When the grueling three-day process finally ended Wednesday afternoon, LSU coach Paul Mainieri’s mood was in a tug-o-war between relief and trepidation.
The 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft wrapped up after 50 rounds, and the Tigers incurred some easy-to-spot damage – although it will be a while before Mainieri and his evolving coaching staff can accurately assess just how bad the damage might be.
What is known in the aftermath of the draft is that seven current LSU players with remaining eligibility and seven incoming recruits were picked during the three-day marathon.
Of those 14 players, only two have indicated they’ll definitely be on campus in the fall: Designated hitter Raph Rhymes told Mainieri he would be back and incoming junior-college transfer Arby Fields responded by text message that he intends to be in purple-and-gold in 2012.
A third drafted player, incoming freshman Carson Baranik, tweeted Tuesday when he wasn’t taken in the first 30 rounds “ Well this made the decision very easy. #lsubound.”
Rhymes, who batted .360 in 2011, is one of LSU’s top hitters coming back and was able to inject some happiness into an otherwise dreary three days for Mainieri.
“When Raph told me he was coming back for sure, I jumped off my seat and hugged him,” Mainieri said. “That’s one less guy I have to worry about, but it’s going to be a very long summer.”
Indeed, there will be plenty to keep the Tigers’ coach distracted.
Of the current players selected, the most likely to depart are junior outfielder Mikie Mahtook and junior right-handed pitchers Tyler Jones and Matty Ott. Mainieri also said he wouldn’t be surprised if junior infielder Tyler Hanover, drafted by the New York Yankees in the 40th round, bolted to get his pro career started.
Mahtook’s departure may not be as much of a slam-dunk as expected, though. The star outfielder was taken in the first round, but not until the 31st pick and then to a Tampa franchise likely to be in rebuilding mode in the near future. The Rays had 12 draft picks in the first two rounds and they spent the second on Mahtook. Tampa snagged LSU signee Johnny Eierman, an infielder, in the third round with their 13th pick.
“You wouldn’t think Mikie would come back, but you just never know,” Mainieri said. “He thought he was going to go higher than 31st. He called me after the draft and the first thing he said was ‘Am I welcome back?’ I told him of course he was. We’ll see how it goes.”
Incoming recruit Trevor Story isn’t likely to wind up at LSU after he was selected in the supplemental (sandwich) round by Colorado. The infielder from Irving, Texas, is in line for a potential high six-figure or low seven-figure signing bonus.
Three of the other high-profile recruits in the Class of 2011 were also selected, and the decision of each will have an impact on LSU’s 2012 season, one way or another.
Virginia native Jake Cave was chosen in the sixth round by the Yankees, Catholic High product Aaron Nola went to Toronto in the 22nd round, followed shortly after by Nick Goody – also to the Yankees.
Cave and Goody, a JUCO right-handed pitcher, will have to weigh offers from MLB’s richest franchise, although Mainieri said New York doesn’t have the reputation of spending big money on draft picks, instead saving it for the free-agent market.
Mainieri said Cave’s selection in the sixth round makes it very questionable if he’ll ever step on the diamond at the college level, and that would be a big blow to the 2011 recruiting class.
Nola’s situation became much more intriguing on Wednesday when older brother and current Tiger shortstop Austin Nola was taken in the 31st round, also by Toronto.
For weeks leading up to the draft, a major storyline for LSU was how much the chance for the Nolas to play on the same team for the first time in their lives would influence their decisions. Now, although both were picked much lower than expected, they have that chance – at least in the same organization.
So now the two Baton Rouge natives and lifelong LSU fans have more to consider than ever.
“I think the Nolas are very intelligent, they care about the right things, they love LSU and the LSU baseball program and they would never do anything to hurt this school or our program,” Mainieri said. “I trust them to weigh every possibility that matters to them. I just hope it doesn’t drag out all summer.”
The last two Tiger recruits drafted were Fields in the 27th round by San Diego and Baranik by Cincinnati in the 41st round.
Fields played his freshman season at Northwestern University, where he also played football for two seasons, and transferred to Cypress (Calif.) College for the spring 2011 semester. When he signed with LSU in April, Fields made it clear he intended to be on campus.
How many others will join him or return for their senior seasons? That’s the mystery that Mainieri will have to wait out until Aug. 15, the deadline for drafted players to reach their final decisions.
The wait begins
Fourteen LSU players either with eligibility remaining or incoming recruits were selected in the Major League Draft this week.
Mikie Mahtook, first round by Tampa
Tyler Jones, 11th round by Minnesota
Matty Ott, 13th round by Boston
Austin Nola, 31st round by Toronto
Raph Rhymes, 40th round, by Pittsburgh
Tyler Hanover, 40th round, by the New York Yankees
Trevor Story, supplemental round by Colorado
Johnny Eierman, third round by Tampa
Jake Cave, sixth round by the New York Yankees
Cody Glenn, 15th round by Toronto
Aaron Nola, 22nd round by Toronto
Nick Goody, 22nd round by the New York Yankees
Arby Fields, 27th round by San Diego
Carson Baranik, 41st round by Cincinnati