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Several Texas Longhorns likely to be selected in MLB draft

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Texas baseball’s 2018 roster will be shaped by the results of the draft.

Morgan Cooper
Brian Hoang

Rounds one and two of the MLB draft kick off on Monday at 6 p.m. CT, and multiple Texas Longhorns could hear their names called.

Last season, the only non-seniors Texas lost were a few high school prospects in the early rounds and Tres Barrera in the sixth round. With more draft-eligible players and a better overall season, 2017 will be a much different story.

Below are the Texas signees and players in the top 500 of Baseball America’s top 500 MLB Draft Prospects.

Tristen Lutz, OF 2017 signee No. 35

Lutz is one of the last remaining Augie Garrido commitments and he matches the profile of an Augie recruit much more than a David Pierce recruit. While many of Pierce’s commits are raw projects, Lutz already projects as a high-level college starter. The problem is, Lutz is probably too high level, as he may depart for the pros out of high school as a first round pick. The Longhorns ran into this problem last season when they lost three signees to the MLB draft, including Gatorade Player of the Year Kyle Muller.

SB Nation blog Minor League Ball said of the 6’3, 210 pounder:

“Power is the big draw offensively but Lutz has more polish than typical for his age, showing solid strike zone judgment and consistent swing mechanics. His stock has been rising all spring as scouts are increasingly confident in his bat.”

Lutz seems much more torn between going to college or the pros than many other prospects of his ranking. Going to Texas is his dream, and if he falls out of the first round or isn’t selected by the Texas Rangers (his favorite team), then we may see Lutz suit up in burnt orange after all. And if that were the happen, he has the potential to be an immediate star (think Texas’ version of TCU’s Luken Baker).

Morgan Cooper, RHP Rs. Jr. No. 80

Texas’ most reliable starter honed a 2.32 ERA and notched 110 strikeouts in 89.1 innings pitched en route to becoming a Dick Howser Award semifinalist and a Golden Spikes Award semifinalist.

He currently projects as a late second round or early third round pick. After overcoming Tommy John Surgery and emerging as one of the most consistent pitchers in college baseball, it’s Cooper’s time to case his dream.

Landon Leach, RHP 2017 commit No. 85

The Ontario prospect was one the finest gets of Pierce’s Texas recruiting career thus far, but Leach’s Longhorn career will likely end before it starts. Leach has always been somewhat of a draft risk ever since signing for the ‘Horns, but his stock has only climbed since his commitment. Leach’s 6’4, 213-pound frame and his now 96 mph fastball make him a dominant force on the mound.

The No. 1 Canadian prospect will make a team very happy next season — but it likely will be an MLB organization, not the ‘Horns.

Kamron Fields, OF 2017 signee No. 222

Calling it now -- Kamron Fields will be a fan favorite next season for Texas baseball. Despite his high ranking, Fields is a low risk to sign to the pros as he has the potential to significantly increase his draft standing with solid play at Texas.

Fields is a two sport athlete who won the 10-6A District MVP as a quarterback in football and an outfielder in baseball. His power at the plate and athleticism will likely lead to him starting from day one for the ‘Horns.

Kyle Johnston, RHP Jr. No. 250

Johnston is an interesting case because while he has never been dominant at the college level, it’s always been obvious that he has the best tools on the mound for the team. His 96 mph fastball still has scouts salivating, despite his command issues.

While Johnston’s mechanics and control could benefit from one last year under Pierce’s tutelage, it is very possible Johnston will dart for the pros if he gets selected in the middle rounds.

Nick Kennedy, LHP So. No. 276

Texas’ mid-week starter appearing as a top 300 prospect may seem surprising, but Kennedy is one of Pierce’s favorite pitchers for a reason. The lefty had only a 8.44 ERA in 2016, but improved to a 3.02 ERA in 2017.

With a spot in the weekend rotation with his name on it, Kennedy seems like a candidate to return to Austin for another season.

Travis Jones, IF/OF Jr. No. 491

Jones is Texas’ lone non-signee position player in the top 500, which isn’t surprising considering the ‘Horns hit .252 on the year. Jones’ batting average climbed to over .300 in April, but plummeted after a May slump. He finished the year with a .253/.401/.393 slash-line. Scouts must like Jones’ athleticism and raw power.

I would expect Jones to be back next year for his senior season on the Forty Acres.

Notable omissions: Kacy Clemens (Sr.), Brett Boswell (Jr.), Michael Cantu (Jr.)

Kacy may not be a glamorous pick, but after leading the team in batting average (.305) and homers (12), while also swiping a team third best 10 bags, it’s hard to believe he’s out of the top 500. Someone will use a pick on him, possibly the Houston Astros, who originally selected him in the 35th round out of high school. The Astros certainly worked out well for his dad.

Boswell and Cantu are guys who didn’t light up the stats sheet this season, but both are undeniably “toolsy.” Boswell is an athletic second baseman who complemented David Hamilton well in the infield this season. He was MVP of the California Summer League in 2016 and started out his Texas 2017 campaign well before hitting a wall in the middle of the year. Cantu is built like Rob Gronkowski and had the power to hit six homers despite only notching 26 hits on the year.

Other guys who could definitely get drafted in the later rounds — Kody Clemens, Beau Ridgeway, Patrick Mathis, and Zane Gurwitz.

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If Texas gets torched in the draft, the biggest loss will be starting pitching. As it stands, the Longhorns have draft ineligible Nolan Kingham and Blair Henley to presumably fill two of the weekend spots. Texas would love for one or two of Leach, Johnston, and Kennedy to fill out the rest of the starting pitching positions.

On offense, the foundation is laid with a young core, but Texas would certainly love to add a few power hitters to the lineup. It could be Lutz, but it’s more likely that it will be Fields.

Stay tuned for more draft coverage later this week.