Fifteen players associated with Texas baseball were selected in the MLB draft -- whether that be high school signees, JUCO commits, or current players. So far, the unanimous consensus from these athletes has been to pick pro baseball over school.
All 11 current players drafted have signed pro contracts (three were seniors), one signee will go pro, three signees are still deciding, and no players have chosen to come back yet. Here are the guys who won’t be making it to the 40 acres next season.
RHP Morgan Cooper, Rs. Jr. — Los Angeles Dodgers, 2nd round
2017 stats: 6-3, 2.32 ERA, 110 strikeouts, 89.2 innings pitched.
Thank you to the LA Dodgers Organization. So excited for this opportunity and can't wait to get started. #hookemforever— Morgan Cooper (@mojaycoop) June 13, 2017
It’s no surprise that Longhorns ace Morgan Cooper will head to the pros. The redshirt junior will be remembered at Texas for his resiliency — Cooper returned to Texas in the middle of 2016 after missing a year to Tommy John surgery. He had a solid 2016 campaign and then returned in 2017 with remarkable stuff. He was Texas’ anchor on the mound, and his consistency will be missed next season.
LHP Nick Kennedy, So. — Colorado Rockies, 5th round
2017 stats: 8-2, 3.02 ERA, 59 strikeouts, 53.2 innings pitched.
Kennedy was the guy Texas fans were hoping would come back to round out the weekend rotation. The sophomore was a mid-week starter and weekend reliever for the ‘Horns in 2017 after a middling freshman campaign. He thrived under David Pierce and was a valuable left-handed asset on a team with only one other southpaw (senior Jon Malmin, who was also drafted). While Kennedy could’ve improved his draft stock in his junior year, scouts’ intrigue in him was high and $343,100 was on the table. It would’ve been a risk for him to return, so you can’t blame him for taking the money now.
RHP Kyle Johnston, Jr. — Washington Nationals, 6th round
2017 stats: 3-2, 3.56 ERA, 52 strikeouts, 73.1 innings pitched
Johnston was one of Texas’ most talented arms. His ERA is inflated by when he was tested as a closer for the ‘Horns, which showed initial promise before turning out to be a failed experiment. Johnston never made the tremendous leap in skill that Cooper or Kennedy did, but Longhorn fans are so spoiled with excellent pitchers that its easy to forget just how good Johnston was at Texas. Now was a good time for Johnston to go pro, and he will be a fascinating MLB prospect if he fixes his command issues.
2B Bret Boswell, Rs. Jr — Colorado Rockies, 8th round
2017 stats: .273 avg, 7 HRs
Bret Boswell looked like a candidate to be a breakout player in 2017 after earning MVP honors in the California Collegiate League over the summer. Though that breakout didn’t necessarily happen, Boswell showed plenty of potential this year. His double play capabilities and pristine defense have made him a finalist for a Gold Glove award. He was streaky at the plate, but he hit for a respectable .273 and had a memorable solo shot in the NCAA tournament against Long Beach State. Texas has enough middle infielders to adequately replace Boswell, but losing David Hamilton’s double play partner hurts.
1B Kacy Clemens, Sr. — Toronto Blue Jays, 8th round
2017 stats: .305 avg, 12 HRs
Kacy Clemens was Texas’ leader last season, and he will be missed for his presence on and off the field. The senior’s junior and senior seasons were not record breaking per se, but Glasses will go down as a Longhorn legend for his consistency at the plate and remarkable plays at first base.
Replacing Clemens won’t be easy. Redshirt freshman Zach Zubia could fill the void, or Kacy’s younger brother Kody could even get a shot at first base.
RHP Tyler Schimpf, So. — San Francisco Giants, 13th round
2017 stats: 1.56 ERA, 13 strikeouts, 17.1 innings pitched
Giants sign Tyler Schimpf (Capital Christian High, Sac, 13th round), Nico Giarratano (SI, USF, 24th), Matt Brown (Benicia High, SJSU, 27th).— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) June 21, 2017
This was the most curious of all Texas’ draft selections. Not many people had Schimpf on their draft boards. Heck, I didn’t even realize he was eligible for the draft. The sophomore barely threw for the ‘Horns in his Texas career, but he has an athletic frame and some heat from the mound. It could be argued that Schimpf was underutilized during his time in Austin. He would’ve likely seen a big uptick in usage his junior season for Texas, but he will instead head back to his native California to get started on a pro career.
RF Patrick Mathis, Jr. — Houston Astros, 22nd round
2017 stats: .245 avg, 7 HRs
Mathis had the most power on the team, and also had the most highlight ability in the outfield of any Texas player. Though he had a down statistical year at the plate (likely in part due to injury), he cut down on errors in right field and had a fielding percentage of .949 compared to .917 in 2016. He notched seven homers in 139 at-bats and hit five doubles as well. The Longhorns should be able to replace the .245 average and seven homers Mathis put up in 2017, but it will be difficult to find a replacement with as high of a ceiling as the Astros draftee.
RHP Connor Mayes, Jr. — Kansas City Royals, 24th round
2017 stats: 1-2, 6.00 ERA, 22 strikeouts, 27 innings pitched
After a promising freshman season, Mayes appeared poised to become added to the long history of fantastic Texas pitchers. That promise never ended up being fully realized in Austin. Mayes had a mediocre sophomore year, as Ty Culbreth, Kyle Johnston, and Morgan Cooper became better weekend starter options than Mayes. In his junior year, the Lake Travis alum recorded only 27 innings, most of which were in the mid-week starter spot. He seemed to fall out of favor in David Pierce’s rotation by the end of the year, so maybe it is smart of him to start his pro career.
CF Zane Gurwitz, Sr. — Los Angeles Angels, 26th round
2017 stats: .305 avg, 3 HRs
I was a bit shocked to find out that Gurwitz quietly tied for first in batting average on the team. The senior was reliable all four years of his Texas tenure, having the versatility to play in the infield or outfield. A preseason hamstring injury resulted in him having a frustrating start to his 2017 campaign, as he was hitting in the .100s as late as May. In the last month of the season, Gurwitz turned it around. He went 5-6 against TCU on May 5, and notched at least one hit in 12 of his last 13 games (he went 0-1 as a pinch hitter against TCU in his one hit-less game). This late season surge is likely what made him a viable draft option in the 26th round.
LHP Blake Pflughaupt, JUCO commit — Tampa Bay Rays, 27th round
2017 stats: 6-3, 2.65 ERA, 66 strikeouts, 71.1 innings pitched (Galveston College)
#Rays signings: 27th rd LHP Blake Pflughaupt, 28 SS Justin Bridgman, 32 3B Seaver Whalen, 33 LHP Ivan Pelaez, 2B Trey Hair, ...— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) June 20, 2017
Pflughaupt would’ve been Kennedy’s replacement as a left-handed starter for Texas, but the Galveston JUCO product ultimately felt like now was his time to go pro. Pflughaupt signing with the Rays stings a bit for the ‘Horns, because the sophomore would’ve likely gotten a ton of innings in Austin, potentially as a Sunday starter.
LF Travis Jones, Jr. — Kansas City Royals, 29th round
2017 stats: .253 avg, 4 HRs
Jones seemed like a candidate to return for his senior season, and his departure from the program was perhaps the biggest surprise for Texas in the MLB draft. His junior year started strong, but ended on a slump to make his final stats look unimpressive. However, Jones was a top 500 draft prospect by Baseball America and could’ve been a useful asset to the ‘Horns in his senior season.
LHP Jon Malmin, Sr. — Los Angeles Angels, 31st round
2017 stats: 1-0, 4.30 ERA, 13 strikeouts, 14.2 innings pitched
LHP Jon Malmin in the game to finish off the #Raptors in the B9th, with the Owlz clinging to an 11-run lead.— Joe (@RaptorsStringer) June 22, 2017
Jon Malmin was scarcely used during his Texas career, but he did have a solid mid-week start in 2017. He was likely drafted due to his valuable left-handedness. Malmin has already gotten his minor league career started, serving as a closer for the Ogden Raptors in the Pioneer League.
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Freshman shortstops Andres Sosa and Austin McNicholas are also confirmed to be leaving the program for junior college. Freshman pitcher Kevin Roliard is no longer part of the team due to an undisclosed personal issue.
In total, at least 14 of Texas’ 33 active players will be gone in 2018. Players responsible for 251 out of Texas’ 508 hits, 33 of Texas’ 52 home runs, and 370 of Texas’ 560.1 innings pitched will be moving on from the program. And there could be more attrition on the way.
The hitters leaving batted a combined .274, compared to Texas’ team average of .252. The pitchers departing threw a total ERA of 3.09, compared to Texas’ team ERA of 3.15 (you can thank Beau Ridgeway staying with the ‘Horns for those numbers being so close).
Three Longhorn associated players have still not officially signed MLB contracts. Signees Tristen Lutz (34th pick to the Brewers) and Landon Leach (37th pick to the Twins), as well as JUCO commit Donny Diaz (23rd round to the Red Sox) are still deciding on their futures.
Lutz and Leach are obvious leans to head to the pros, but neither has penned a contract yet. Diaz could very well be on the ‘Horns roster next season, but he’s still weighing his options as well.
The Longhorns are essentially hitting the “refresh” button for 2018, which could make for an intriguing season. When Shaka Smart lost seven of 11 scholarship players after his first year, the basketball coach went 11-22 in a sophomore slump of a 2016-2017 season.
David Pierce’s second season could go the same way, but there are reasons for optimism that Texas won’t take much of a step back.
For one, the ‘Horns have hit the recruiting trail (and still are) to make up for a 2017 that was severely deficient when Pierce first took the reigns. There are several exciting adds on offense, such as electric outfielder Kamron Fields, hard hitting infielder Masen Hibbeler, and 20th round draft pick Duke Ellis.
Expect a deeper look at Texas baseball’s 2018 season after recruiting and pro contract decisions have settled down.