Five local products who could be drafted

Posted Monday, Jun. 03, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft no longer carries the type of romance or suspense that it did as recently as three years ago.

Signability is so much part of the fabric of the event that begins on Thursday that all 30 MLB franchises now have to be more judicious in whom they select rather than just considering a player’s ability. The first and compensatory rounds – 39 total selections – are Thursday. The draft runs through Saturday.

Our coverage area has a couple of prospects who are on the borderline to go Thursday. Their tools are raw, but the potential to reach the top level is there. But the borderline is also blurred because of the issue of signability.

Here’s why: Beginning with last year’s draft, each franchise is allocated a bonus pool of money it can use to offer contracts to its draftees. The pool is based on draft position, number of picks and how much it spent in the previous year. Generally speaking, all 30 franchises have roughly $6-9 million to use.

This year, the area features five players who should be selected at some point: Colleyville Heritage outfielder Cody Thomas; Carroll third baseman Kenny Hill, Keller Fossil Ridge outfielder/pitcher Sheldon Neuse; Carroll left-hander Tyler Alexander and former Colleyville Heritage right-hander Austin Kubitza (now at Rice). Expect clubs to be calling their families or advisors up until the last minute, asking if their son or client would sign for X if he’s taken in whichever round. That’s the way it works.

I had a chance to visit with a couple of Major League Baseball scouts about each of the five. While their opinions may not match up with the draft selection, their evaluations should be noted. Let’s go in reverse:

Kubitza: If you look at his season, he’s been pretty powerful, with a 2.07 ERA, a .188 opponent’s batting average and no home runs surrendered. He’s also struck out 125 batters in 100 innings. But something happened in the last two years. One scout said his velocity has dropped from the low 90s to the upper 80s. No one believes Kubitza is hurt, but it has made people curious.

“I think if he was eligible two years ago, there’s no question he would have gone on the first day,” one scout said. “Now, he can go anywhere.” The projection is probably in the first 15 rounds.

Alexander: A left-hander who can throw hard always gets somebody’s attention. That’s what Alexander can do. But because he signed with TCU, that makes people a little nervous as to how much they are willing to offer in order to convince Alexander to come to the pros.

While his curveball is a work in progress, one scout thinks the TCU angle takes him out of Thursday. The projection is probably within the first eight rounds.

Neuse: Is he a pitcher or an outfielder or a shortstop? That’s what some organizations can’t decide.

“He’s a very polished high school player,” one scout said. “I don’t know how much further he can take his game.”

Neuse gave up football to play baseball and the move will pay off. The power is there with the bat. He can hit 90 with his fastball. He’s also ticketed to go to Oklahoma. The projection would be for Neuse to go between Rounds 6-10.

Hill: While one scout liked his tools, another was less kind to the son of the former major league pitcher Ken Hill, and thought he should focus on playing football at Texas A&M since he signed with them on Feb. 6.

“I just don’t think he’s that great of a baseball player,” the scout said. “I could see him going late as a courtesy pick.”

The thinking is that he could go in the first 20 rounds.

Thomas: When you talk to scouts, they say he was born two years too late because of the pool money situation. A left-handed batter with power and raw tools in the outfield, a first-day selection would be worth the risk of him deciding to play football at Oklahoma.

“He has a great athletic body that you can build around,” the scout said. “But the issue of him wanting to play quarterback at Oklahoma is very much what teams are probably struggling with.”

If that thought becomes conventional wisdom, you could see Thomas slide past Thursday and drop into Friday. And if that happens, he could slide farther, because the word is out the bonus can’t overcome Oklahoma. But if someone gambles and takes him on Thursday, then it becomes really interesting.

As always, we’re wishing all five hopefuls the best in what will be a very stressful but exciting time.

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