Bret Bielema has recently talked about having the ability to let undrafted players back on campus. This week we could be talking about some Razorback baseball players coming back even if they are actually drafted. The MLB Draft begins Thursday and can be a daunting task to understand if you are new to it. There are over 1,000 picks (!). 40 Rounds (!). It's a huge ordeal to keep track of.
The rules for draft eligible players gets wild too. Players can be drafted out of high school, but if they choose to come to campus then they have to wait 3 years before they're drafted again, or two years if they reach 21 before a certain date (see: Andrew Benintendi). Players can also be immediately drafted from the JUCO ranks at any time as well.
You can see how it can get confusing. That is why we can breakdown what will happen in the draft from Arkansas' perspective. There are three categories of players to keep track of, the seniors, the underclassmen, and the commits.
Seniors (5 Players)
Rick Nomura, Michael Bernal, Cullen Gassaway, Doug Willey and Tucker Pennell are all seniors and have all graduated from the program. All but Willey were part of the 2015 College World Series team and have been difference makers for the team. The middle infielders, Nomura and Bernal are the most likely to go first, but since teams have 40 rounds, they can take some developmental picks so any of these five can be drafted.
Underclassmen (12 Players)
There are 10 juniors on the roster from this season, one redshirt sophomore, and Luke Bonfield who are eligible to be drafted. Five names are the ones to keep an eye on, Bonfield, Zach Jackson, Clark Eagan, Carson Shaddy, and Dominic Taccolini. Both Bonfield and Shaddy have two years of eligibility left to improve their stock and Dave Van Horn has said he expects them to take advantage of that and return. He is less certain about Eagan and Taccolini. Van Horn says that Taccolini wants to leave the program on a high note and is leaning towards coming back, for Eagan it depends on the signing bonus a team can offer him. The longer they all spend on the board, the more likely they return to campus.
Jackson, however, is
absolutely definitely completely most likely gone. Baseball America has him listed as the 98th best prospect in the draft, which would put him around the 4th round range. Because players spend their first few years in the minors, the draft is more about potential than other drafts. So even though Jackson struggled at times, his skillset is still going to get him drafted high enough for him to sign.
A couple current players might leave the program for other reasons, like James Teague, who Van Horn has said he's been struggling with arm issues.
Commits (24 Players)
The top recruiting classes are always taken with a grain of salt because the draft can do some serious damage if a team isn't careful. Arkansas' class has done a good job of finding players that have talent but they wont be cleaned out by the professional ranks.
Six Arkansas signees are ranked in Baseball America's prospect rankings, C Ben Rortvedt (82nd), 2B/SS Cole Stobbe (145th), RHP Tyler Bennighoff (201st and he is the brother of Jack Benninghoff), OF Dominic Fletcher (209th), 3B/1B Jordan McFarland (374th), and RHP Brenden Heiss (409th).
Stobbe and Rortvedt are the best talents and most likely to get drafted highly, but both have signed to play in collegiate summer leagues so read into that however much you want to (that doesn't affect draft eligibility in any way). Stobbe could be a huge get for Van Horn since he has a big hole to fill in the middle of the infield with Bernal and Nomura graduating. I feel good about the two pitchers on this list making it to campus. The two swing picks could be McFarland and Fletcher. McFarland would be a big get, literally, he is 6'4", 225 lbs. and could be a good option at DH.
So what is the best case scenario for Arkansas? Getting at least one of Stobbe or Rortvedt to campus. The worst case scenario would be losing Eagan and Bonfield from the current roster, and Fletcher and McFarland join a group of about 5-6 signees who never come to Fayetteville. Neither of those scenarios is all that likely, and reality will more than likely fall somewhere in the middle of those two situations.