Righthanded pitcher Gray Fenter was picked in the seventh round by Baltimore, as the #223 overall selection. The Orioles are managed by MSU all-time great Nat (now Buck) Showalter.
The draft call came just a couple of hours after Fenter had declared on social media, and in a communication with site publisher Gene Swindoll, that he was still set on attending college and playing at Dudy Noble Field. Fenter told Swindoll he had turned down a number of offers, including 12 that would have been allegedly on-par with third round draft money.
Just hours later the tone at the Fenter household had changed. The family was weighing Baltimore’s offer after all. Per published scales, a seventh-round selection nets a signing bonus worth over $175,000. Though the bonus chart is followed fairly closely these days due to penalties for going over total payouts to get a player to sign. Franchises can use money that might have gone to a lower-round draftee’s offer and sweeten bonus proposals in the higher rounds.
Fenter has been clocked as high as 97mph and in one event was consistently in the 94-95 range. He played for West Memphis, Ark., High. He is listed at 6-1, 200.
Fenter is ranked #135 in Baseball America’s first 500 prospect, and #133 in the weekend’s top-200 published on MLB.com. Perfect Game has him in their top 200 as well with a 10 ranking on the scale of ten for a mid-90s fastball with top clocking of 98. He played in the Rawlings National Showcase, Under Armor All-American game, and was on the 20-man USA 18U national team.
One round later, outfielder Greg Pickett was picked by Philadelphia as the #234 overall selection. Pickett, a left-handed hitter with power, was forecast as a State signee who will be tough to keep in the freshman fold. His national rankings varied a little with Baseball American listing him #203. Perfect Game and Louisville Slugger both named him pre-season All-American and PG gave him their highest prospect rating of 10.
Pickett has not put anything on social media to hint at his leanings, but MSU insiders all along have said pro ball will be difficult to beat. Eighth-round drafting though can only improve the case for college, with the money-slot listed at $160,000. Getting a big (6-4, 220) lefthander with pop is something State’s offense really needs.
Fenter and Pickett bring the total number of drafted State signees to three. 3B/RHP Austin Riley was taken with the 41st overall pick during Monday’s opening round, and is obviously expected to accept an estimated bonus in the $1.5 million range to forego college baseball.
Mississippi State does not publish signing classes, a growing practice in college baseball.
Not all words were worrying Tuesday. Early during the draft cycle lefthanded pitcher Jared Padgett tweeted he would be coming to college. Later he told Swindoll he had declined an offer from Chicago’s Cubs that would have been third round-tier money. Other clubs contacted Padgett Tuesday and were turned down as well.
Padgett is a tall southpaw from Graceville, Fla., High with 157 strikeouts in just 76 innings as a senior. He had a 0.91 ERA this past season. He is ranked #120 nationally by Baseball America and #195 in MLB.com’s top 200. Perfect Game ranked him as a 3rd-to-6th round draft prospect.
Maybe the surprise so-far is catcher Elih Marrero not getting drafted. The Coral Gables, Fla., product was projected among the top 200 prospects overall this draft. Plus he plays a position always in draft-demand. If he is drafted now it will be on the third day when signing bonuses drop drastically, so suddenly hopes of bringing in a well-rated backstop are rising.
The first two days of the draft offers support to opinions that 2015 was a down year for college baseball in Mississippi. No in-state senior college players were drafted until the tenth round, when pitcher Scott Weathersby of Ole Miss and pitcher Witt Haggard of Delta State were picked.
For comparison, just as non-senior collegians were drafted; Riley out of high school, and Pearl River CC righthanded pitcher Jacob Taylor in the fourth round.
Of course Mississippi State has little to fear about losses of 2015 underclassmen. Only centerfielder Jacob Robson, who will be a fourth-year junior in 2016, has been listed on draft prospect lists this spring.
Draft rounds 11-through-40 begin at 11:00am central Wednesday.