Coach Todd Butler’s first recruiting class at Wichita State survived the draft largely intact.
That is quite a relief for a coach who must replace five of his top six hitters, two weekend starters and three senior relievers from 2014. He saw seven recruits drafted in June. Six will attend Wichita State, Butler said on Friday evening after the 4 p.m. deadline to sign with a major-league organization passed.
“That‘s a really good percentage,” Butler said. “Great job by (assistant coaches) Brian Walker and Brent Kemnitz and (director of operations) Scott Gurss. We’ve had a lot of help from scouts in our area and we got lucky through the draft. We’re really fortunate these guys want to come here for a purpose.”
Outfielder Keenan Eaton, drafted in the 39th round by Philadelphia, decided after two weeks of talking with the Phillies that college made sense for him. Eaton, from Parker, Colo., was one of two high schoolers drafted, along with Bishop Carroll catcher Taylor Sanagorski in the 39th round by Detroit.
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“Wichita State and college was the better fit for me,” Eaton said. “I think what Coach Butler is building is going to be special. I couldn’t pass that up. I think I'll get a better situation the next time I'm draft-eligible.”
The five junior college players drafted presented Butler with his biggest worries. Pitcher Storm Rynard, from Cowley College, signed with Texas as a 34th-round pick soon after the draft. Butler expected that move and settled in to work with the remaining six.
Now, without fear of hubris, Butler can start planning his infield with Chase Rader at third base and project a pitching rotation that includes Sam Hilliard and Isaac Anderson. Chase Williams? Throws hard, but where he fits depends on solving control problems.
Rader, from Coffeyville Community College, went to Detroit in the 16th round and declared his intention to come to WSU earlier this month. He hit .434 with 14 home runs, a school record, and 47 steals. His addition appears crucial for a team that struggled offensively last season and lost first baseman Casey Gillaspie to Tampa Bay in the first round.
Butler watched Rader play for the Derby Twins several times this summer. While his defense needs polishing, his athletic ability makes him a tantalizing prospect.
“He can really run for a guy who’s as big and powerful as he is,” Butler said. “He brings a lot of tools into Wichita State.”
Junior college pitchers Anderson (College of Southern Idaho) and Hilliard (Crowder (Mo.) College) are expected to strengthen a rotation that lost A.J. Ladwig and Cale Elam to the pros. Sophomore Sam Tewes returns, but his health is a question after tingling in his arm ended his summer in the Cape Cod League after three appearances.
Anderson went 4-5 with a 3.90 ERA before Cincinnati drafted him in the19th round. Hilliard, who also plays first base, went 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA, striking out 55 in 42 innings, and Minnesota took him in the 31st round. Undrafted pitchers such as Jon Ferrendelli of Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College and John Hayes of Murray (Okla.) State College also will get a shot to start.
Kemnitz, the pitching coach, can start figuring out how to harness the powerful right arm of Williams, who walked 28, hit four batters, threw seven wild pitches and struck out 20 in 17 1/3 innings for Eastern Oklahoma State. Florida took Williams in the 37th round.