The combination of Major League Baseball's draft rules, scholarship limitations and natural attrition make it very difficult for most college teams to finalize their rosters until just before the start of the school year, and when a team has many underclassmen worthy of a shot at the pro level, the results can be devastating.
Take, for example, the situation at West Virginia. With just four seniors departing this year's team (Dan Dierdorff, Alan Filauro, Brady Wilson and Chris Rasky), the Mountaineers might appear to be well-positioned to build upon 2013's surprising 33-26 record. However, the MLB Draft (June 6-8), could serve to gut the Mountaineer roster. As many as eight players could be selected in the 40-round draft, and while all of those likely won't sign pro contracts, there's no way to predict who might or might not be back on campus in the fall. That makes evaluating the chances of WVU, or most any college team, a dicey proposition at this point.
There are obvious draft candidates, such as Big 12 pitcher of the year Harrison Musgrave (9-1, 81 K, 2.17 ERA, .197 BAA) and Jacob Rice (.333 BA, .803 OPS, 30 RBI), but sprinkled in are players whose stats might not suggest draft-level achievement. Just like their counterparts in the NBA and NFL, major league GMs and scouts look at potential and measurables, which can lead to some players being drafted more on those qualities than on college achievement. Pitchers are also a prized commodity at all levels, so those players are also ones to track as the draft unfolds.
Also included on the list of WVU potential selectees are pitchers Corey Walter (5-5, 3.65 ERA) and Corey Holmes (.219 BAA), infielders Ryan McBroom (.268, 12 HR, 48 RBI) and Ryan Tuntland (.325, 36 RBI), and outfielder/DH Matt Frazer (.255, 7 HR, 37 RBI).
The damage might not stop there, however. Pitcher Sean Carley (6-4, 245 lbs), who sat out this year as a transfer from Air Force, is also a potential target, owing to his position, physical stature and performance in 2012, when he earned all-MWC honors while compiling a 3.94 ERA in 12 starts.
There's even more to watch, however. WVU signed a 15-member recruiting class last November, and those players are also eligible to be selected. One player to keep an eye on there is pitcher Michael Bennett, a polished juco performer with numerous honors.
Once a player is drafted, there's no guarantee he is going to sign, though. Unlike the football and basketball drafts, baseballers don't have to renounce their college eligibility to be selected. They can see where they are picked and listen to contract offers from major league organizations, but if they don't sign they can return to (or attend) their college. The deadline for making that decision is July 15, which gives them more than a month to negotiate and weigh the offer being made.
Complicating all this is the fact that no current Mountaineer has a full scholarship with the school. With just 11.7 scholarships to award, a "full ride" is very rare. WVU head coach Randy Mazey has given just one such scholarship to a player in his career, and it's not likely that any of the current players or recruits will earn one in 2014. That sets an economic decision – is minimal pro money and a shot in the minors better than some scholarship aid and another year in college?
There are also more factors to consider. A player with college eligibility remaining has a bit more leverage in contract negotiations, because the major league team knows he has the option of returning to college if he doesn't get the offer he wants. However, juniors know that this is their last chance to wield that leverage, so they might be more aggressive in pursuing a contract.
Add all these factors up, and its easy to see why college baseball rosters are in such flux throughout the summer months. The start of the draft on Thursday is just step one in working out the final list.
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The draft might affect WVU's football program as well. Elijah Wellman, who signed with the Mountaineer football program in February, could get picked as a pitcher or catcher in the draft. He's the state's top high school prospect as a pitcher, and while it would likely take a very high selection to dissuade him from football, the possibility always exists.