The Major League Baseball draft can be an exciting or nerve-racking time for college baseball programs around the country.
Some programs experience a great deal of success leading up to the draft signing deadline. LSU, Florida, Miami and Arkansas, for instance, got a vast majority of their recruiting classes to show up on campus, with the Hurricanes getting an early Christmas present with lefthanded pitcher Andrew Suarez spurning second-round overtures from the Washington Nationals to return to Miami for his senior season.
Others such as Southern Mississippi and Florida State lost some key recruits to the professional ranks, while finally, we take an in-depth look at some of the top returning players.
LSU: The Tigers haven't had the best luck with the Major League Baseball draft at times during the coach Paul Mainieri era, but no pun intended, his program stuck gold this summer. The Tigers had some tense moments down the stretch with the Houston Astros making a late run at coveted lefthanded pitcher Mac Marshall. However, Marshall, ranked No. 21 nationally, remained firm in his commitment to the Tigers. The Tigers did lose heralded third baseman Bobby Bradley to the draft, but welcomes lefthanded pitcher Jake Latz (11th round), catcher Mike Papierski (16th round), righthanded pitcher Jake Godfrey (21st round), and shortstop Grayson Byrd (39th round) to Baton Rouge. The Tigers also added the services of a pair of elite prospects who weren't drafted because of signability/other issues, including shortstop Gregory Deichmann (No. 49) and righthanded pitcher Alex Lange (No. 134), among others. With these guys showing up on campus, the Tigers undoubtedly have one of the nation's elite freshman classes.
Miami (Fla.): What a summer it was for the Hurricanes. First, the 'Canes got their biggest recruit of all this summer when veteran lefthanded pitcher Andrew Suarez, a second-round pick to the Nationals, decided to return for his senior season. But, the good news didn't stop there, with the 'Canes welcoming a bulk of their signing class to campus this fall. The group, which includes eight top 250 national prospects, includes big names such as OF Justin Smith (51), OF Carl Chester (68), RHP Kevin Pimentel (105), C John Jones (193), RHP Jesse Lepore (210), SS Kirvin Moesquit (211), LHP Luke Spangler (233) and LHP Michael Mediavilla (240), among others.
Missouri: Tim Jamieson's Tigers have had a tough couple of seasons in the Southeastern Conference, but perhaps their luck is about to change with the addition of a talented freshman class. Missouri escaped the MLB Draft in good shape with the addition of righthanded pitchers Bryce Montes de Oca (14th round) and Tanner Houck (12th round), while shortstop Shane Benes, who was ranked No. 72 nationally out of high school, will also attend college at Missouri. Additionally, the Tigers welcome second baseman Trey Harris, who was ranked No. 329 nationally out of high school and talented Texas lefthanded pitcher Luke Dabney. Missouri might not get things turned around overnight, but the additions of these guys, particularly Montes de Oca and Houck, presents a big step in a positive direction.
Loyola Marymount: The Lions didn't have any signees drafted, and that includes top 100 national prospect, righthanded pitcher Tylor Megill. However, they got some terrific news from some returning players in righthanded pitchers Trevor Megill and Colin Welmon. Megill turned down overtures as a third-round pick to the Cardinals, while Welmon turned down the Pirates as a 34th-round pick. With the return of those two, along with young talents such as Austin Miller and David Fletcher, among others, the Lions could be ready to take a huge step forward in the West Coast Conference next season.
Arkansas: Outside of LSU, perhaps no team in college baseball had more to cheer about at the signing deadline than the Hogs. Coach Dave Van Horn's club scored big at the deadline. Sure, lefthanded pitcher Sam Hentges, a fourth-round pick to the Indians, was a loss. However, the Hogs scored big with the rest of their class with the additions of several, including RHP Keaton McKinney (42), OF Luke Bonfield (60), RHP Jonah Patten (155), SS Keith Grieshaber (186), C Blake Wiggins (207) and C Nathan Rodriguez (261). The future is very bright for the Hogs.
Florida: The Gators consistently recruit at a very high level, and with that often comes some heartaches at the signing deadline. That heartache were rather limited this year. UF knew it was going to lose righthanded pitcher Grant Holmes, while outfielder Alex Abbott also signed the dotted line. However, UF finished the draft in good shape and welcomes seven top 200 prospects, including C JJ Schwarz (58), RHP Alex Faedo (78), SS Dalton Guthrie (82), 1B Jeremy Vasquez (114), C Michael Rivera (181), Taylor Lane (215) and 3B Hunter Alexander (245). UF also welcomes junior college transfer Taylor Lewis, a 40th-round pick to the Rockies, who was a big-time arm for Chipola JC last spring with a 2.98 ERA in 81 2/3 innings of work.
Virginia: Boy, do the rich just keeping getting richer. Fresh off a trip to the CWS Finals, the Cavaliers have good news as they're getting a vast majority of their recruiting class on campus this fall. Yes, the Cavaliers lost catcher Devon Fisher to the MLB Draft, but welcome six top 200 prospects to campus, including OF Adam Haseley (88), LHP Bennett Sousa (103), outstanding RHP Derek Casey (122), 3B Charlie Cody (128), 1B/P Pavin Smith (137) and RHP Tommy Doyle (144), among others. Virginia definitely lost some key current players to the draft, but this freshman class should provide an instant impact.
Texas: The Longhorns should return to the College World Series in 2015 with the return of several key players, including righthanded pitcher Parker French, a 19th-rounder to the Detroit Tigers, who opted to return to college for his senior season. French gives the Longhorns a bonafide ace pitcher on Friday. Meanwhile, the 'Horns raked in their entire recruiting class, which is highlighted by C Michael Cantu (136), Travis Jones (154), Patrick Mathis (250), Kyle Johnston (330) and Parker Joe Robinson (355), as well as righthanded pitcher Tyler Schimpf, who was a 31st-round pick of the Athletics. This freshman class should give the 'Horns a solid boost.
Cal State Fullerton: Rick Vanderhook's Titans lost some current players to the MLB draft, but will get a nice boost from a strong freshman class. The Titans scored big in the draft, with all of their high school prospects opting to head to college. That talented list includes OF Scott Hurst (62), OF DJ Peters (62), Tristan Hildebrandt (201) and LHP John Gavin, among others. This bunch should really help the Titans, who will have one of the nation's elite starting rotations and overall pitching staffs in 2015. The big key to this team will be their ability to hit the ball.
Stanford: The professional ranks typically have trouble convincing prospects to turn down a college experience at Stanford, and this summer was another example of that. The Cardinal got all of their prospects drafted this summer, including elite RHP Keith Weisenberg (35), C Bryce Carter (61), LHP Quinn Brodey (152) and Colton Hock (236), among others. This infusion of young talent should help the Cardinal succeed in the spring.
South Carolina: Those wanting a glimpse at a bright future should look at what the Gamecocks have coming to campus this fall. The Gamecocks have a very, very good freshman class on their hands with lefthanded pitcher Alex Destino (53) leading the charge. Meanwhile, RHP Brandon Murray (83), RHP Braden Webb (131), RHP Jeff Harding Jr. (162), C Hunter Taylor (169) and RHP Clarke Schmidt (230) are other talented headliners. South Carolina's draft couldn't have gone much better, especially when you throw in veteran key hitter Kyle Martin returning to Columbia, S.C., for his senior campaign.
UCLA: The Bruins' spot on the list of winners could be rather short-lived. To explain, Astros top overall pick and lefthanded pitcher Brady Aiken and fifth-round selection, righthanded pitcher Jacob Nix, didn't ink contracts at the deadline, with Aiken reportedly turning down $5 million. As it stands right now, Aiken and Nix are assumed to be heading to college at UCLA, but both could opt to either head to a junior college, or sit out a year and test the waters again next summer, among other potential options. With that said, the Bruins will still welcome an intriguing recruiting class to campus this fall. Third baseman Sean Bouchard (75) is a highly touted prospect with tools, while RHP Griffin Canning (224) is someone coach John Savage and his staff feel like can make an immediate impact. The Bruins also have the luxury of David Berg's services for another season. The 17th-round selection of the Rangers decided to return for his senior season, instantly giving the Bruins one of the nation's elite relief pitchers.
Southern Mississippi: The Golden Eagles still welcome a decent recruiting class this fall, but lost the nucleus of the group to the draft. USM lost lefthanded pitcher Justin Steele, who signed for $1 million as a fifth-round pick to the Chicago Cubs, while catcher Blake Anderson also signed the dotted line. Meanwhile, the Eagles suffered another hit when, surprisingly, 25th-round pick, outfielder Byron Murray, elected to sign with the Giants by the signing deadline. USM also lost upperclassmen Mason Robbins and Bradley Roney to the draft this summer.
Florida State: The Seminoles definitely didn't have a summer to remember from an MLB Draft standpoint. The 'Noles lost starting pitchers Luke Weaver and Brandon Leibrandt, among others, to the draft, while also losing four of their top five recruits, including Nick Gordon, Sean Reid-Foley, Matt Raley and Carson Sands. FSU, though, does welcome some talented prospects to campus this fall, including RHP Cobi Johnson (29), RHP Andrew Karp (160) and RHP Drew Carlton (173), among others.
Benton Moss, rhp, North Carolina: The Tar Heels were stressing out near the signing deadline with Moss a 15th-round selection to the San Francisco Giants. Moss, though, decided to return to Chapel Hill for his senior season. His return gives the Tar Heels all three weekend starting pitchers back from last year's NCAA postseason club. The Heels also struck gold with the addition of freshman righthanded pitcher Jacob Bukauskas, who would've been a first or second-round pick if he was signable.
Christian Trent, lhp, Mississippi: The Rebels thought they had a good chance to keep the talented lefty for another season, and that happened after he was drafted in the 29th round by the Dodgers. Trent brings a hard-nosed attitude back to the club this fall. Last season, he served as one of the nation's elite Saturday starting pitchers, tallying a 2.05 ERA in 110 innings, along with 86 strikeouts and 20 walks. Ole Miss is in good shape on the mound with the return of Trent and senior righthanded pitcher Sam Smith.
Andrew Suarez, lhp, Miami (Fla.): The Hurricanes were already happy they added several high school prospects to the fold at the signing deadline, but the biggest news of the deadline was the return of the outstanding lefthanded pitcher. Suarez turned down second-round overtures, first breaking the news on Instagram. His return is huge for a Miami club losing always consistent starting pitcher Bryan Radziewski. Suarez had a 2.95 ERA in 109 2/3 innings last season, and gives the 'Canes a power, elite, arm heading into 2015.
Austin Byler, 1b, Nevada: Second-year head coach Jay Johnson hopes to take a step forward in 2015, and the return of Byler, a hard-hitting first baseman, helps make that possible. Byler turned down overtures as a ninth-round pick to the Nationals, and brings a power bat back in '15. Byler ended last season with a .326 batting average, 14 doubles, five triples, 14 homers and 47 RBIs.
David Berg, rhp, UCLA: There was always a good chance Berg, a 17th-round pick to the Rangers, would return to college for his senior season. But the Bruins coaches weren't fully believing it until the deadline passed. Well, the deadline passed and Berg is headed back to Westwood for another season. That's huge news, as the righty, who earned All-American honors two seasons ago, is coming off a campaign that ended with an impressive 1.50 ERA in 31 appearances and 48 innings of work last season. With Berg, along with weekend starters Cody Poteet, Grant Watson and James Kaprielian back in '15, the Bruins' postseason hiatus is expected to be short-lived.
Parker French, rhp, Texas: Though the Horns, expectedly, lost some key players to the MLB Draft, they also got good news with the return of veteran righthanded pitcher Parker French. French, along with Nathan Thornhill, was the heart and soul of this UT team down the stretch last season, and he's back for another campaign. French likely will start for the 'Horns next season, but there's talk he also could move into the closer role. French made 17 starts, 20 appearances, last season and had a 2.41 ERA in 104 2/3 innings, along with 62 strikeouts.
Matthew Crownover, lhp, Clemson: Looking to make a run to Omaha in '15, the return of Crownover, a weekend starter, is important for the Tigers. Crownover was a 21st-round pick to the Giants, and opted to return for another campaign. In 2014, he made 17 appearances, 16 starts, and had a 2.90 ERA in 99 1/3 innings, along with 90 strikeouts and 20 walks.
Alex Close, 1b, Liberty: The Flames had a successful 2014 season, and hope to accomplish even more next year with the return of outstanding pitcher Ashton Perritt, and of course, Close. Close is a big-time hitter for the Flames, hitting .323 with nine homers and 46 RBIs last season. Close was drafted in the 27th round by the Royals, but chose to return to LU for another season.
Aaron Garza, rhp, Houston: Don't look for the Cougars to be a one-hit wonder with the return of righthanded pitchers Jake Lemoine and Garza. Garza, a 29th-round selection of the Brewers, decided to return to college for his senior season, and his return is an important one for UH. Garza started 17 games last season and tallied a 2.92 ERA in 108 innings.
Landon Lassiter, 3b, North Carolina: Lightning struck twice for the Tar Heels in terms of good news in the MLB Draft. First, it was righthanded pitcher Benton Moss returning for another season, but Lassiter's return also is huge. Lassiter finished last season with a .305 batting average, a home run and 21 RBIs, while also tallying a .415 on-base percentage.
Kyle Martin, 1b, South Carolina: The Gamecocks hope to return to the College World Series in 2015, and the return of Martin could prove to be huge. Martin, an imposing presence, finished the '14 campaign with a team-best .336 batting average, 11 doubles, five homers and 38 RBIs. He returned to South Carolina despite getting drafted in the 20th round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Matt Ditman, rhp, Rice: The Owls will have one of the nation's elite pitching staffs and starting rotations in 2015 with the return of Blake Fox, Kevin McCanna, Jon Duplantier, and others, and the return of Ditman out of the bullpen is massive. Ditman made 26 appearances (two starts) last season and had a 1.83 ERA in 68 2/3 innings, along with 77 strikeouts and 12 walks.
Zack Zehner, of, Cal Poly: The Mustangs received a lucky break when Zehner decided to return to college for his senior season. Zehner was a seventh-round pick of the Blue Jays, and is coming off a successful season, where he batted .316 with three homers. Cal Poly should be in good shape offensively with the return of Zehner and leading hitter Mark Mathias.