MLB draft hits Aggies hard

As the MLB signing deadline came and went last night, several A&M signees decided to pass up the opportunity to play at Olsen Field next spring as big market teams like the Yankees and Red Sox decided to ignore the new MLB slots and throw a lot of cash their way. Aggie Websider takes a look at who's leaving and where that leaves the Aggies in 2008.

Wednesday was not a kind day to Coach Rob Childress and the Texas Aggie baseball program. With just hours before the August 15 deadline to sign drafted players, the money-rich Boston Red Sox swooped in and inked two of A&M's biggest jewels of the fall recruiting class.

Major League Baseball attempted to institute a strict slotting requirement that guides teams in negotiating signing bonuses—similar to what the NBA has successfully implemented—but big spending organizations such as the Yankees, Tigers and Red Sox ignored the league's mandate and threw over-slot money at several prospects.

Fifth round selection Will Middlebrooks decided to forego his college career, signing for a reported $925,000 which was almost $800,000 over the recommended slot for the fifth round. 23rd round draftee Drake Britton couldn't pass up a reported $700,000 signing bonus which was more than $600,000 over the slot.

Middlebrooks and Britton join first round draftee Kevin Ahrens and second round selection Eric Eiland as A&M signees who took the money to play pro baseball versus attend school at Texas A&M.

In the end, the Aggies lost four of its original fall signing class of 10 to the MLB draft. The hits kept on coming for Childress when junior lefthander and projected staff ace David Newmann signed just before Wednesday night's deadline with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Terms of the deal with the fourth round selection were undisclosed.

The one bright spot is the return of senior All-American first baseman Blake Stouffer, who turned down offers from the Cincinnati Reds to play his final collegiate season and lead the 2008 squad. Rarely do you see a senior drafted in the fourth round pass up a chance to sign, but Stouffer gives the 2008 team a rare commodity in college baseball, a four year veteran All-American. While most of the reports yesterday centered on who A&M didn't get, the news of keeping a .400 hitter should be noted.

So, where does that leave the Aggie baseball team heading into fall workouts next month?

Well, we're not sure yet. We do know that the coaching staff was talking to several prospects waiting to see how the draft shook out. And it should be noted, that even at this late date, there are quality baseball players available, primarily in the JUCO ranks. The Aggies don't have a unique problem in college baseball. Most quality programs lost integral talent yesterday, and many JUCO players knew this day was coming. Thus, now these players can survey the landscape and find an opportunity at a school that is looking to plug a newfound hole in the roster.

Priorities for the staff will be middle infield and pitching. Middlebrooks was projected as a shortstop or third baseman, while Ahrens was also an infielder. The Aggies previously signed North Central Texas College middle infielder Jose Duran who boasts a nice combination of power and speed, hitting nine homeruns and stealing 20 bases.

However, with losing shortstop Brandon Hicks to the draft and senior Parker Dalton to graduation, look for A&M to scan the JUCO's for another middle infielder before classes start to compliment guys like Dane Carter and Brian Ruggiano already on the roster.

On the mound, the loss of Newmann hurts, as the staff must now replace its top two weekend starters. Senior All-Big 12 hurler Kyle Nicholson graduated. However, the team has several young pitchers returning such as Scott Migl, Shane Minks, Travis Starling, and Clayton Ehlert along with veterans Kyle Thebeau and Jordan Chambless.

However, the initial fall recruiting class was deep, as the Aggies will still welcome all-American lefthander Aaron Daab, who finished with 10 wins and a 0.61 ERA as a senior at Katy High School. In addition, Houston Stratford pitcher Barret Loux turned down significant money to attend Texas A&M. It was reported that Loux, a 24th round selection of the Detroit, was aggressively pursued by the Tigers and rejected an over-slotted offer amount.

In addition, A&M has also added McClennan Community College pitcher Carson Middleton, originally an All-State pitcher for Lindale. In fact, he had several pitching duels with Middlebrooks in high school, and some scouts felt Middleton had the most potential of the two on the mound. Middleton had a sub-par season at MCC, which led him to Texas A&M. If the staff can get Middleton back on track, he has weekend starter potential.

Expect more signee information to be released with the start of classes in a couple of weeks. Until then, coaches are reluctant to announce signings until the incoming class is filled.

We'll keep you updated on the latest as the team prepares for fall practices, and rest assured that Aggie Websider will be there to give you the scoop.

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