Indiana waiting on draft decisions #iubase

Chris Lemonis entered the week knowing that he had at least a handful of guys likely to be selected in this year’s MLB Amateur Draft.

What he couldn’t be sure of, after two decades as a college baseball coach, is where they all would go.

“I thought some of our guys would go a little bit higher, but you can never figure out the draft,” the first-year Indiana coach said Friday. “That’s the one thing I’ve learned over the years. It shouldn’t surprise you if it doesn’t go the way you want. It can go in a lot of directions every year.”

By the end of Wednesday’s final day, Lemonis watched six of his players, not including two incoming junior college transfers, get picked between round Nos. 14-35. Heading into the weekend, he and the five players who have the ability to return to school next year are left to play a waiting game as contract negotiations begin and options are weighed.

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Jake Kelzer (14th round, Chicago Cubs), junior pitcher Scott Effross (15th round, Chicago Cubs), junior pitcher Christian Morris (33rd round, New York Yankees), along with Wabash Valley College pitcher Travis Herrin (18th round, Los Angeles Angels) and Iowa Western outfielder Alex Krupa (35th round, Cincinnati Reds) are all eligible to play at Indiana next season should they decline to sign with their respective clubs.

Seniors Ryan Halstead (21st round, San Francisco Giants), Brad Hartong (29th round, Minnesota Twins) and Luke Harrison (35th round, St. Louis Cardinals) have not yet signed, but are expected to do so. The deadline for teams to sign draft picks is July 17, but Lemonis expects his program to have some sort clarity by the end of next week.

“We’re talking to them and trying to see where they’re at,” Lemonis said. “A lot of it depends on the organizations. So, for the most part, we’re at a standstill. We called and congratulated them and checked up on them a little bit, but for the most part, everything depends on what the organizations want to do.”

Of the five players choosing between school and professional baseball, Kelzer has the most leverage. He has two years of eligibility remaining and is still a very projectable and intriguing prospect with his 6-foot-8 frame, his low-to-mid 90s fastball and hard curveball. And yet Kelzer is not yet as refined as he could be. Should he return to IU and continue building on his first two seasons, he could very likely burst into the top 10 rounds and command a serious signing bonus after next season.

Having Kelzer, and possibly Effross and Morris, too, back in the fold next season would add further pitching depth to Indiana’s stable of arms. Herrin could also factor into that mix. The Lebanon native told his hometown paper this week that he isn’t sure which direction he’s leaning. The right-handed starter worked to a 3.68 ERA this season, striking out 77 batters in 66 innings at Wabash Valley.

“It was a dream of mine to pitch at IU,” Herrin told the Lebanon Reporter shortly after he was drafted. “But it is also a dream of mine to play professional baseball. I am not leaning one way or another yet, I am going to talk with my parents in the next couple of days and come to a decision.”

Left-hander Kyle Hart was not drafted this week and still has a year of eligibility after redshirting the 2014 season following Tommy John Surgery. Even on a pitch count, Hart was IU’s best pitcher over the final month of the season, closing the year on a streak of 23 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.

“We’re excited about Kyle,” Lemonis said. “Kyle takes a lot of pride in being a Hoosier. There’s a side of wanting to come back and finish his degree, and also there’s a real big leadership side with Kyle and some of the other guys. We had some guys like (shortstop) Nick Ramos and (pitchers) Caleb Baragar and Thomas Belcher that if they had made it known that they were dying to be drafted, they probably would have had a good shot at being drafted. They feel like they have something left to come back and prove, so we’re excited about the whole crew of kids.”

Lemonis also expressed disappointment that seniors Scott Donley, Will Nolden and Casey Rodrigue were not drafted. Of that bunch, Donley made perhaps the strongest case by finishing second on the team with a .318 average, 71 hits and 37 RBIs, while earning a spot on the ABCA/Rawlings All-Region First Team as a designated hitter. However, Donley’s case is also hurt by his lack of a true position.

“The cards fall where they fall,” Lemonis said. “Those (three) are the one where you want your guys to get a chance to play. I know how hard those kids worked, but it’s part of being in a professional draft. These organizations are making decisions on what’s best for their system.”

Now Indiana is left to wait and see how those decisions affect its program moving forward.