MORGANTOWN — A year ago, West Virginia’s baseball team had five players taken in the major league draft — four from the Mountaineer roster and one incoming recruit.
None of that really surprised coach Randy Mazey, who thought the number could easily have been more or less.
“You never know. The draft is such an unpredictable event,’’ Mazey said. “We could have easily had a few more guys get drafted.’’
Well, this year the number this year jumped to eight, including six current WVU players and two who signed as recruits.
The difference — from five up to eight — isn’t a big jump, but the effects figure to be far more significant.
That’s because all six of the 2014 Mountaineers have signed professional contracts or have said they will. That number includes four juniors who had eligibility remaining. One of the two recruits has signed, as well, meaning West Virginia will be losing at least five players early in addition to eight seniors.
Last year’s draft took only one player with eligibility remaining — third baseman Ryan Tuntland. Pitchers Harrison Musgrave and Sean Carley and first baseman Ryan McBroom all returned to school. Freshman pitcher Dmitri Casas also elected to pass on signing a pro contract.
Last year’s draft seem to have an almost negligible effect on the Mountaineers, who retained two of their top pitchers and their best power hitter when they elected to stay in school.
This year’s draft figures to pack far more of a wallop as far as WVU’s 2015 season is concerned.
Mazey knew he was going to take a hit with graduation this year, losing seven seniors. McBroom was one, taking his .341 average and 20 home runs over the last two seasons to the Blue Jays, who picked him in the 15th round. The other senior drafted was pitcher Corey Walter, who over the last month of the season developed into a starting pitcher the Mountaineers could rely upon after doing little the beginning of the year. Walter was taken in the 28th of 40 rounds by the A’s.
But now West Virginia is also losing leading hitter Bobby Boyd and arguably three of the team’s four best pitchers in Musgrave, Carley and John Means. All were juniors last season. Musgrave was the Big 12 pitcher of the year in 2013, and Means and Carley were the team’s two other primary starters much of the year until Carley was moved to the closer role the final month.
So along with five other seniors being lost — pitchers Zach Bargeron, Ryan Tezak and Pascal Paul, along with Jacob Rice and Michael Constantini — the final damage count is significant. It includes two of the team’s top three hitters for average and four of the top seven (Boyd, McBroom, Rice and Constantini), but more importantly, the pitching staff was gutted.
Gone are 275 of the team’s 478 innings pitched, 44 of 54 starts, 23 of 28 wins and 11 of 12 saves.
Also gone is one of the players who might have helped fill the pitching void. Junior college left-hander Greg Maisto was a 16th-round pick of the Blue Jays and has signed. The other recruit who was drafted was also a pitcher. Caleb Ferguson is a 6-foot-4 left-hander from West Jefferson, Ohio, who has until the July 18 deadline to sign or opt to enroll in school.
The cupboard isn’t completely bare, though. Pitching-wise, Ross Vance became a starter the final month of the season and shined in the role. Second baseman Billy Fleming returns with his .351 average, as do late-blooming third baseman Brad Johnson, shortstop Taylor Munden, catcher Cam O’Brien and Jackson Cramer, among others.
The team is also scheduled to move into its new $25 million ballpark next season, which has already provided a boost to recruiting and figures to do so even more in the coming years.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1