By Ed McGranahan.
By Ed McGranahan
Baseball’s draft is vastly different than either football or basketball. It’s a broad pool — consisting of every high school senior and all college juniors and seniors — and deeper because it runs for 50 rounds.
Projecting a baseball draft can be virtually impossible because, also unlike football and basketball, virtually none of the prospects are expected to play immediately. While the Atlanta Braves could use a more dependable second baseman and help in the bullpen immediately, this draft won’t be of any assistance.
Each team has a unique philosophy for identifying and selecting talent. Not every organization keeps a copy of Moneyball on the table during the draft. And because there isn’t a Strasburg or Harper in this year’s pool the top players aren’t a lock.
Those who venture into projecting first-round picks have vacillated all spring between several college pitchers, a couple college third basemen and several raw high school hitters including Austin Meadows, the outfielder from Logansville, Ga., who signed a scholarship with Clemson.
An athletic centerfielder, 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Meadows has the “tools” scouts covet. According to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, Meadows “can do it all on the baseball field. He can run, has an outstanding arm and plenty of bat as he progresses. A left-handed hitter, Meadows has an ideal frame that should add some strength as he matures, which could lead to more power.”
If he steps on campus, Meadows would be Clemson’s best hitter, which would be a huge lift for a team that would appear deep in pitching next season. However, virtually every draft analyst agrees that Meadows will likely never play for Clemson.
The bigger question is whether Clemson will lose more than one player from this class.
For awhile, Clemson felt catcher Chris Okey of Eustis, Fla., might be safe. Son of a former Clemson cheerleader, grandson of one of IPTAY’s founding fathers, Okey had been projected as a potential third- or fourth-round pick.
Right now MLB.com has him at No. 51 and Baseball America at No. 72. Mayo wrote this week that because three top high school catchers could be drafted relatively early, it could trigger a run that could include Okey.
“Don’t be surprised to hear reports on some of the prep catchers – those three or other Top 100 prep catches such as Chris Okey from Florida – being brought in by teams to get last-minute looks.”
Okey apparently has a dollar figure that would turn his head, and there’s a chance he’ll get it if picked in the second round. According to several sources, the top 50 picks last year were assured of up to $1 million based on baseball’s “slotting” formula. That doesn’t mean a player taken later might not receive more if the team that drafts him saves money on agreements with players taken ahead of him.
One sign in Clemson’s favor regarding Okey is that Keith Law of ESPN.com does not list him among his top 100 draft prospects. Of course, as we saw with the NFL draft, who really knows?
Beyond Okey, the other players signed to Clemson scholarships should be on campus when classes start in the fall unless they just need the money. It’s not unusual for any of them to be drafted out of high school, but usually they come to Clemson for the experience and opportunity to prepare for the next draft.
Alexander Bostic of Weddington High in Matthews, N.C., may be the next best player, according to Perfect Game. Bostic helped Weddington to a second state championship over the weekend. A pitcher as a junior, he had a bone spur removed from his left shoulder and did not throw this season, but hit nearly .400 with a dozen home runs including one in the championship game.
The other shoe that can drop in a draft is how it impacts Clemson’s current roster. Based on the ratings generated by Baseball America, no current Clemson player is ranked among the 500 top prospects. Steve Wilkerson at No. 9 was listed as the No. 9 prospect – college or high school – from the state.
Six of the eight ranked in the top 500 are high school players. The top college players are from Coastal Carolina and Coker College. Said BA, Clemson has “several players that may be picked later in the proceedings, but most of their talent lies in underclassmen.”