The 2019 draft took several major contributing pitchers to this years’ team. Outfielder Dominic Fletcher was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 75th overall pick. Fletcher’s elite defensive skills have always made him a premium next level outfielder, and he has really picked up the offense this season. In three seasons, he has hit 10 or more home runs each year but has never hit over .300 or driven in over 50 RBI until this season. He enters the Super Regional with a .312 average, 10 home runs, and leads the team with 23 doubles and 56 RBI.
Isaiah Campbell was selected by the Seattle Mariners just one pick after Fletcher at 76. Campbell walked on campus three years ago with a large frame and a lot of upside behind his strong arm. After struggling with an elbow issue and going through an up and down season over the following two years, there was question about whether he would ever live up to the expectations. Not only did he live up to them, but he has put together a brilliant season and has become the definition of consistency on the mound. Campbell is currently 11-1 on the season with a 2.27 ERA and 108 strikeouts to just 19 walks in 103 innings.
Perhaps the most overpowering pitcher I have seen don a Razorback uniform in my 13 years of following the Hogs, Matt Cronin was selected in the fourth round by the Washington Nationals. Cronin has put together an impressive resume as a closer, and has been a big contributor to Arkansas going 78-1 when leading after the 8th inning over the past two seasons. He is currently 1-0 with 12 saves, a 2.00 ERA, and has 13.3 K/9 and a 2.86 K/BB ratio.
One of the bigger surprises this season has been Jack Kenley’s offensive onslaught, and he was rewarded this week by being drafted in the 8th round by the Detroit Tigers. One would have a difficult time finding a better defensive infielder in Arkansas history than Kenley. He has mostly been a backup the past two seasons before being plugged into the every day lineup at second base. Kenley brought the bat with him this season and is slashing .324/.441/.571 with 12 home runs, 50 RBI, and is 8-11 stolen bases.
The 8th round also saw Jacob Kostyshock be selected by the Colorado Rockies. Like Kenley, this is the first season Kostyshock has been a major contributor to the team, and he has leveraged his long 6-4 frame to throw upwards of 95-96mph. The velocity and movement to his pitches have made him a staple to bridge the gap between starter and closer in the late innings this season. Kostyshock is 1-3 with a 2.89 and 29 strikeouts to 10 walks in 28 innings.
The Boston Red Sox took Cody Scroggins one round later in the 9th. Scroggins stepped on campus as an infielder and played a little third base his freshman season before transitioning into a full time pitcher. Also victim to an arm injury, Scroggins came back this season as an early season starter before settling into a long reliever role. Able to get the big strikeout when needed, he sits at 2-0 with a 4.19 ERA and 53 strikeouts to 25 walks in 23 innings.
The final Hog to go in this seasons draft was Zack Plunkett, taken in the 20th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Plunkett served as a backup catcher the past two seasons after transferring from TCU. His defensive skills, mainly his throwing, have made him a viable option for many teams. However, the Dodgers reportedly selected him as a relief pitcher to see if he can develop his strong arm. Plunkett is hitting .265 with 5 doubles, 2 long balls, and 9 RBI.
So, What Now?
Every pick this season should be expected to sign, but that does not necessarily mean the Hogs will need to rebuild their pitching staff for next season. Much like after last year’s team that lost 6 position players to graduation and the draft, the Hogs are built to reload more than rebuild. That process will be much more manageable with the return of Connor Noland and Patrick Wicklander as weekend starters, as well as experienced relievers Kevin Kopps, Kole Ramage, Marshall Denton, and Zebulon Vermillion. You also never know who is going to take a big leap from their Freshman season, but Elijah Trest, Evan Taylor, and Jacob Burton all showed promise at times this year. While you don’t expect to get a Noland and Wicklander every season, there are several big arms in the class of 2019 to look forward to.
Offensively, Arkansas is losing a lot in Fletcher, but they have a more than capable center field replacement in Christian Franklin. Along with Kenley, the Hogs will also lose Trevor Ezell from the infield to, well, being too old. Other than that, the Razorbacks look very good up and down the lineup next season. Hopefully Jordan McFarland can come back and have a senior season like Luke Bonfield of last year, and Curtis Washington Jr. showed promise to contribute in the infield or outfield. Like Ezell and Matt Goodheart, you also never know how well prospective transfers may do immediately. Class of 2019 infielder Jesse Pierce out of Las Vegas, NV could contribute as a Freshman next season as well.
Here is how Arkansas’ 7 drafted players compares to other Super Regional SEC teams: Vanderbilt (13), Mississippi State (10), Ole Miss (8), LSU (6), Auburn (5).
2019 Signing Class
The draft was relatively good to the Razorback’s incoming recruiting class. Signees Jason Hodges and Dominic Tamez were selected in the 34th and 35th rounds by the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners, respectively. Hodges is an outfielder from Park Forest, IL and Tamez is a catcher from San Antonio, TX.
If Tamez lands at Arkansas, he would be the 4th Dominic along with Fletcher, Dominic Taccolini, and Dominic Ficociello to play for Arkansas in 10 consecutive seasons since Ficociello was a Freshman in 2011.