As the Michigan baseball season comes to an end, the program is going to have to face a glaring problem: which draft-eligible players are going to leave to play professionally?
Including graduating players, there are 16 members from the 2014 team that could be selected in the MLB Draft, which takes place on Thursday. Eligible players include graduating high school players, those who have completed their junior season in college and players that have used four years of eligibility.
Michigan’s top prospects to leave early are junior left-hander Trent Szkutnik and junior right-hander James Bourque.
Each has qualities that stand out in big-league systems, but they will have to weigh the pros and cons between returning for their senior years and starting their professional careers.
Szkutnik is believed to have the highest draft potential. Boasting a low-’90s fastball, a bevy of off-speed pitches and a stellar pickoff move to first base, he started some games this season in front of more than 10 scouts.
He put up a solid 3.38 earned-run average and led the Wolverine pitching staff on a late tear to finish with a 3.21 team ERA. Accompanying his on-field results were visible leadership traits on a team that was short of senior leadership.
The other pitcher who is getting attention from scouts is Bourque. Scouts knew his name coming into this season after he struck out 53 hitters over 58.1 innings in his sophomore campaign. This year, his ERA went down by nearly a point, and the strikeout rate held fairly constant. With a fastball topping out at around 96 miles per hour, Bourque’s is considered one of the top arms in the program.
Another possible loss for the Wolverines’ roster is center fielder Jackson Glines. The junior posted a .332 batting average, which was the best on the team and good for seventh in the conference. This was his first year playing Division I baseball after he transferred to Michigan from Fresno City College before this season.
As the threat of losing key players from this year’s fifth-place team in the Big Ten looms, the Wolverines have to begin to look toward next year.
On the mound, Michigan will return at least three of its four starters from the Big Ten Tournament, including the righty-lefty freshman combo of Keith Lehmann and Brett Adcock — which combined to go 11-5 with a 2.82 earned-run average with 93 strikeouts in their first season.
Joining them will be sophomore left-hander Evan Hill, who rounds out a weekend trio. If Szkutnik decides to return for his senior season, all four will combine to form a solid rotation heading into the 2015 campaign.
In relief, the Wolverines bring back their top nine pitchers in earned-run average and will reintroduce junior right-hander Matt Ogden to the staff. Ogden, who missed the entire season due to injury, led the 2013 squad with an 8-1 record and a 2.28 earned-run average.
In the field, things look equally promising. The only starter graduating is catcher Cole Martin, and Glines is the only other position player who might enter the draft. That leaves 14 players who appeared in at least 20 games, and roughly 80 percent of total offense will be back next year.
After the draft, there will be a better picture of what the roster will look like next season, as it will be clear which players will be leaving for professional ball along with the announcement of the incoming recruiting class.