Four Hogs, five signees drafted on Day 3

The final day of the 2016 MLB Draft saw four current Arkansas players and five signees selected by big-league clubs.

The final day of the 2016 MLB Draft saw four current Arkansas players and five signees selected by big-league clubs.

Pitchers Dominic Taccolini, Doug Willey and James Teague and shortstop Michael Bernal were the current Razorbacks taken, while signees Tyler Benninghoff, Trevor Stephan, Blake Lillis, Brenden Heiss and Jordan McFarland were also picked.

Despite struggling this season, Taccolini was the first Arkansas player to come off the board Saturday, going to the Toronto Blue Jays in the 16th round with the 492nd overall pick. The Blue Jays also drafted Zach Jackson in the third round Friday.

As a junior, Taccolini posted a 5-5 record with a 5.75 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 72 innings. His season was highlighted by a 10-inning shutout against Kentucky, as he became the first Arkansas pitcher since 1982 to throw an extra-inning shutout.

The next Razorback drafted was Bernal, who went in the 28th round to the San Francisco Giants with the 875th overall pick.

Bernal batted just .274, but provided some power to the lineup, hitting eight home runs, which tied for the team lead. He had 37 RBIs, too.

Four rounds later, Willey was selected by the Los Angeles Angels with the 966th overall pick.

A graduate transfer from Division II Franklin Pierce, Willey was one of Arkansas' best bullpen arms, posting a 3.49 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. He was second on the team with three saves.

The final Arkansas player drafted was Teague, who was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 37th round, 1,111th overall.

Last season, Teague primarily pitched out of the bullpen, but did make one start. In 30 1/3 innings, he was 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA and 30 strikeouts.
Taccolini and Teague each have one season of eligibility remaining, while Bernal and Willey finished their careers as seniors.

Although injuries limited him last season, the first Arkansas signee drafted Saturday was Benninghoff, a right-handed pitcher from Kansas City, Mo., Rockhurst. He was an 11th-round pick by the Minnesota Twins (333rd overall).

Stephan, a right-handed pitcher from Hill J.C. in Texas, was the next signee off the board, going to the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round, 538th overall.

He was followed by left-handed pitcher Lillis (Milwaukee Brewers; 25th round, 741st overall), right-handed pitcher Brenden Heiss (Chicago Cubs; 31st round, 944th overall) and outfielder Jordan McFarland (Washington Nationals; 36th round, 1,084th overall).

While most of the attention the past three days has been on players selected in the MLB Draft, a few key Arkansas players and signees did not hear their name called.

The Razorbacks' top two hitters in 2016, Luke Bonfield and Carson Shaddy, were not among the 1,216 players drafted during the 40-round event that spanned from Thursday to Saturday.

Big-league clubs likely shied away from them because of their leverage to negotiate as players with two years of college eligibility remaining, as well as their shaky defense.

Shaddy, a redshirt sophomore from Fayetteville, led the Razorbacks with a .332 batting average this season to go along with eight home runs (which was tied for the most on the team) and 35 RBIs.

However, he struggled to find a place in the field. Shaddy committed a team-high 14 errors while splitting time between third base and centerfield. That can partly be blamed on the Tommy John surgery he had during the offseason.

"His arm is still bothering him," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said during his postseason press conference last month. "It's never had a chance to heal properly. His plan is to stay here all summer and get on a throwing program."

Bonfield, a draft-eligible sophomore because he turns 21 in July, was the only other Arkansas player to hit over .300, finishing with a .304 average. He also hit eight home runs and had a team-high 39 RBIs.

That was a vast improvement over his freshman year, when he hit .177 with only one extra-base hit (a double).

While he committed only one error as the Razorbacks' starting left fielder, Van Horn said he still has room for improvement defensively.

"He's an average outfielder that has gotten better," Van Horn said. "Corner outfielders are a dime a dozen, so it's hard to get money. If he can prove it one more year - they want to see a track record."

The Razorbacks had two signees ranked in Baseball America's top 500 draft prospects list go undrafted, as well.

Dominic Fletcher, an outfielder from Cypress, Calif., was rated as the 209th-best player in the country, which would have put him in the middle of the seventh round.

Instead, he is the 10th-best prospect to go undrafted.

As a senior, Fletcher hit .365 with 27 RBIs and was named the Orange County Register Player of the Year.

Lucas Krull, a left-handed pitcher from Shawnee, Kan., did not get selected despite being the 453rd-best prospect, according to Baseball America.

A few other Arkansas signees - left-handed pitcher Matt Cronin (Navarre, Fla.), left-handed pitcher Evan Lee (Bryant, Ark.) and infielder Jaxon Williams (Rosenburg, Texas) - were thought to be possible draft picks, but did not hear their name called.

The undrafted players will almost assuredly end up on campus, while the 10 current players and signees who were drafted - not including Jackson, who has announced his intention to sign, and seniors Bernal and Willey - have until July 15 to sign or turn down a professional contract.

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