Though the Buckeye baseball season came to a close last weekend, some players have more to look forward to this year.
Pitcher Alex Wimmers, catcher Dan Burkhart and outfielders Michael Stephens and Zach Hurley should all expect to be selected in the MLB first-year player draft, said Jim Callis, executive editor and Ohio area draft expert for Baseball America.
Wimmers, a junior, is all but a guarantee to be selected first among these Buckeyes, Callis said.
“I think he’s going to go somewhere in the middle of the first round, between 10th and 25th,” he said.
This would make him the first Buckeye to go in the first round since Nick Swisher was selected 16th overall by Oakland in 2002.
Though expected to be drafted high, Wimmers “stuff isn’t overwhelming (and he’s) not a high-ceiling kind of guy,” according to a scouting report at MLB.com.
Callis said Wimmers might not have the most potential in the draft but added that “he might be about as polished a pitcher as there is.”
“There really is no such thing as a ‘safe’ pick in the MLB Entry Draft, but he is as close as you can get because he already has three plus pitches,” said Mike Luchene, from mlbscoutbuzz.com, in an e-mail.
This gives him the ability to move up through the minor leagues quickly, an important quality for teams whose front offices need production as soon as possible, Callis said.
While Wimmers helped his stock with consistent performance this year, fellow junior Dan Burkhart might have hurt his with a drop in production.
“Just from the scouts I’ve talked to, they were kind of hoping he would do more offensively. (They) are not in love with him,” Callis said. “If it’s going to be tough to get him away from his senior year at Ohio State, he could go real low.”
‘Real low’ could be as late as the 15th round, according to Callis.
Despite underwhelming hitting, strong defense and the ability to call his own pitches — a rare feat for a college catcher — serve as justification for baseballdraftreport.com to rank Burkhart the 26th-best college catching prospect.
Burkhart did not want to talk about the draft following the last game of the season. He will make the decision when the time comes but won’t do anything “stupid,” he said.
If Burkhart is struggling with his decision to return for his senior season, he can look to a teammate for advice.
Hurley was selected on the third day of the 2009 draft as the 1,358th overall pick by the Florida Marlins in the 45th round and elected to return for his final college season.
“I don’t think guys are in love with him,” Callis said of Hurley. “He is a 15th to 20th rounder.”
Josh Melycher from mlbscoutbuzz.com is less optimistic about the left fielder’s status.
“Hurley isn’t a lock to get drafted at all,” he said in an e-mail. “His impressive numbers will probably earn him a look somewhere towards the end of day three.”
The third day of the draft consists of rounds 31-50.
Hurley, though, isn’t worrying about where he might be selected.
“I don’t have any expectations, any rounds or anything like that at all,” he said. “I’m just hoping that someone out there thinks I can play for an organization and gives me an opportunity.”
Hurley’s outfield companion Michael Stephens, who was not selected in 2009, may get that opportunity sooner in this year’s draft.
“I think he’ll go ahead of Hurley because he is more athletic and has the chance to play center,” Callis said, adding that he predicts Stephens will go between the 10th and 15th rounds.
Luchene finds the two outfielders to be quite comparable.
“I could see each of them going on and contributing in the minor leagues, but I’m not sure their ceilings are high enough to get them beyond that,” he said. “I like Stephens better, but only by a hair.”
When asked about his plans after the season, however, Stephens did not mention baseball.
“I’ll graduate at the end of this quarter and be a bum in California,” he said.
Callis said Hurley and Stephens are both locks to be drafted, but is not sure they will be the last Buckeye selections, he said.
Junior pitchers Dean Wolosiansky and Drew Rucinski could both potentially be drafted, though both would be better off returning for their senior seasons, Callis said.
This year’s draft takes place June 7-9.