Next level Hogs

Before Arkansas' baseball team left for Omaha Wednesday, four Hogs learned of their new homes.

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas senior infielders Ben Tschepikow and Scott Lyons might have a few more double-plays left to turn after all.

The duo was selected by the Kansas City Royals Wednesday in the second day of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Their selections created immediate buzz with the Royals' Double-A affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, just up the road from the University of Arkansas in Springdale.

"We certainly hope they will be able to rise through the ranks and get here," Naturals general manager Eric Edelstein said. "We've already got (former Razorback catcher) Cody Clark here right now and any time we can have players that people in the area are familiar with, it's very exciting.

"We don't know if that played into what the Royals were thinking but we're certainly appreciative of their draft choices."

Lyons said while he was happy to fulfill a lifelong dream, it was more rewarding to have a familiar face along for the ride.

"I was more excited to see that Ben was drafted by the same team," Lyons said. "That surprised me a little, but hopefully we can continue our careers for years to come."

Edelstein said the Naturals had no say in which players the franchise selected in the draft. He did say, however, the proximity between Arvest Ballpark and Baum Stadium had its benefits.

"I think our programs absolutely help each other," Edelstein said, "if nothing else than the fact the profile of baseball is so high in Northwest Arkansas between the two programs. If a scout is in town to watch us and the time works out, they can make it down to Fayetteville and catch a game.

"If we weren't here it's not to say the Royals wouldn't have taken Ben or Scott, but it probably helped expose them a little more."

The Royals selected the short stop Lyons in the 15th round of the draft and took Tschepikow just two rounds later in the 17th.

Edelstein, a Razorback observer, said he hadn't seen enough of Lyons to fully evaluate his talent this season. He was extremely complimentary of Tschepikow, however, citing his ability to move from second base to short stop after a shoulder injury has forced Lyons out of the field the last month.

"What Ben brings to the table is his leadership and grit," Edelstein said. "His skills are obviously there, but he leaves it all out on the field every day. That attitude always gets you further than not.

"And now with Lyons' injury, Ben is showcasing he can be a serviceable short stop. I think it boded well for him and probably helped move him up a few rounds in the draft. He's shown he has some versatility."

Four Razorbacks were selected in all in the second of the three-day draft, which concludes Thursday. The Houston Astros selected starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel in the seventh round and closer Stephen Richards was taken in the eighth round by the Florida Marlins.

While all have potential, Edelstein said it takes a while to transition from the college game to professional baseball.

"Assuming they go ahead and sign after the College World Series, they'll probably report to short season, Single-A teams – which for us is Idaho Falls," Edelstein said. "For the most part they will be playing against other college draftees.

"They'll have to be promoted three times to get to our level. That's not to say guys won't skip levels from time-to-time and only time will tell; and it's not to say they will have to spend a full season at each level. But I would say conservatively I would expect them to be playing here in 2011 sometime and if they progress really fast, perhaps sometime late next year."

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