Nick Lodolo won’t let MLB draft distract from postseason
Instead, Lodolo is preparing to do what he can to help TCU get back to the College World Series.
That starts this weekend in the Fayetteville Regional where the Frogs have a matchup against Cal at 6 p.m. on Friday. Host Arkansas and Central Connecticut State are the other teams in the double-elimination bracket.
“We’ve got to focus on winning a regional and playing games and everything,” said Lodolo, the 6-foot-6 left-hander who is projected to become a Top 10 pick on Monday.
“Having gone through [the draft] once already, I know there’s nothing you can do about it. You just sit and wait. So go out this week and pitch well again and it’ll take care of itself.”
When Lodolo pitches again remains to be seen. It could be on Friday in the opener when TCU faces Cal. Or TCU may feel its best chance to win the regional is with Lodolo starting a possible game against Arkansas at some point this weekend.
The TCU-Arkansas matchup may never come to fruition, but coach Jim Schlossnagle clearly wants to have his best arm rested and ready if it does.
As Schlossnagle said, “Pitching against Cal in Arkansas’ ballpark versus pitching against Arkansas in Arkansas’ ballpark is two different things. We’ve got to think about who can handle that the best.”
Lodolo, who has 45 college starts under his belt, is the easy answer. He’s got a lively fastball that sits in the low 90 mph range, a sharp curveball and a changeup. ESPN’s Keith Law projects him to be picked No. 7 overall by the Cincinnati Reds.
This is a guy who is in the midst of a terrific season, too, going 6-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 15 starts. He’s holding opponents to a .202 batting average, and has already set career-highs in strikeouts (125) and innings pitched (98).
The 2.48 ERA is better by more than 1.50 compared to his first two seasons with the Frogs.
“He’s an unbelievable pitcher,” TCU outfielder Josh Watson said. “It’s really fun to play defense behind him.”
Added senior right-hander Jared Janczak: “He’s been great all year. We’ve known he’s been the best pitcher since he stepped on campus. With him on the mound, we know we can beat anybody.”
Lodolo, who is from the Southern California area, is pitching as well as anyone right now. The Frogs have won three of his last four starts, as he’s gone at least six innings and struck out 11 or more in three of his four starts.
“I feel like all my stuff right now is really sharp, especially the last three weeks,” Lodolo said. “I’ve been able to put it in good position to win a game, so keep doing that.”
Lodolo pitched in the 2017 College World Series, once in relief and once starting, but didn’t pitch in a regional or super regional leading into it. This will be his first time pitching in a regional, something that he’s ready for.
This is part of the reason he chose TCU over turning professional out of high school, turning down a $1.75 million signing bonus offered by the Pittsburgh Pirates (who drafted him with the 41st overall selection).
These are the games and stages he wants to be on, rather than simply using TCU as a way to “boost his draft stock.”
“It’s not just about boosting the stock,” Lodolo said. “It was coming to college here at TCU and continuing my education and getting to experience college and play college baseball. That was the most important part of it.
“Really excited to get back out there.”
TCU is excited to have him as an option, of course.
Schlossnagle has seen plenty of players come through his program with the MLB Draft being a possible “distraction,” but isn’t concerned about Lodolo. Lodolo came to Fort Worth as a high-profile prospect out of high school and has seen that only grow in his three seasons.
“Each kid handles it differently,” Schlossnagle said of the balance between the MLB Draft and college baseball’s postseason.
“Only other person that I trust more with something like this is Matt Purke because those are two guys that went through it at a super high level in high school, first-round picks that came to school. I don’t worry about it for two seconds with Nick.
“Other people you have to shield them from that a little bit because you do worry about them thinking things outside of the team, not selfishly, but it’s human nature. Not with Lodolo. He handles anything.”