MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Major League Baseball’s draft is three days and 40 rounds of developments that college teams can only hope to predict and address, but West Virginia felt pretty good about what it knew it was going to encounter this week.
The Mountaineers played the 2014 season with only six seniors on the roster, but knew the draft, which begins with the first two rounds Thursday and concludes with rounds 11-40 on Saturday, would take a bite out of the group of eligible non-seniors.
WVU is prepared to lose at least six juniors to the draft, that in addition to three everyday starters, two relief pitchers and one starting pitcher who are in the senior class.
“Hopefully you don’t lose that many guys, especially that many juniors, every year, or it’s going to be tough,” WVU assistant coach Derek Matlock said. “But the good part of it is we’re fortunate we had a few guys who had good years and who had things work out for them.”
No worries for WVU, though, because Matlock, the pitching coach who doubles as the recruiting coordinator, was a big part of the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history. The Mountaineers loaded up on high school talent, did a lot of work in Texas and ended up ranked No. 48 nationally and fifth in the Big 12 by the college baseball website PerfectGame.org.
“This is the first class of guys we’ve been able to be on since the first day you’re allowed to email them,” said Matlock, a part of the staff since manager Randy Mazey was hired in June 2012. “The first two classes, we’d be moving our feet and trying to find who’s out there, and that’s not always bad. Sometimes you can find the best players at the end.
“But with this group of guys, we beat N.C. State, we beat Texas A&M, we beat Texas Tech. We definitely beat some good teams for these players, where in the past couple of years, all the guys really had was us. That’s exciting to know because to win on the field, you’ve got to win in recruiting and we feel like we did that with a few of these guys.”
Included were pitchers Connor Dotson and B.J. Myers, both from Flower Mound, Texas. The only junior college player signed during the early period was left-handed pitcher Greg Maisto. He, too, played Texas high school baseball and redshirted in 2013 at Texas A&M before heading to McLennan (Texas) Community College.
Matlock thinks all three will be drafted this week.
The Mountaineers have since added other players, including Fullerton College pitcher Josh Bornstein and outfielder K.C. Huth.
Matlock believes they’re going to be drafted, too.
The players WVU hoped to use to replace the players the Mountaineers expected to lose might need to be replaced themselves.
“What you tell the kids when they come in is they’re going to get the opportunity to grow and live their dream, but when the dream happens right away, you can’t get frustrated with losing them just because the team’s going to suffer next season without them,” Matlock said.
The high school and junior college recruits aren’t bound to professional baseball if they’re drafted. They can sign with the team or play for WVU. If a high school player picks college, he can’t be drafted again until he’s three years past high school graduation.
Junior college players have different rules. While four-year college players have to complete three years, junior college players can be drafted after the junior college season. If that player chooses to sign with a major college and not the team that drafts him, he can’t be drafted again until he’s three years out of high school.
Maisto and Huth would spend at least one season at WVU and Bornstein would spend at least two.
Where professional teams have to worry about the likelihood it can sign a player it drafts, college teams sometimes wonder about the likelihood a recruit will be drafted. Matlock said the Mountaineers don’t concern themselves with that, though.
“We have to find the best players, so we never let that affect us because we never know what the draft can do and you never know what the kid wants to do,” he said. “You’ve got to go after them. If you get them, you get them. If you don’t, you don’t. We’ve never thought about not recruiting a kid because he might get drafted.”
The Mountaineers had good luck with players picking them over professional baseball last year. Four players on the roster and one high school recruit were drafted and four picked WVU, including three players who will likely be picked this season.
Senior Ryan McBroom was second-team all-Big 12 this season. He was picked in the 36th round last year by the Royals. Junior Sean Carley, who redshirted in 2013 after Tommy John surgery and a transfer from Air Force, was picked in the 34th round last year by the Padres. Left-handed pitcher Harrison Musgrave, a junior who redshirted in 2012 after Tommy John surgery, was drafted last year in the 33rd round by the Phillies.
Pitcher John Means, first-team all-Big 12 center fielder Bobby Boyd, first-team all-Big 12 second baseman Billy Fleming and shortstop Taylor Munden might also get drafted out of the junior class. Outfielder Jacob Rice and pitcher Corey Walter could be drafted out of the senior class, too.
The Mountaineers have never had more than six players taken in a draft, and it’s been 13 years since that happened.