Cleveland picked Wichita State pitcher Jordan Cooper in the ninth round of the baseball draft on Tuesday.
As recent drafts prove, that can mean almost anything regarding Cooper's next move. On Tuesday afternoon, he described himself 50-50 on returning to WSU or signing with the Indians. His first priority was enjoying the day before discussing his future with his family. Being picked in the ninth round was a mild disappointment after Baseball America projected him in the first five rounds.
"I'm just kind of soaking it all in," he said. "It wasn't exactly where we thought I was going to go."
Cooper, a sophomore right-hander from Berryton, went 10-3 with a 2.01 ERA for the Shockers. He was named a third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and earned Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year honors.
Never miss a local story.
What's next depends on how negotiations with the Indians proceed. Cooper said he would like to wrap things up quickly so he can focus on the minor leagues or returning to college. He has the option of pitching for Falmouth (Mass.) in the Cape Cod League this summer while negotiating with the Indians.
"I think he's very open-minded," WSU pitching coach Brent Kemnitz said. "He loves it at Wichita State, but his dream has always been to play in the big leagues."
Cooper was drafted in the 17th round by Boston in 2008 out of high school. Because he turned 21 within 45 days of the draft, he is eligible as a sophomore in college. That puts him in a good position with the leverage of returning to school now and again after his junior season.
Kemnitz said Cooper is a second- or third-round talent who dropped because of that leverage.
"I told him he slid because teams are worried about his signability," Kemnitz said. "If teams would have known he was rock-solid signable, he would have gone higher than that."
Cooper must make his decision by Aug. 16. In recent summers, the Shockers lost players to the pros when they signed for larger bonuses than expected. In 2008, WSU coaches thought their middle infield of Dusty Coleman and Logan Watkins survived the draft. Then Coleman, taken in the 28th round by Oakland, performed well in the Cape. He earned a $700,000 bonus from Oakland — comparable to second-round money — as a draft-eligible sophomore. Watkins, from Goddard, landed $500,000 plus $100,000 for college after the Chicago Cubs selected him in the 21st round out of high school.
With that as the background, nothing seems settled until Aug. 16.
"This is just the first step," Kemnitz said. "To me, unless they put a huge investment in (Cooper), and by huge investment I'm talking second- or third-round money-plus, he would benefit by coming back."
After Cooper, the draft passed quietly Tuesday for Shocker interests. The draft resumes today with rounds 31-50.
The Los Angeles Dodgers took outfielder Scott Schebler, a freshman recruit from Des Moines Area Community College, in the 26th round. Detroit took senior reliever Logan Hoch in the 30th round.
Several MVC pitchers went in the early rounds.
The Chicago White Sox grabbed Indiana State pitcher Jacob Petricka in the second round. San Francisco picked Missouri State lefty Mike Kickham in the sixth round. The Los Angeles Angels took Missouri State pitcher Aaron Meade in the 10th round.
Northern Iowa's Lucas O'Rear, best known as a basketball player, went to Cincinnati in the 13th round. O'Rear told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier he would likely play basketball as a senior before pursuing a baseball career. Northern Iowa dropped its baseball program after the 2009 season.