The MLB draft starts tonight at 6 PM on the MLB Network. Texas has gotten some pretty good breaks over the last few years, particularly with Mark Payton, Nathan Thornhill and Parker French all returning for senior seasons. Although the Texas recruiting class appears poised to largely make it to campus, the Horns may see a few defections from some prominent players. Remember, only 1.9% of players drafted in last year's top 10 rounds didn't sign a professional contract. After that the odds of a player making it (or making it back) to college rise dramatically.
Let's take a look at what's at stake here in the 2015 MLB draft.
What's definitely leaving:
Seniors Brooks Marlow, Collin Shaw, Parker French, Kirby Bellow - Marlow and Shaw started out strong but disappointed over the course of the 2015 season. French's exploits have been covered here and he'll be hugely missed. Bellow's contribution was such a pleasant surprise and hopefully his funky delivery will help him catch on somewhere at the next level.
What could depart:
Juniors Ben Johnson, CJ Hinojosa, Travis Duke, Chad Hollingsworth, Ty Culbreth - Johnson seems the most likely candidate to go pro as his ceiling is probably the highest of any Longhorn on the roster. Hinojosa had a tough, injury plagued season and might be able to improve his stock with a senior season although that's no guarantee. If I was a betting man I'd say the odds are pretty good that Johnson and Hinojosa leave. Duke, Hollingsworth and Culbreth should return although stranger things have happened.
What comes back:
Texas is only guaranteed to return its starting CF, 3B, 1B, C and SS (Joe Baker if Hinojosa returns). Getting Hinojosa and/or Johnson back would ensure Texas of a lot of returning experience in 2016. Barrera and Cantu are about as good a catching combination as there is in college baseball and Barrera could make the leap to the pantheon of Texas sluggers in his contract year. Baker was a pleasant surprise and Texas has a good bit of talent coming back on offense even without the aforementioned juniors returning.
The biggest returning pitcher for 2016 may be a guy who didn't throw a pitch in 2015. Morgan Cooper looked like a future ace as a freshman but surgery derailed his 2015 campaign. Texas will bring back Conner Mayes and Kyle Johnston, both of whom looked like potential weekend starters as freshman. Kacy Clemens isn't flashy but he was improving when shoulder issues forced him to stop pitching, and Hollingsworth getting healthy and coming back gives Texas the deep, experienced rotation it lacked in 2015. Replacing French will be a challenge but Texas should have the type of pitching staff we've become accustomed to in 2016.
Texas has clearly altered its strategy in recent years to go get guys who are either locks to Texas or under the radar prospects. No more Josh Bells or Robbie Grossmans in this group. The result is a recruiting class that could make it to campus in its entirety. I won't pretend to have scouted these guys, but what follows is a list of what I could gather including a clever dig at Abram at the end.
Kody Clemens - INF - Best known as the younger brother of Kacy Clemens, Kody Clemens looks like a future utility man. He's got baseball in his DNA and is considered the best hitter from the Clemens clan. He's probably a threat to go pro given the right circumstance.
Brady Harlan - OF - A small, wiry outfielder who's a good defender. Harlan does not appear to be much of a pro ball threat.
Nick Kennedy - LHP - A Floridian that's the younger brother of current Longhorn Ben Kennedy. Nick became a Texas fan while following the 2005 Longhorns. Might be a moderate draft risk based on talent alone though his apparent love for Texas may bring him to the 40 Acres.
Nolan Kingham - RHP - Kingham is from Las Vegas and has electric stuff (MLB prospect video here). Kingham's older brother is in the Pirates organization as a fourth round pick and Minor League Ball suggests he could go in the same territory. Kingham's draft position will say a lot about his future intentions, and getting this guy on campus would be the biggest coup for Texas.
James Nittoli - LHP - A big left hander that sounds like he'll come to Texas. Has the frame to contribute mightily but he may need some development.
Beau Ridgeway - RHP - Ridgeway has a 3/4 delivery that could play well at Texas but probably won't go pro. .
Tyler Rand - OF - Rand is a future CF per the Texas scouting report. Does not appear to be a pro ball threat.
Matt Schmidt - INF - A corner infielder with good size from Colorado, Schmidt should make it to campus.
Chase Shugart - RHP - Shugart is a small righty (5'11", 175 lbs) with good stuff.
Blake Wellman - RHP - The tallest pitcher of the class, Skip Johnson notes that he has a very high ceiling and gets better each time he pitches. Sounds like a project. It has also been said that Abram has a high ceiling as a blogger and gets better each time he writes.
Stay tuned here for updates on what's going on with the draft.