With half of the MLB First-Year Player Draft now in the books, WSU has already equaled its total of players drafted in 2010 when Derek Jones, Taylor Ard and Matt Argyropoulos joined Adam Conley as Cougars who will have the opportunity to move on to the professional ranks.
While Conley, a junior selected in the second round by the Florida Marlins, will certainly turn pro and Argyropoulos has exhausted his eligibility, both Jones (junior) and Ard (redshirt sophomore) indicated today they have not decided whether to leave school to begin their careers.
In what was a little bit of a surprise, Jones was picked in the 13th round by the Baltimore Orioles. The depressed offensive environment brought on by the new bats hit Jones as hard as anyone this year, as the left fielder saw a pretty significant dip in his numbers, falling from .309/.393./.581 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) as a sophomore to .275/.370/.477 as a junior. His home runs dropped from 12 to eight.
Interestingly, he also struggled mightily in the Cape Cod League last summer, hitting .211/.280/.289 in 30 games with a wood bat, but the Orioles must have seen something they liked. Translation? Here's to guessing Jones is as good as gone, because he'll get some bonus money for the round he was selected in and even a big senior season might not move him to a significantly higher round.
Ard was picked in the 25th round by the Boston Red Sox. The power hitting first baseman finished the year on an absolute tear, hitting about .500 over the final month of the season with a ton of power. This was Ard's first season at WSU after two at Mount Hood CC, and batting cleanup from the moment he arrived on campus, he finished at .337/.408/.577.
The question with Ard? Were the strong finishing numbers a function of him figuring out college pitching or him feasting on the weaker second half of the Cougars' schedule?
Whether Ard returns for his redshirt junior season probably is a matter of how eager he is to begin his professional career. If he can sustain his last month of hitting for an entire season next year, there's a chance he moves up in to the top 15 rounds and earns himself a nice bonus next year. But power hitting first basemen are plentiful, and it's more likely that his stock improves only marginally if he returns.
Argyropoulos, meanwhile, went a couple of rounds later to the Colorado Rockies. After practically carrying the Cougs early in the year with his bat, the third baseman slumped at the end of the year. Nonetheless, he still posted his finest season of his career, finishing at .283/.368/.452. He struggled mightily in the field, however, committing 10 errors. His future might be at first base or in the outfield.
Additionally, a pair of WSU commits who have reportedly signed letters of intent -- WSU won't officially release the list of signees until the fall, even though the early period letters were signed months ago -- were selected today.
Outfielder Ben Roberts from Missoula, Mont., was picked in the seventh round by the Diamondbacks. According to The Missoulian, the lefty hitter batted .415 with 22 doubles, 19 triples, 16 home runs and 76 RBIs last summer in American Legion ball. Most high school players drafted that high end up starting their professional careers immediately, but there's always a chance the organization doesn't offer him a contract he sees as acceptable, or he's got his sights set on a truly big money contract three years from now, which is the next time he'll be draft eligible.
The other Cougar commit selected today was pitcher Tanner Chleborad, from Rapid City, S.D., who was selected in the 24th round by the Seattle Mariners. If he makes it to Pullman, WSU coach Donnie Marbut expects big things from the 6-foot-6 righty, who can best be described as lanky at 185 pounds:
"We’re definitely excited about Tanner. [...] Tanner has everything we look for. 6’5", 180 pounds. He’s got room to grow, and effortless mechanics. He’s going to have to beat out other guys, but we think that when Tanner gets here he can come in and be a good Pac-10 pitcher."
With the tools Chleborad is working with, and considering the low round in which he was selected, it would be a mild surprise if Chleborad decides to turn pro.
The draft continues Wednesday with the final 20 rounds. Cougars who could hear their names called include pitcher Chad Arnold, who was drafted in the 18th round last year but couldn't reach a contract and then suffered through an elbow injury in his senior year. Pitchers James Wise and Paris Shewey and infielder Cody Bartlett could also be selected.