Those who decide to take that plunge this year will see a likely first-round draft pick on the hill tonight in Ohio State's electric Alex Wimmers.
The junior from Cincinnati is following an All-America campaign with simply one of the best in Buckeye history. Through eight starts, Wimmers is 8-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched, and he'll take the bump this evening as the Big Ten co-leaders face Penn State at 6:35 in Bill Davis Stadium.
"One of my goals this year is to go undefeated and lower my ERA and my walks," he said. "I just worked extremely hard in the offseason to accomplish that, to fine-tune my pitches a lot better and be able to locate whenever I can. With my hard work that I've done through the offseason and through my career here, I'm just glad to see it's paying off."
That it is, as Wimmers' stock across the country continues to rise. While the MLB draft is still almost two months away and mock drafts are fluctuating, a general consensus is starting to emerge that the Moeller High School product will go in the first round.
Mixing a fastball that gets into the lower 90s with a curveball and a fantastic changeup that has made some of the best hitters in the Big Ten look utterly silly, the righthander has the tools to excel quickly in professional baseball. Another thing the 6-2, 195-pounder boasts is a competitive fire that's easy to spot on the mound.
"The thing about Alex that stands out is his competitiveness and wanting to go out there and succeed," pitching coach Eric Parker said. "With Alex, it's more about proving to himself. He wants to be considered one of the top pitchers in the country."
Wimmers came to OSU with plenty of hype, having thrown the first perfect game in the proud history of Moeller baseball. He settled in as a reliever in his freshman year of 2008, posting a 4.50 ERA in 25 appearances.
Moving into a starting role last year, Wimmers refined his changeup into a true out pitch and started dominating on the way to Ping!Baseball first-team All-America status and the Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Year award. He finished with a 9-2 record and 3.27 ERA, winning the league strikeout crown with 136 in 104 2/3 innings pitched and keeping batters to a .211 average.
He also pitched his way into Ohio State history, tossing the first nine-inning no-hitter in school history against Michigan while fanning 14 Wolverines. Throw in a win against No. 2 Miami (Fla.) and Wimmers had a season to remember.
But what happened afterward might have set him up for this year's dominating campaign. Wimmers first took part in a camp for USA Baseball's national team trials, but he did not make the eventual collegiate national team. From there, he went to the Bourne Braves of the prestigious Cape Cod league, excelling with a sub-2.00 ERA in front of the scouts for a squad that went on to win the championship.
"With the USA, of course, you're playing with the best players in the country and you learn a lot from talking to different guys and the coaches we had there," he said. "It was a great experience but it was unfortunate that I didn't make it. But I went to the Cape and there was great competition there. It was the best in the country, too. It helped out pitching against the best and working on my pitches."
Coming into this year, Wimmers said his goals were to cut down on walks and pitch deeper into games, something he hoped to accomplish through hard work in the weight room during the offseason.
So far, the work has paid off – he has only 15 walks on the season and has averaged more than seven innings per start, working into the eighth in four starts and tossing a complete game with 14 strikeouts against Indiana in his last home start.
"I just want to give my team the best chance I can to win every time I'm out there," he said.
The Buckeyes enter coming off a loss Wednesday night to Akron, but OSU (21-11) sits tied atop the Big Ten with Michigan at 6-3.