The Major League Baseball draft, which begins Monday night, looks like it will be slower than usual for Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech outfielder Matt Gonzalez is the Yellow Jackets’ only player ranked in Baseball America’s top 500 prospects for the draft. It’s uncertain how many more teammates will follow. Tech has had 18 players taken in the past three drafts.
Outfielder Daniel Spingola was drafted last year as a junior in the 24th round but returned for his senior season. However, his batting average dropped from .319 to .259. Outfielder/catcher A.J. Murray improved on his numbers as a senior, and also had a strong performance last summer in the Cape Cod League (.279 batting average, .582 slugging percentage, 15 home runs, compared to .283, .426, 4 last year). Thomas Smith has been a dependable, if not overwhelming, player for the past four seasons.
Pitcher Jonathan King put up numbers similar to Josh Heddinger last season prior to his being taken in the 14th round last June. Further, King pitched this season with the lower-seamed ball designed to increase offense.
However, that reality may also hold back Spingola, Murray and Smith, who now are seniors. Further, for whatever it’s worth, Heddinger was ranked in the Baseball America top 500 (he was 305th) last year and King is not.
It could be Tech’s thinnest draft since 2009, when four players were taken, or 2000, when one player was taken. It should not come as a great surprise, given that Tech did not make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 and just the third time in coach Danny Hall's 21 seasons at Tech. The Jackets had three All-ACC players - Gonzalez, Murray and pitcher Brandon Gold, who is a sophomore and not yet draft-eligible.
A more pressing matter for Tech is the draft results for three signees – catcher Tyler Stephenson, pitcher Tristin English and catcher Joey Bart.
Stephenson, from Kennesaw Mountain High, is the No. 15 prospect and could even go with the first pick to the Diamondbacks. A USA Today report doubted he’ll get past the tenth overall pick. He seems highly unlikely to show up at Tech.
English, from Pike County High, is No. 146. Bart, from Buford, is ranked No. 183.
Aside from top overall pick Brady Aiken, who did not sign with the Astros after a messy negotiation due to an injury concern, the highest high-school draft pick who didn't sign last year was taken in the fifth round, the 136th player overall. The second high-school player who skipped pro ball was taken in the 11th round, the 324th overall pick.
Should English and Bart go roughly according to their Baseball America ranking, it would appear a long shot that either would become Jackets.