The MLB draft has come and gone and Texas seemed to make it out pretty well. Parker French was taken in the fifth round by the Rockies, CJ Hinojosa went in the 11th to the Giants and Ben Johnson went a few picks later to the Royals. It took longer but Kirby Bellow went in the 26th round round to Diamondbacks and Brooks Marlow was drafted by the Astros in the 29th round. Perhaps most importantly, potential first-round talent Nolan Kingham did not go until the 39th round, virtually assuring he will make it to campus.
French was a senior and will probably sign with the Rockies for well under the slotted value as he has no leverage. Bellow built himself a professional future in 2015 which is pretty cool to see.
The big question left for us, therefore, is what does Hinojosa and Johnson's draft position suggest about their likelihood to return to Texas?
As a reminder, the MLB's CBA makes players drafted in the top 10 rounds near certainties to sign (98% of top 10 picks signed a year ago). Teams have contact with players and for the most part know whether a player will sign for above, at, or below their slotted value.
Players drafted between rounds 11-40 have a signing bonus ceiling of $100,000. Teams can break the ceiling, but the money has to come out of the team's pool of overall draft money, providing much less incentive to give bigger signing bonuses after the 10th round. The draft itself, therefore, provides an excellent barometer for evaluating whether a player will go to college or play professionally as the teams themselves take far fewer risks in the first 10 rounds.
With that in mind, the odds of Hinojosa and/or Johnson returning to Texas changed from "no shot in hell" to "a fighting chance" by them both slipping out of the 10th round. Hinojosa's sliding to the 11th round is somewhat surprising but could be the result of how MLB team's view his professional prospects. Still, Hinojosa may be able to pull a deal like Erich Weiss got in 2013 with the Pirates ($300,000 signing bonus -- equivalent to a 5th round pick -- in the 11th round).
Johnson falling to the late 11th round is much more unexpected. There might be other explanations, but the most logical rationale for Johnson's draft fall is signability concerns. Johnson has Major League talent and should've gone well before the 11th round based on talent alone. If Johnson is truly looking for big money he may not get it, and thus may be willing to return to Texas for another go. Or maybe he's bluffing by using the only leverage he has to get as much money as possible.
Both Hinojosa and Johnson lose all their leverage by returning to Texas for a senior season, so the odds of either player coming back isn't higher than 50/50 at best. But it's better than 2% and we'll know for sure by July 17th.
It's hard to be wholly optimistic about the 2016 season after the disaster that was the 2015 regular season, but getting either Johnson or Hinojosa back would give Texas an experienced lineup and an up-and-coming pitching staff. Throw in another solid recruiting class led by the very talented Kingham and there's at least reason for some optimism.