No college baseball coach should ever let himself feel more than “cautiously optimistic” about drafted recruits.
Wichita State’s Todd Butler is there, and no better, after major-league teams picked seven of his recruits in the amateur draft. He likes where WSU sits with six of them.
Pitcher Storm Rynard, a freshman at Cowley College, demonstrated an enthusiasm for pro ball by graduating high school a year early to become eligible for draft. Undrafted, he spent this spring at Cowley before Texas picked him in the 34th round.
“He’s negotiating,” Butler said.
The remaining six, from Butler’s perspective, are education-oriented, set a price for their signing bonus and aren’t inclined to lower it. WSU’s got a shot at keeping them. Several turned down opportunities to go in earlier rounds because they wouldn’t lower their figure.
“They’ve been very honest and straight-forward with their negotiations and letting us know what’s going on,” he said. “They value themselves at a good number for major-league baseball and I think they’ll stay with it. I feel reasonably good.”
Players have until July 18 to sign with the pro team. That is where uncertainty enters the story.
The 2008 draft changed the course of the program when returning shortstop Dusty Coleman (28th round) and incoming second baseman Logan Watkins (21st round) received bonuses befitting higher picks and signed. Their departure stunned WSU coaches and left gaping holes in the 2009 roster. While changes in how teams can hand out bonus money make the process more predictable than in past years, circumstances change and surprises happen.
Butler’s pitch to his recruits is that a season (or more) can dramatically improve their draft status and give them another year of education. The odds of reaching the majors decline quickly after the first three rounds, so moving from the teens to the top five can be significant.
“You don‘t know until (July 18),” Butler said. “At this point, you don’t want to bother them. You want to let them work their way through the process. I trust what the players and families are telling me at this point.”
Third baseman Chase Rader, from Coffeyville Community College, went to Detroit in the 16th round. Cincinnati grabbed pitcher Isaac Anderson, from the College of Southern Idaho, in the 19th round. Pitcher Sam Hilliard, from Crowder (Mo.) College went in the 31st round to Minnesota. Florida took pitcher Chase Williams, of Eastern Oklahoma State in the 37th round. High school athletes Keenan Eaton, an outfielder from Parker, Colo., and Bishop Carroll catcher Taylor Sanagorski went in the 39th round; Eaton to Philadelphia and Sanagorski to the Tigers.
Rader is playing with the Derby Twins. The Tigers will watch him before making an offer and he expects a resolution within two weeks.
“As of right now I'm leaning toward school,” he said. “I have a number and if I don't get that I'm going to be going to school.”
Several of the recruits communicate via text messages. At this early date, Rader describes the vibe as leaning WSU’s way.
“I think there's a good chance we'll all end up at school,” he said.
Anderson took calls from organizations to measure his interest in the sixth or seventh rounds, positions that offer signing bonuses in a range from $160,000 to $277,000. Anderson declined.
“It’s definitely nerve-racking,” he said. “Overwhelming. You get called as 20-year-old and offered money. It’s tempting.”
Anderson is thinking long-term and banking that a season at WSU will increase his value, his skills and put him two semesters closer to a degree.
“Most of the negotations (with the Reds) have fallen off,” he said. “As of now, I see Wichita State being a good future for me and going that route.”
Anderson, who played first base in junior college, is rehabbing after surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder in May. He tore his labrum while sliding into second base. He said he will be healthy by the start of fall practice.
He will coach the United States decathlon team of three athletes in the Pan American Combined Events Cup in Ottawa, Canada on July 16-18. The event brings together decathletes and heptathletes from the Western Hemisphere as part of the International Association of Athletics Federation World Combined Events Challenge Series.
Rainbolt will test his coaching in an international meet for the first time.
“I’m real excited about it,” he said. “To be part of an international decathlon, it will be great.”