Well, the 2014 MLB Draft is officially in the books, and it has seen Bears' Josh Michalec and Brett Doe selected on the last day. First things first, congratulations to these guys and their families. Baseball is unique in that in order to develop the skills required to be an elite baseball player, boys really must begin playing the game semi-seriously at five or six years old and hone their skills each year thereafter. This literally is the payoff of a lifetime of dedication and thousands upon thousands of miles traveled by these guys and their families.
Josh Michalec became the Bears' closer his senior season with the Bears. All he did was set the Big XII single season record in saves (21) with a 3.15 ERA in 30 appearances. Michalec's efforts led to first team All-Big 12 honors and the 623rd overall selection in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies. Michalec finishes his career with the third highest career save total in Bears' history after just one season.
Infielder/catcher Brett Doe was selected as a catcher by the Minnesota Twins (despite Baseball America listing him as a Cub), 1,130th overall in the 38th round. Doe finished the year second in the team in batting average (.259), on base percentage at (.368), and walks (17). There were a lot of people selected ahead of him, but his foot's in the door. While Doe started as a catcher, he played most of the season as at shortstop showing versatility and athleticism.
Despite being drafted twice before (49th round out of HS and 16th in 2013), Dillon Newman went undrafted. Newman finished the year with a 5-4 record and 3.67 ERA in 14 starts for the Bears as the only weekend starter not affected by injuries. You can reasonably assume that Dillon will be given a shot as an undrafted free agent, but you have to feel compassion for a senior who is obviously a pro prospect that goes undrafted. His decision to return for his senior year cost him money and opportunity.
The worst part is you invariably have teams pull a stunt like drafting obviously unsignable "prospects" while guys who would give almost everything they have for a shot at professional baseball remain undrafted. This clearly demonstrates that in many ways the MLB draft can be a cruel joke.
As I started to research the draft for this piece, it became clear in a hurry the reason behind the Bears' 2014 struggles. The stats for the year told a story of offensive ineptitude with a team batting average of .232, and a run differential of -50. Even with that reality, it seems reasonable to expect on a team two years removed from one of, if not the, best seasons in Big XII history, we would still have some prospects. The Bears had no one listed in Baseball America's top 500 prospects. With 16 draft eligible Bears, having only 2 drafted was the worst draft day in the Big XII. And it was not even close.
Big XII Baseball programs featured 147 draft eligible players and 39 total draftees. Before Michalec's selection, there were 21 players from the league. Every team in the league had at least 2 draftees in the top 14 rounds except Oklahoma State (they had one but ended up with 5 total draftees).
For some perspective, I made up a stat that as a prospective student athlete matters a lot: Draft Success Rate (DSR). Basically, DSR is a simple stat demonstrating a program's ability to get their players drafted (or attract professional prospects, however you want to look at it) because at the end of the day, that is the ultimate goal of precisely 100% of college baseball players. Having 2 of 15 draft eligible Bears selected gives us a 12.5% DSR The league average DSR was 26.5% with the second lowest DSR being KSU at 21.43% and the highest DSR going to Texas (40%; 6 selections all in the top 19 rounds).
For some additional perspective: Navarro CC (just 70 miles to the NE of Waco) had 7 former Bulldogs selected in this draft..
Analysis: That's not great.
2014 was obviously a difficult year, but the beautiful thing about sports is each year hope springs eternal. In baseball, players can make huge improvements (or... not) over the course of an offseason. So we can expect improvement from the names we know, but of more interest may be the names you may not know yet. The Bears are only bringing in four 2015 players: Richard Cunningham (OF - Stephen F. Austin HS), Jonathan Ducoff (IF - consensus top 100 player out of Kingwood Park HS), Levi Gilcrease (OF - Home School, Odessa, FL), and Theron Kay (RHP - MaxPreps Top 100 talent Valley Christian HS, San Jose, CA).
Going into the draft, Jonathan Ducoff was listed as a top 273 prospect according to SBNation's Matt Garrioch, but he was not included in Baseball America's Top 500. These are pointed out because there was a chance that our recruiting class could have been damaged by losing Ducoff. However, the MLB draft rules made it too risky to draft Ducoff where he "should" go. To understand that, you have to understand that the MLB draft is different than any other drafts that I am aware of. The first major difference is players do not declare themselves eligible for the draft. Players just get drafted, and that does not affect their amature status. The second major difference lies in the rules of the first 10 rounds. Now, if a team fails to sign their top 10 picks they lose that pick in the following year. This leads to organizations only offering HS players they expect to throw major cash to (and who they are confident will sign) and primarily college seniors.
That means the draft did not hurt our recruiting class, and we have players that could have contributed in Steven McLean (IF) and Cameron Miller (C), and Kyle Ott (RHP-injury) coming off of redshirts next year. You can expect there to be a truly open competition for virtually every position and new faces that can come in and potentially make an immediate impact. It will be interesting to follow. While we all will be immersing ourselves in the spectacle that is BU Football, I will be tracking developments in the baseball program in hopes that 2015 is closer to 2012 than 2014 in at least one way.