As the world of college baseball descends on Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series, just one event remains on the schedule for Michigan baseball the draft.
Held June 5 and 6, Major League Baseball”s First-Year Player Draft represents the ultimate goal of the game”s elite a chance at professional baseball.
As draft day nears, several Wolverines will be watching intently. Michigan coach Geoff Zahn said he is almost positive that senior secondbaseman Scott Tousa will be chosen and given a chance to play professionally. He is also said he is pretty sure that returning pitchers Rich Hill and Bobby Wood will see offer sheets next week. Two other juniors, pitcher/first baseman Jeff Trzos and No. 1 starter Bobby Korecky, are also possibilities.
That leaves Michigan baseball fans with the $64,000 question: Who is going to leave school early?
According to Zahn, any and all of those players could be in the minor leagues next year if the situation is right.
“I think that they all have enjoyed their time here,” Zahn said. “But this is an economic issue. It all depends on how much money is offered and how badly the players want to sign.”
While Zahn believes that additional time at Michigan could provide his four underclassmen pitchers with invaluable experience, he concedes that the system may be pressuring people to leave early.
“It”s really too bad,” Zahn said. “They punish guys that stay for their senior year.”
Baseball players drafted by a major league team have the option of returning to school. That gives younger players, including unproven high schoolers, more financial leverage than college seniors. Sometimes that lack of experience can further benefit prep stars, who made up 10 of the first 13 choices in the 2000 draft.
“High school kids are drafted almost completely on potential,” Zahn said.
“College baseball gives scouts a better view of where a player”s ceiling is.”
Another key factor in the draft process is “signability.”
Andy Brown was a Michigan shortstop recruit who would have finished his fourth year with the Wolverines this spring. Zahn estimated him to be a third to fifteenth round choice in 1997.
But instead, Brown was very vocal that he would sign if he were selected in the first two rounds. Rather than risking a high choice on a player who may not ever sign, the Yankees selected Brown early. One of the most talented players in the draft, former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson, was not taken until well after Brown because it was known that he would very likely spend a few years to play football for the Wolverines.
With 50 rounds and 30 teams drafting, almost anything can happen. Last year, the Wolverines lost star catcher David Parrish and incoming freshman Nate McLouth. McLouth”s early departure was a complete surprise.
“If you would have told me that we would lose a recruit last year, I would have guessed (Jim) Brauer,” who was drafted by the Montreal Expos last year, Zahn said. “We didn”t see that one coming.”
The Pittsburg Pirates were unable to sign several of their higher draft choices. That enabled them to offer $500,000 to McLouth, their 26th-round choice.
Zahn expects all of the current recruits to be attending classes in Ann Arbor this fall.
“But you never know,” Zahn said.
SCOTT TOUSA (Sr. 2B)
The 2001 tri-captain, Tousa, played in all but one of the Wolverines” games
this spring. He hit 4 home runs and batted .325 while leading Michigan in
runs scored (52), walks (26), and stolen bases (14). He also went errorless
in Big Ten play, leading the team in fielding percentage (.987) and assists
RICH HILL (So. LHP)
The 6-foot-5 lanky lefty lead the Wolverines in strikeouts (72) and
opponents batting average (.199). He finished the season 3-5 with a 3.84
ERA. Hill allowed just three hits against Penn State to send Michigan to
the title game of the Big Ten Tournament. He has suffered from control
problems, issuing 60 free passes in only 61 innings of work.
BOBBY WOOD (Jr. RHP)
The Wolverines” hardest-throwing right-hander was a late entry to the
starting rotation. By the end of the year Wood was 5-3 with the lowest ERA
among the team”s starting pitchers (2.57). During the season”s first half,
he was 3-0 with two saves as a reliever. He also led Michigan with eight
JEFF TRZOS (Jr. LHP/1B)
The biggest player on Michigan”s roster (6-foot-6, 225), Trzos lead the
Wolverines with four saves and a 1.64 ERA. In addition to his team-leading
18 appearances on the mound, Tzos played 19 games in the field. He hit .250
and even made a couple starts in the clean-up spot for the Wolverines.
BOBBY KORECKY (Jr. RHP)
Korecky may lack the major league”s typical physical size and power, but his
skills and work ethic are tremendous. The team”s Most Valuable Pitcher and
No. 1 starter was a second team All-Big Ten Selection. He finished 6-4 with
an ERA of 3.35 and an out-of-this-world eight complete games in twelve