With the MLB draft beginning on Thursday at 7PM (and running until Saturday), we're taking a look at the prospects on the Hoos. Though this year's team fell short of expectations, there was a lot of talent. Much of that talent is not eligible for the draft due to MLB rules.
Thursday night, MLB Network will air the first 2 rounds (including the first 2 competitive balance rounds). Expect to see 2 Hoos drafted during that opening day. A handful of other Hoos will likely be drafted later on.
Matt Thaiss, C - Even if Thaiss wasn't a catcher, he'd be a candidate for a high draft pick, because he can flat out hit. He batted .375 this year, with 10 HRs and 59 RBI. He had a .473 OBP and .578 SLG. Those are elite numbers, and look even better when you know they come from the backstop. He also bats lefty, which scouts like. He struggled last summer in the Cape Cod league, which caused some concern. After his big year, nobody is too concerned anymore.
Defensively, Thaiss has a strong arm and good footwork. He threw out 50% of attempted steals. However, he struggles to block balls in the dirt, as evidenced by 12 passed balls. If he can improve his receiving skills to a point where he's passable as a catcher, he becomes a very strong prospect. If he can't, and he has to move to 1B (or potentially corner OF as he is very athletic), he is a lesser prospect.
Most likely, somebody will take a shot on Thaiss in the middle of the first round. His combination of bat and position are too good to pass up. I'll guess Thaiss goes 15th, to the Twins.
Connor Jones, SP - Jones has been on scouts radars for a long time. Had he not been seen as a tough sign due to his commitment to the Hoos, Jones may have been a high draft pick coming out of HS. (As it was, he was drafted in the 21st round.) He's been among the Hoos best pitchers for 3 years now, winning 22 games in his career with a 2.85 ERA and 222 Ks in 268.2 IP.
Scouts like pitchers, especially right-handed pitchers, to be big and strong. Jones fits the bill at 6'3" 210. His fastball sits comfortable at around 94, with good sink. He also throws a slider, which is considered his 2nd best pitch and is "above-average" right now. He also has a change-up and a curve. The curve isn't something he throws very often, and is basically just a slower version of his slider. The change-up is described as being "almost like a splitter", though again he does not use it very much.
The main concern about Jones is a relatively low K-rate. College aces often strike out better than a batter an inning, and Jones had just 69 Ks in 98.1 IP. Also, his K-rate dropped from last year, also a red flag. The other red flag for Jones, unfortunately, has nothing to do with Jones. Sadly, several Virginia pitchers have had major arm injuries shortly after being drafted. This includes Danny Hultzen, Braden Kline and Nathan Kirby. Nick Howard hasn't had an injury, but he's been terrible so far in the pros. Scouts are concerned that the Hoos are teaching pitching mechanics that lead to injury. Or maybe there's something in the water in Charlottesville.
Jones, though, has had no injury concerns. He's a potential first round pick, but most people seem to have him going in the Compensation round after Round 1. Let's guess that he goes 36th, to the Dodgers.
Those are the two guys who are easy to get a read on. They'll go on Day 1, probably somewhat early. There are a few other draft-eligible players on the Hoos roster, though some of them won't be drafted. It becomes much tougher to predict where they'll go after the first few rounds, because every team has different characteristics they are looking for. Depending on which day a scout came to see the Hoos play, a guy's draft slot could differ by 5 rounds.
As much as the NFL and NBA drafts are an inexact science, MLB drafting is so much moreso, because of the larger differences between amateur baseball and pro baseball. We'll take a look at the rest of the Hoos draft eligible players in alphabetical order.
Alec Bettinger - Despite moving between the bullpen and the starting rotation, Bettinger put up a decent season on the mound. He was 3-5 with a 5.43 ERA over 23 games, with 8 starts. He started the Hoos NCAA opener against William & Mary and pitched 6 innings, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits with a walk. He generates a lot of Ks, especially when working out of the pen. But he has control issues and walks far too many batters. He's got good stuff and he's projectable, so he'll be drafted. If he can work on his control enough and stop walking so many batters, he could be a bullpen arm for somebody. He may go on Day 2 or early Day 3.
Robbie Coman - Since Coman missed almost all of this season with Tommy John surgery, he may not be drafted. However, MLB teams love catchers and Coman is a good receiver. He isn't much of a hitter, but he's not terrible. He could be a day 3 draft pick, but his health concerns make him a big question mark.
Jack Roberts - The redshirt sophomore still has 2 years of eligibility remaining, but he is draft eligible. Roberts pitched 19 innings over 15 appearances and had a 3.26 ERA. He struck out better than a batter an inning, but also walked a batter an inning. He has good stuff, and a good body. He will probably be a late Day 3 pick, but he may well come back to college.
Daniel Pinero - Other than the two first rounders, Pinero is likely the best prospect on this team. The Canadian is a slick-fielding SS who can hit a little bit. He hit 6 HRs last year, and 3 this year. He also batted over .300 both years, including .335 this year. He doesn't strike out much, and has also stolen 24 bases during his 3 year career. Pinero will likely go on Day 2 in roughly the 6th round.
Kevin Doherty - As a senior, Doherty has very little leverage. He can't choose to return to college, so he's stuck accepting whatever offer he gets from his MLB team. He had a 3.86 ERA in 27 appearances over 37.1 IP this year, with 25:14 K:BB. He's likely a late draft pick, round 30 or so.
David Rosenberger - Rosenberger's career went the wrong way. Over 55 IP during his first 2 years, he had an ERA of 1.96, with 39 Ks and 11 BBs. Then during his final 2 years, he pitched 65.1 IP and had a 6.06 ERA with 43 Ks and 17 BBs. He may not be drafted at all, but if he is it'll be late.