Holloway Only Diamond Dog Recruit Drafted

The draft has blown by and Mississippi State's class of incoming personnel for 2007 appears to have escaped unscathed. At the end of the Major League Baseball draft, only one Diamond Dog signee had his name called by a club and he is almost certain to take the college route first.

Lefthanded pitcher Jared Holloway is the lone Mississippi State recruit that turned up in the 50 rounds of June's draft, and he didn't get taken until the 49th round, the 1,461st overall selection, by Washington. This means Coach Ron Polk can reasonably expect his nine-member rookie class to report intact in August. This did not mean several Bulldogs-to-be weren't subjects of draft-week interest, though.

"Without naming names, they (pro clubs) contacted those they had been talking to all year," Polk said. "They just said no." Fortunately for Mississippi State. And even before saying a final ‘no' these players had made it clear if they were not taken in the early rounds they were college-bound. Thus, Polk said, the names were either taken off the board or only pulled up late on a whim.

"They know the key is signability," Polk explained. "Holloway was a ‘chance' pick." Of course he was also one of the two freshmen that State believed there was a chance of taking the money now. "We felt we had a chance maybe to lose Holloway and (multi-position player) Connor Powers." Powers was undrafted, as were middle-infielders Jet Butler and Ryan Powers, catcher Brent Tanner, outfielder-pitcher Jason Nappi, prep pitchers righthander Tyler Whitney and lefthander Greg Houston, and junior college lefthanded pitcher Jared Wesson.

Wesson was a special case as his right were held by Florida up to midnight Monday before he went back into the general draft Tuesday. "He decided not to sign," Polk said.

"Jarred and Connor told everyone they were going to school. The rest, I don't know what went on. But sometimes you get calls like in the 18th round saying would you agree to terms if we drafted you in the next round, and the kid has ten seconds to say yes or no."

Few Dogs seem to have been put in such a situation this time around, and none said yes. Which is exactly what Polk says he expected from this draft and given the current amateur landscape. "Most of the time if a kid doesn't go high and they sign with a ‘baseball conference' school, then they know they will either get them early nor not at all."

So, Mississippi State has survived the 2006 draft just as the 2005 and '04 drafts. But with only one drafted signee, the question arises about just how good then is this class if the pro clubs did not tab them on the first day or at all. Polk says that while this was a good gauge of recruited talent once-upon-a-time, in this day of ‘signability' classes can't be judged by the draft's interest.

"No, absolutely not. We don't go after first-second rounders unless they tell us definitely they are coming. And (2004 signee) Edward Easley and (2005) Aaron Weatherford were second-third rounders, but they were school-oriented. In a lot of cases the best classes are the ones that don't get drafted."

"We could go after all these first- and second-rounders with 11.7 scholarships and sign 25 players," Polk added. "But we brought in nine for visits and we signed all nine. We got the kids we wanted."

The other aspect of this year's draft was State may well be losing one veteran Polk wants to return. Junior second baseman Jeffrey Rea was drafted lower than he hoped, in the 33rd round by Boston, and will now spend his summer playing in the Cape Cod League, swinging wood, before the Red Sox and he start serious negotiations.

"The bad thing is we won't know his status until the end of summer," Polk said. "That's not good. We hope he does well, but not too well. He'll be able to impress people."

There was some good news for a few State seniors. Lefthanded pitcher Brooks Dunn was drafted by San Diego in the 23rd round and outfielder Joseph Hunter by the White Sox in the 25th. And shortstop Thomas Berkery came to terms with Texas Monday evening, a year after he was drafted in the 44th round. Now Polk wants to take care of a couple of other graduating Dogs.

"I can get (outfielder) Jeff Butts somewhere. (Pitcher) Brett Cleveland will be a student assistant here, and (first baseman Brad Jones has that tendinitis, and I think he has a job lined up."

The 2007 roster will not only have these nine incoming players, eight high (or in the case of Whitney, home) school players and juco Wesson. They will join a large number of redshirts—juco RHP Jared Koon, IF Brandon Turner, C/1b Ryan Duffy, RHP Rickey Bowen, 3B/SS Russ Sneed, juco OF Nick Hardy, 1B/OF Cade Hoggard, and RHP Drew Hollinghead, and tilt the overall roster to the younger side of the equation.

Polk also said two veterans, OF Andy Rice and relief pitcher Mike Valentine, will both have surgeries Thursday to correct shoulder problems.

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