Bama Baseball Losses To Draft
That fact of college baseball life was driven home at Alabama this week as five current players--three with eligibility remaining--and one signee signed professional baseball contracts.
It is the proven underclassmen who are lost that hurts the most, and Bama lost junior right-handed pitcher Jimmy Nelson, junior second baseman Ross Wilson, and sophomore right-handed pitcher Tyler White.
Two Bama players were drafted following their senior seasons and signed. They are third baseman Jake Smith and first baseman Clay Jones.
The hurt-you-never-know is the loss of a signee before he steps on the diamond at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Signee Matt Lipka is in this category.
College baseball coaches don't complain about the situation because they are attempting to sign and develop players to have a professional career.
"We are very excited for all of our players and the opportunity to play professional baseball," Alabama Coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Alabama has had a good track record over the years of sending players to the professional baseball. We had six players drafted off this year's team, plus we have seven current Major League players. We are hopeful these guys will add to that list one day soon."
Almost everyone expects one more shoe to fall. Junior shortstop Josh Rutledge was also drafted and is expected to sign professionally rather than return for a final year at Bama.
Nelson, a second round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers, has been assigned to the Helena (Montana) Brewers in the short-season Pioneer League. Nelson has yet to make his professional debut.
Nelson posted a 9-3 record and 4.01 ERA in 18 appearances on the mound this season, including 17 starts. He worked 110 innings and allowed 55 runs on 110 hits with 98 strikeouts and 33 walks. He led the Crimson Tide in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts. He was named to the 2010 SEC All-Tournament Team after holding Auburn to one run and three hits in the Tide's 7-1 first round win.
Wilson, a 10th round pick by the Chicago White Sox, is playing for the Great Falls (Montana) Voyagers in the short-season Pioneer League. Wilson went 1-for-4 in his professional debut against Billings (Montana) on June 22.
Wilson hit .277 (64-for-231) with nine home runs and 47 RBI in 62 games this season. He was fourth on the team with 47 RBI and third with 10 stolen bases. He was the Crimson Tide's leading hitter in the postseason with a .415 (17-for-41) average in 12 games. He added two home runs and nine RBI and led the team in doubles (3) and ranked third with 10 runs scored in the postseason. He was named to the 2010 Atlanta Regional All-Tournament Team.
Smith, a 15th round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies, is playing for the Williamsport (Penn.) Crosscutters in the short-season New York-Penn League. Smith made his professional debut against the State College (Penn.) Golden Spikes on June 19 and went 1-for-5 with a double. The 2010 season is the second straight year an Alabama player has played for the Crosscutters. Austin Hyatt played in Williamsport in 2009.
Smith hit .260 (65-for-250) in 65 games with 15 home runs and 57 RBI. He was second in the team in home runs and ranked third in RBI. He hit 14 of his 15 home runs after April 10. Smith led the Crimson Tide with four home runs and 15 RBI in 12 postseason games. He was named to the 2010 Atlanta Regional All-Tournament Team.
White, a 20th round pick, and Jones, a 32nd round selection, were both drafted by the Detroit Tigers. White signed on June 22 and is likely headed to Detroit's Gulf Coast League team in Lakeland, Fla. Jones also signed on Tuesday and is expected to begin his professional career with the West Michigan Whitecaps in the Midwest (Low A) League.
White posted a 3-3 record with one save in 22 appearances this season. The 22 appearances tied Jason Townsend for the third-most on the team. White recorded 34 strikeouts in 31 innings on the mound.
Lipka, a supplemental first-round draft selection by the Atlanta Braves, has signed and is playing for the Gulf Coast Braves in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
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