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Derek Jones, Taylor Ard, Ben Roberts Among Cougs Failing To Agree To Pro Contracts

Well hello there, strangers! I won't bore you with too many details of my absence, other than to say I was out of the country for a week at Malibu, Canada, with Young Life only to return home two weeks ago just in time to move without the help of a sick wife.

Needless to say, this has not left a lot of time for writing.

However, I was relaxing on the couch tonight for the first time in days -- playing some NCAA 12 and watching the news on Twitter roll by as the deadline to sign selections from the first-year player draft came and went -- when I thought to myself, "Huh, I wonder if any of the Cougs ended up signing?"

The answer? Only Adam Conley, who came to terms with the Florida Marlins a couple of days ago, making this an incredible day for WSU baseball -- one worth staying up just a little bit later to write about.

The list of drafted players who failed to reach contracts with their clubs starts with familiar names Derek Jones and Taylor Ard, but also includes incoming freshmen Ben Roberts, Tanner Chleborad and Joe Pistorese. And it changes what once looked like a possible rebuilding year into a year WSU just might make a push to get back into the postseason.

Jones, a junior outfielder, was selected in the 13th round by the Baltimore Orioles. It's not like 13th rounders have a lot of negotiating leverage, but whatever little bit of leverage Jones had would disappear with a return to school for his senior year, so history suggested Jones would be on his way out of Pullman. But he couldn't come to terms with the Orioles, so he'll be looking to improve his stock with one more season anchoring the Cougars' offense.

Ard, who used a strong final six weeks of the season to catch the eyes of scouts, was a 25th round selection by the Boston Red Sox. It appeared Ard was looking for some cash in his deal, something that doesn't typically come with a 25th-round contract. It probably didn't help that Ard had an abysmal summer out in the Cape Cod League -- .242/.277/.388 -- and he'll be returning to school as well, out to prove that his torrid streak to end the year wasn't merely a byproduct of the Cougs' weak opponents down the stretch.

And with that, an offense that was anemic at times last year suddenly has the luxury of building around its two best hitters.

One guy who could help in that effort is outfielder Ben Roberts, who actually was the Cougs' highest draft pick -- the incoming freshman from Missoula, Mont., was selected in the seventh round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.The team apparently got a little more serious about trying to sign him as the deadline neared, but the two sides were far apart from the beginning and Roberts will head to school.

Reports are that he's a do-everything kind of kid, and there's a strong chance he starts from day one alongside Jones and sophomore Jason Monda, who had a monster summer in Cape Cod: .333/.390/.444 with 13 steals in 15 attempts. Not a bad place for WSU to be offensively.

The other two players who didn't sign and will be heading to Pullman are a pair of pitchers. Chleborad was taken in the 24th round by the Seattle Mariners, while Pistorese was taken in the 44th round by the Chicago White Sox. Chleborad is a tall, lanky righty who already sits around 90 mph and is expected to add speed to that fastball as he fills out, and all Pistorese, a lefty, did is recently pitch a nine-inning complete game in which he struck out 21. It's unclear if either one is going to be expected to contribute immediately.

All in all, it was a fantastic day for WSU baseball.

Now, back to football.