It seems like we had to wait forever between the end of the football season to see where our favorite TCU players would be drafted. In baseball? One day. The 2011 MLB Draft starts tonight with the 1st Round and continues rounds 2-30 on Tuesday and 31-50 on Wednesday. That may sound like way too many rounds, but be honest- if they had that many in football, you know you'd still watch.
While our focus on the NFL Draft is generally on the TCU seniors in the draft pool, in baseball it's all about the juniors, the incoming freshmen and JUCO transfers. We'll still be excited to see if & when the five seniors on the TCU roster (Steven Maxwell, Jerome Pena, Trent Appleby, Jimmie Pharr and Joe Weik) are drafted, but we'll be more interested in the draft status of the guys who could potentially suit up for the Frogs in 2012.
First and foremost on the minds of all TCU fans ought to be the two guys that, going into the season, we figured there was about a 0% of retaining after this year. Kyle Winkler and Matt Purke (due to his birthdate, Purke is a draft-eligible sophomore) were both projected as first-round picks at some point before and/or during this season. Purke missed a few starts with an arm injury and at times did not have the same velocity he had as a freshman. Winkler pitched brilliantly most of the year but missed a few starts late in the season for "rest" and then pulled himself from Saturday night's game early with an arm injury and was seen in the dugout in a sling and ice on his arm. Needless to say, this isn't rocketing either of them up any draft boards. It's impossible to say how far they'll fall in the draft and how much money they'll end up being offered, but I'd say they've both moved from zero chance of returning to very, very slim chances of returning.
Beyond those two, also keep an eye on some of the other juniors. Most likely to be picked high enough to leave are Jason Coats and Taylor Featherston. Both have some things to improve on if they want to succeed in pro baseball (Coats: hitting the curve, Featherston: throwing to first), but they might choose to work on those while getting paid. Brance Rivera is the only other guy I can see leaving, but you never know- there are a lot of rounds in the draft and you never know these players' personal and family financial situations.
Then there are the guys who have signed letters of intent to play at TCU, who the coaching staff will just have to hope can resist the signing bonus money offered by the teams that draft them. One of the top names to watch in this category is Kevin Cron, a 6'4", 225lb power-hitting catcher from Arizona who is expected to be drafted somewhere in the early rounds. But he is reportedly a good student (3.96 GPA) and his older brother C.J. just finished a solid career at Utah, so perhaps he has a strong desire to play in college? It's also worth nothing that his Dad is the manager of the Tigers' AA affiliate in Erie, Pennyslvania- where he coaches former Horned Frog catcher Bryan Holaday. The other main incoming player to watch in this draft is Kyle Crick, a 6'3" right-handed pitcher from Sherman who is also expected to be taken off the board early. I assume we can count on Waymon James to help sway him to stick with TCU?
A few other incoming freshmen to keep an eye on are Travis Evans, a left-handed pitcher from Round Rock, Braden Mattson, a catcher-first baseman from San Antonio, Harris Rome, an outfielder from Houston and Jerrick Suiter, a right-handed pitcher from Indiana.
Of course, simply seeing where some of these players are drafted won't cement their status as stay-or-go guys. As I mentioned earlier, all of them have different financial situations, different outlooks on education and might be more or less aggressively pursued by the management of the clubs that draft them. We won't know until August which ones will be Horned Frogs next spring, but the "re-recruitment" process in the summer will without a doubt have a major impact on next season.