The Major League Baseball draft has become an annual event for Louisville baseball. For a few moments each spring, as the Cardinals are chasing the dream of reaching the College World Series, a side story of whom from the roster will have their name called by a professional franchise.
Like each since the arrival of Dan McDonnell, multiple Cardinals are expected to be selected in the 2016 MLB Draft, which begins on Thursday, June 9 and continues through Saturday evening. An average of nearly six players per year have been chosen in the draft since McDonnell took the reigns of the U of L program and 2016 will likely increase that number.
Having the draft during the NCAA postseason presents the challenge of players remaining focused on the game, but for the Cardinals, it's become a time for celebration. With the draft occurring on a non-game day for the Cardinals this season, the team will watch the draft together and enjoy the moment as a group.
"It's a celebration," said McDonnell. "As we always say, we'd rather be one of the 16 teams that have to deal with it than the other 280 or so that don't have to deal with it. For our kids, they see it every year. We've been on a bus to a Super Regional when guys get drafted. Guys have been in the bullpen warming up when they get drafted and then last year we had Funk getting drafted in game three of the Super Regional, so we've seen a little bit of everything. Knowing how much these guys love each other, and care for each other, I think it's just going to be a really neat celebration, not for just those getting drafted, but I think they're teammates will have just as much fun cheering them on."
The draft will begin on Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. with the first two rounds. It will continue with rounds three through ten on Friday, beginning at 9:30 a.m.. The final rounds, through 40, will begin on Saturday at 9:00 a.m.
Consensus early first round by all draft projections. A Louisville Slugger All-American, Ray currently leads the team in runs scored, hits, home runs and RBI. For more on Ray's draft, click here.
Another likely first-round pick. The hard-throwing closer, who routinely hits 100 mph, could find himself in the big leagues before the summer is out. He's appeared in 26 games this season, recording 11 saves and has a 2.20 ERA. His 20 career saves ranks second in program history. For more on Burdi's draft, click here.
A first round selection last spring, Funkhouser struggled early in the season but has creaped back up the draft boards during the second half of the year. A winner of six straight outings, Funkhouser could be a first-round choice once again. He's the program's leader in career wins and strikeouts.
One of the hottest names among draft experts in recent weeks, Smith could hear his name called anywhere from the last first through the third round. Much improved at the plate this season, where his .380 average tops the team, the Louisville native has seen his stock rise significantly this spring. His .998 fielding percentage is best on the team among the everyday players.
A likely day two selection. Despite suffering a hand injury that sidelined him for 17 games during the middle of the season, Solak has been a consistent presence at the plate this spring. His .380 average equals Will Smith for team lead. All All-ACC Second Team selection.
A likely day two selection. After excelling in the summer leagues for two consecutive seasons, Tiberi had the opportunity to become an everyday player for the Cardinals in 2016 and has done just that. One of three players to start all 62 games this season, the in-state product is hitting .331 and is 48 RBI is second most on the team. A Third Team All-ACC selection, Tiberi is second on team with 13 multiple-RBI games and third with 25 multiple-hit games.
A likely day two selection. The ACC Pitcher of the Year, Harrington has flourished as a first-time weekend starter. He's 12-2 on the season with a 2.08 ERA. A product of Elizabethtown, Ky., Harrington allowed two or fewer earned runs run in 12 of 15 starts this season.