For the University of Texas, Major League Baseball's June Amateur Draft often represents as a bittersweet moment. On one hand, the university wants to see their players flourish, and an offer to play at the next level signals one of the highest points in a player's career progression. However, a selection by a Major League Baseball organization, particularly for incoming freshmen prospects, can leave the Longhorns with a raided roster and, subsequently, lead to a coaching staff looking to fill the holes caused by it. (You can refer to the difficult 2012 Texas season in case further explanation is needed.)
Nine Texas Longhorn baseball players were selected in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft, and questions understandably have risen about what it will mean to the squad heading into the 2014 season. The most immediate question Longhorn fans should ask is who's staying and who's going?
We begin our analysis with current Texas players and then hit the incoming freshmen. (Draftees have until July 12 to decide whether to sign with the pro teams or continue their college careers.)
The hard-throwing junior pitcher heard his name called 39th overall by the Detroit Tigers. Knebel stood out as a closer in the Texas rotation, but (as we discussed in our recent article on Knebel) the Tigers have made it clear that Knebel will begin his trip to the pros a starter, playing initially with the Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League.
It would delight many of the Burnt Orange faithful to see Knebel, a stud closer, return. However, Knebel projects as one of the draft prospects with the quickest chance to make it to the pros given the position he plays and the fact that Tigers closer Jose Valverde just celebrated his 107th birthday. The opportunity should prove too good to pass up.
Prediction: Knebel Goes Pro
The Pittsburgh Pirates snagged Weiss with the 329th pick in the 11th round, and it presents quite a dilemma for the junior third baseman. It remains unclear at the moment how Pittsburgh plans to use the former Big 12 Freshman of the Year, but he definitely looks like a player destined for a utility role in the majors. Weiss' offensive slide these past two years puzzled many, as his batting average dropped from .348 to .299 between his freshman and junior years. Some pundits have suggested this occurred for two mutually exclusive reasons; the team struggled as a whole, which then limited Weiss and forced him into doing too much at the plate.
Weiss has hinted that last season will serve as his swan song, but you know he will hate to leave Texas after the Horns finished dead last in the Big 12. Plus, an the eleventh round pick feels far too high for a player who appeared on his way to an early round selection. Texas boasted a pitching staff with the seventh best team ERA nationally. If an infusion of young talent adds some pop to an offense that collectively hit at a .259 clip, Weiss' numbers should jump and provide him a shot to go higher in the MLB Draft.
Prediction: Weiss Stays with the Longhorns
The Cleveland Indians landed one of the best pound-for-pound hitters in college baseball in Payton, selecting the junior outfielder in the 16th round. Payton continued his maturation as a hitter, making the All-Big 12 Conference team and ranking as the team's best hitter, batting .393 with 11 doubles, eight triples and 29 RBI.
Payton bleeds orange and has stated many times that he believes this team has the talent to take a crack at a postseason run. A 16th round selection shows a definite rise from his previous draft selection, when Minnesota took Payton in the 31st round of the 2010 draft, but Payton strikes us as the type of player who wants more on the college level. An interview with the Chicago Tribune says as much.
"We're just going to wait and see what happens," Payton told the Tribune. "It's a win-win for me. I love playing for the University of Texas and there is definitely some unfinished business to take care of. We want to turn this thing around and try to get back to Omaha [for the NCAA College World Series] and win the whole thing."
That sounds like Payton has an itch to lead Texas back to the promised land in Omaha.
Prediction: Payton Stays with the Longhorns
As a Houston native, it delighted me to see the Houston Astros grab the junior pitcher in the 24th round. Numbers don't lie (Don't sue me, ESPN) and Thornhill killed it on the mound as a starter last season, finishing with 2.21 ERA, and a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Texas should sale Thornhill on staying by preaching about the opportunity to improve his draft stock. It won't hurt if Weiss and Payton stay at Texas and jump in on the pitch, begging Thornhill to help get the band back together.
Then there's this Tweet from Thornhill. Check out the sweet backpack in his background pic.
— Nathan Thornhill (@NathanThornhill) June 8, 2013
You could interpret that as Thornhill politely thanking the Astros for thinking of him, or you could read that as a statement from a player who looks to embrace the chance in front of him and doesn't want to wait another year to play ball with a Texas pro team. Lord knows the Astros could use the help and Thornhill definitely possesses enough talent to make the next step, likely in a closer's role.
Prediction: Thornhill Goes Pro
Ball, an incoming freshman and the top rated left-handed high school pitching prospect, admitted that he was surprised to be picked by the Boston Red Sox with the seventh overall pick. The freshman left-hander's slotted salary starts with an MLB recommended value of $3.25 million. Even if Ball signs for a figure below the slot recommendation, as WEEI speculates, it doesn't make sense for him to go to Texas. Be honest with yourself. Would you pass that up? Me either.
Prediction: Ball Goes Pro
The Pearland pitcher has called the chance to play at UT a dream and saw his number called by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim with the 367th pick in the 12th round. That sits about two rounds below the level where a true MLB prospect desires in terms of getting signed, since the signing bonuses for a player picked after the tenth round level off. The right-hander touts four solid pitches in his arsenal, including an absolutely filthy slider .At 6-0, some scouts have projected him as a closer in the pros and, with Knebel likely gone, Goins should come to UT and grab the closer's role, pardon the pun, by the Horns.
Prediction: Goins Stays with the Longhorns
Kacy Clemens carries a long shadow behind him, which happens when Roger Clemens is your father. Even with an inflated set of expectations that will surely exist, Kacy Clemens understandably opted to stick with the Longhorns instead of playing with the Houston Astros, who drafted the pitcher in the 35th round (No. 1,037) of the MLB draft.
Clemens went 8-0 with a 1.09 ERA last season and earned Rawlings second-team All-America honors at Memorial High School in Houston, so the Longhorns score another prospect to add to their already excellent pitching rotation.
Clemens made his intentions to head to UT clear on Twitter. I think we're noticing a trend here.
Got drafted by the Houston Astros! Pretty cool! But I will still be a longhorn! Hook'em!
— Kacy Clemens (@KClemens21) June 8, 2013
The son of former Longhorn and Boston Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi finished 9-2 last season with a 2.64 ERA as a reliever at Navarro College. The Washington Nationals took a flyer on Schiraldi with the 1,066th pick in the 35th round but the chance to carry on the family tradition should push him to the 40 Acres and add some depth to the middle of the Longhorns' pitching rotation.
Prediction: Schiraldi Stays with the Longhorns
The incoming shortstop, who ranks as the 41st overall freshman prospect by scouting site Perfect Game and a top ten middle infielder draft prospect by Maxpreps, saw his stock fall after declaring his intention to play for the Horns and a 1069th overall pick by the Colorado Rockies shouldn't change his mind. The kid possesses athleticism, power, and solid fielding measurables that warrant a much higher selection. He could also use his time at Texas to continue his healing process after undergoing hip surgery late last year.
And yet again, Twitter gives us enough information to safely say McGuire will sport a burnt orange jersey next season. Now if we can just get him up to speed on how to say Hook 'Em, he will be just fine.
— Andy McGuire (@AndyMcguire7) June 10, 2013
Prediction: McGuire stays with the Longhorns