Major League Draft in the books

Compared to year's past, the 2002 version of the Major League Baseball first-year amateur draft was kind to the LSU baseball program.<br><br> Only four Tigers with eligibility remaining were picked and seven LSU signees were taken in the two-day selection process that concluded Wednesday. Plus, the bulk of those picks would be likely to improve their stock if they come to LSU.

The first 25 rounds of the MLB Draft were held Tuesday, and LSU had four current players and four signees selected.

Signee Micah Schilling of Silliman Institue went to the Cleveland Indians. The shortstop is not likely to follow the path of current LSU catcher Jon Zeringue,  third-round pick of the Chicago White Sox last year who became a Tiger when the up-front money wasn't to his liking.

Outfielder Sean Barker went to the Colorado Rockies in the sixth round as the 171st overall pick. He hopes to wrap up his LSU career by leading the Tigers back to the College World Series before beginning his pro career.

Right-handed starting pitcher Bo Pettit was the 13th round selection of the Minnesota Twins. The 2002 campaign has been the first injury-free season for Pettit since he left high school, so he may give consideration to leaving while he's healthy. Still, there's the chance he could be a higher pick next year with a strong senior season for the Tigers.

A real surprise on the first day of the draft was Brad David going in the 17th round to the Atlanta Braves. David, a left-handed junior, has seen limited duty in 2002 but built a solid reputation with his performance in an amateur wooden bat league last summer.

Pro scouts say LSU team captain Wally Pontiff has the talent to be a much higher pick than the 21st round in which the Oakland A's took him. The rap sheet on Pontiff indicates he is very serious about continuing his education at LSU, and that bodes well for the Tigers. Plus, Pontiff is almost a lock to be a higher pick next year.

Other signees drafted on Tuesday were: left-handed pitcher Kyle Pawelczyk, Elkins, W. Va.,(Chipola JC) third round, Anaheim Angles; right-handed pitcher Matt Capps, Douglasville, Ga. (Alexander HS), seventh round, Pittsburgh Pirates; and first baseman Josh Kreuzer, San Jose, Calif. (West Valley JC) 16th round, Texas Rangers.

LSU football signee Blair Irvin of Patterson was a 12th round selection of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and is expected to forego a collegiate football career to pursue pro baseball as an outfielder.

The only current Tiger drafted on Wednesday was right-handed starting pitcher Jake Tompkins. The Texas Rangers selected him in the 28th round. A product of Sacramento City College, Tompkins is very familiar with the path many previous LSU pitchers have taken to the Major Leagues and could improve his draft value greatly with another year at LSU.

Wednesday saw three LSU signees drafted. Right-handed pitcher Justin Gee of Sarasota, Fla., was the  first to go as the 25th round selection of the San Francisco Giants.

In the 31st round, the Atlanta Braves took right-handed pitcher Brandon Nall of Dothan-Wallace Community College in Alabama. The Philadelphia Phillies selected left-handed pitcher Clay Dirks of Hernando, Miss., in the 42nd round.

If the first year of the Smoke Laval era at LSU is any indication, players who are drafted stand a good chance to get immediate playing time once they become Tigers. This will no doubt way heavily on the minds of those players who think they should have been picked higher. In most every instance, every player to put off their entry into professional baseball to attend LSU has reaped the benefits of their decision.

Current Tigers who went undrafted were outfielders Matt Heath and David Raymer. A gifted switch-hitter and utility player, Heath is likely to land with a team as a free agent. A strong post-season could help Raymer if he chooses to pursue pro baseball; he already has a good reputation for his defense.

Injuries took a couple of Tiger pitchers out of the draft picture. Billy Brian was drafted in 2000 and 2001, but he took a redshirt for 2002 following shoulder problems that never got better. Weylin Guidry had trouble returning from the rib removal he underwent after the 2000 season and never found his sidearm form in 2002.

And although he's developed into a huge asset for the Tigers behind the plate, catcher Chris Phillips was not selected in the 50-round draft.

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