way Texas looks to get almost all of its recruiting class on campus for the second straight year. And if you trust the coaching staff's ability to identify the talent it wants -- and Tres Barrera, Zane Gurwitz, Morgan Cooper and Kacy Clemens should give you no reason to doubt them -- then 2015 could be a real good year.
What follows is a look at the guys who should be gone, may be gone, should come back and may or may not make it to campus. For the uninitiated, high school seniors, college juniors and seniors and college sophomores who are 21 are eligible to be drafted by MLB teams. They'll go 40 rounds or until everyone agrees they want the madness to end. They do rounds 1-2 tonight, 3-10 tomorrow and the rest Saturday.
Nathan Thornhill - Thornhill came back to improve his draft stock and bring Texas back to some level of prominence. Who knows what his professional future has in store but Thornhill was Texas' most reliable starter for most of 2014.
Mark Payton - What can I say about Payton that hasn't already been said. Payton's stature may hold him back professionally which is also the reason we got the pleasure of watching four years of one of the most entertaining baseball players to walk the 40 Acres. Do you realize that Payton's batting average last year raised the Texas team average from .243 to .260? Throw in his Big 12 record for consecutive games reaching base and you've got the next in a long line of endearing Texas outfielder alumni. Payton is just one game short of reaching base 100 straight games. Just a remarkable player.
Jacob Felts, Alex Silver, Weston Hall, Madison Carter, Ty Marlow - Each senior contributed in some way to this team with some (Carter) contributing more than others. Marlow had Tommy John surgery in March and I guess could conceivably come back for another year. Either way, these guys probably don't have much of a professional future but we thank them for their service to the University!
I don't have any inside information but I'm guessing these guys will be gone, ranked in order of seeming likelihood.
Dillon Peters - The elbow injury likely prematurely ended Peters' college career. The reality of the situation is Peters has little to gain and much to lose by returning to Texas for another year. I don't know if Peters needs surgery on his elbow. That may drop him a round or two in the draft, but he'd probably be better off rehabbing in the pros than coming back to Texas. If so, it would be a sad end to a great Texas career that could've been epic with a better offense. Baseball America ranks Peters 112th, so the only thing that would bring him back would be teams being horrified by his undisclosed elbow injury.
Lukas Schiraldi - Schiraldi has been a bit of a disappointment as the midweek Texas starter though it's clear why the scouts like him. Schiraldi can throw hard and when he's locating his pitches he can be insanely tough to hit (opponent BA of .241). He wouldn't have a ton to come back for as he'll most likely be drafted on his potential rather than his performance. Schiraldi's mechanics aren't the best (duh) but I'd be mildly surprised if a team doesn't take a chance on him. BA ranks Schiraldi 344th.
Parker French - French and Peters have both been excellent the last three years though Peters has been slightly better. French is taller but Peters being a leftie gives him an advantage in the draft. The odds suggest French will go pro but I'd rank him behind Peters and Schiraldi as slightly less likely. If French falls in the draft maybe he'll come back for another year. It's clear just how much this guy (and Peters) loves Texas from just watching him in the Rice Regional. Maybe Parker will come back because he just freaking wants to. BA ranks French 434th, so there's some hope of a senior year.
May Be Gone:
John Curtiss - If Curtiss comes back he'll likely join the Texas rotation where he pitched as a freshman in 2012. Curtiss has good stuff and his command at the end of the season has been terrific (two walks in his last ten appearances). Curtiss is a redshirt sophomore so he's draft-eligible, but the two remaining years of eligibility would still give him leverage if he decides to pitch at Texas another year. Curtiss is the rare case of a third year player who could gain leverage by coming back and dominating, although BA ranks him 159th. Of course that calculus could be all wrong. According to MLB draft guru Jim Calis, Curtiss may be an under-the-radar goner. According to Calis:
Do you have a favorite player relatively few other people are in on?
Texas had a pretty heralded recruiting class of pitchers three years ago, and the best guy coming out of high school was John Curtiss. He wound up having Tommy John after his freshman year and while he was coming back from that, he had thoracic outlet syndrome, where they wind up having to remove a rib because it’s pinching a nerve.
This year, he’s come back, just pitching out of the bullpen, and he’s been 92, 94, 96, and like a lot of guys coming off Tommy John, the breaking ball and the command aren’t as sharp as they once were, but I do think that’s a guy who might prove to be a steal, because he looks like he’s on the road back to what he was.
Unlike a lot of draft-eligible sophomores, I think he’s signable. He’s a really smart kid — he graduated with a double major from Texas in three years.
Collin Shaw - Shaw has begun to put it all together in 2014 and could be gone based on his tools alone. Shaw's a fast outfielder who has made a number of incredible catches in 2014. Shaw was red hot to start the season but he's only been mediocre ever since. Shaw's another who could be drafted on raw skill, though he may not have enough leverage to begin with to lose all that much by coming back and improving.
Brooks Marlow - A common complaint about Texas hitters over the last few years has been that they rarely develop when they get to campus. They can either hit when they get here or they can't. Marlow may be the exception to that rule or he may be the best example of the Tommy Nicholson effect. Marlow hit .214 as a freshman, .250 last year and .284 this year. Marlow walked 11 times as a sophomore and 44 times leading off for Texas in 2014. Marlow's got a good glove at second but he'll probably be back for a senior year given the lack of a professional market for a (relatively) light hitting 5'8" second baseman.
So that's the draft-eligible roster as it stands now. If Marlow and Shaw return then Texas will only have to replace Payton and Carter. The Horns already have Andy McGuire and Bret Boswell chomping at the bit to DH, play outfield or see time at third base given Gurwitz's struggles there in Houston. Dare I say it that the Texas offense could be...good...next year with another year of development and the balls flying 15 feet further next year? I dare.
Let's not discount what may come to Austin from high school in 2015 though. The full list with quotes can be found here. What really stands out about this recruiting class is there aren't any obvious first round talents that will break our heart at the last minute. MLB teams have begun almost exclusively drafting guys who they know will sign given their extremely limited resources in the draft. Guys that go in the first ten rounds tend to sign, guys that don't are much less likely. None of these guys seem certain to go, so that's good.
The full list is below, but a few players stand out:
Michael Cantu is the highest rated player in the class. Barrera seems to have a stranglehold on the catching position so Cantu may make an impact as DH and backup catcher. Alternatively, Barrera and Cantu could split duties with the superior man catching and the other DHing. First base may also come open if Clemens can't develop further with the bat or if the coaching staff decides to use him as a pitcher. BA ranks Cantu 161st (and has a scouting video you can watch of him hitting BP dingers and a double!), so his draft position will tell a lot about whether he's telling teams he wants to come to Austin.
Travis Jones has played shortstop in high school but it's hard to see him sticking there in college. Jones is 6'4" 195 lbs and may be an outfielder at the next level in the mold of Kyle Russell, Jordan Danks or Drew Stubbs. Perfect Game has Jones as a top 400 player while BA ranks him 496th so his draft position is worth watching. If Jones slips out of the top ten rounds then he's likely coming to Austin.
Patrick Mathis is another top 400 player. He's an outfielder who could start next year if he makes it to campus. Mathis can also pitch and may be needed there assuming the Horns lose all four starters.
Parker Joe Robinson is the highest rated pitcher in the class. He's 6'5" 230 lbs and his dad played for Augie in the early 1980s, suggesting he may be more likely to make it to Austin. Morgan Cooper is the only guy on the Texas roster that looks like a cinch to start next season. Chad Hollingsworth had as good an audition as possible for a 2015 starting role against A&M. Curtiss (if he returns), Jon Malmin, Blake Goins and Josh Sawyer could also all compete for three open starting slots (though it'd be a lot more fun if there was only one open slot). Robinson looks like the best freshman candidate to come in and start right away, but take that with a grain of salt as Morgan Cooper was low on the radar at this point last year and that turned out pretty great.
Tyler Schimpf is another California pitcher who could compete for a starting role. Unlike Robinson I was unable to figure out any ties that may have led Schimpf to Austin but he is welcome nonetheless! Perfect Game ranked Schimpf in the top 400 nationally preseason and BA puts him at 293. He's another guy who could compete for a starting spot and his draft spot is worth watching.
Here's the full list of incoming freshmen. Check back in this thread for information on who's drafted when.
- Joe Baker – SS – McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS)
- Michael Cantu – C – Corpus Christi, Texas (Corpus Christi Moody)
- Kaleb Denny - SS/OF – Baytown, Texas (Barber's Hill HS)
- Kyle Johnston – RHP – Flower Mound, Texas (Flower Mound HS)
- Travis Jones – IF – Humble, Texas (Atascocita HS)
- Patrick Mathis – OF – Venus, Texas (Venus HS)
- Connor Mayes – RHP – Austin, Texas (Lake Travis HS)
- Michael McCann – C – Round Rock, Texas (Cedar Ridge)
- Parker Joe Robinson – RHP – Coto de Caza, Calif. (Junipero Serra HS)
- Tyler Schimpf – RHP – Citrus Heights, Calif. (Capital Christian HS)
Texas got lucky last year when Nathan Thornhill and Mark Payton returned for their senior seasons. Thornhill is tough to replace but replacing him is much easier than Payton. Getting Marlow and Shaw as well as one or two of French, Peters and Curtiss to come back would be just as big of a coup for 2015.
As I said before, the first ten rounds are key. If guys fall out of the top ten then the odds of them coming back for another year skyrocket. If they're drafted in the top ten then the teams think the players will sign.
Consider this your MLB draft open thread.