MLB Draft, Building 2019 Roster Next For Mountaineer Baseball

MLB Draft, Building 2019 Roster Next For Mountaineer Baseball

With West Virginia’s baseball season completed, it’s time for head coach Randy Mazey and company to begin working on next year’s roster. Just like the Mountaineer men’s basketball team experienced in the two months following the end of its season, the baseball team will likely see more rollover than that from just the two seniors — BJ Myers and Shane Ennis — who graduated and used all of their eligibility up this year. Both hope to get draft calls from a major league team.

To be eligible for the Major League Baseball Draft, which runs from June 4-6 this year, four-year college players must have been enrolled for at least three years, or be at least 21 years of age.  That results in a lengthy list of underclassmen on WVU’s roster,  which includes:

Conner Dotson         Jimmy Galusky
Zach Reid                   Ivan Gonzalez
Kyle Gray                   Michael Grove
Darius Hill                 Ty Shoaff
Christian Young        Braden Zarbnisky
Andrew Zitel              Chase Illig
Marques Inman        TJ Lake
Dillon Meadows        Jacob Potock
Cody Wood

Not all of these players will be picked, of course. However, just as occurs in the NFL and NBA Drafts, picks aren’t solely, or even highly, based on collegiate production. Items such as velocity and location for pitchers (which are highly prized), or speed, defensive ability and position projection can all factor into the decision of who gets selected.

West Virginia infielder Kyle Gray turns on a pitch

For WVU, position players Kyle Gray and Darius Hill probably head the position players list to watch. They lead a potent Mountaineer hitting attack in 2018, with Gray hitting .374 with 14 home runs, 38 RBI and an OBPS of  1.139. A disciplined hitter, Gray also worked 34 walks Hill smacked hits at a .329 rate, leading the team with 79 overall to go along with 36 RBI. Hill had just two errors in right field, while Gray had ten at second base.

Both figure to be drafted, with their overall slot likely playing a big part in their respective decisions to return or begin pro careers.

Marques Inman also will get notice, and a likely selection, mostly due to his bat. He hit .319 on the season, leading the Mountaineers with 40 RBI, and had 20 doubles to go with six home runs. A line drive hitter with power to all fields, Inman, like Gray, might be hurt a bit with his fielding numbers, which included ten errors at first base.

Starters Jimmy Galusky (shortstop) and Ivan Gonzalez (catcher) may also get looks, primarily on the basis of their defensive abilities. Both hit in the .250s, but Gonzalez allowed just one passed ball all year and threw out 20 of the 41 runners that tried to steal on him — an outstanding percentage. Of the duo, he might be the better bet to get a higher draft slot.

The bridge between position and pitching prospects is held by Braden Zarbnisky, who performed in both roles for the Mountaineers. He was pesky at the plate, drawing a team high 42 walks to help forge a .403 OB%, and his potential at more than one position might encourage a team to take a later round chance on him.

Then come the pitchers, which are often evaluated in an entirely different light that players in the field. Even though he didn’t pitch an inning this year while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Michael Grove is expected to get strong consideration. He has allowed only a .220 batting average in his 25 appearances for WVU, and has a better than 3-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, averaging well better than one punchout per inning. Righthander Conner Dotson, while not as impressive statistically, is also in the same boat after making just five appearances this year.

Michael Grove

Others to watch, although definitely longer shots, are Zach Reid (5.70 ERA, .229 BAA, 6-1 K/BB) and Christian Young (3-1, 5.88 ERA, 35 Ks). With pitching at such a premium in the professional ranks, those who take the mound are the most highly prized in the game, and it only takes one or two positives to result in a draft choice.

The final piece of the puzzle includes WVU’s class of 2018 that was signed and announced last November. All of the players there are eligible for the draft, so the Mountaineers must also sweat out the possibility that one or more of those players decided to embark on a pro career rather than begin a college sojurn. West Virginia’s incoming high school class, its best in history, includes:

Ryan Bergert (Canton, Ohio/GlenOak High), Drew Britt (Downingtown, Pennsylvania/Downingtown West High), Alec Burns (Amherst, New Hampshire/Souhegan High), Lawrence Butler (Atlanta, Georgia/Westlake High), Austin Davis (Orlando, Florida/Conrad Academy), Phillip Dull (Alum Bank, Pennsylvania/Chestnut Ridge High), Brock Helverson (Schwenksville, Pennsylvania/Perkiomen Valley High), Madison Jeffrey (Barboursville, West Virginia/Cabell Midland High), Gabe Kurtzhals (Fort Worth, Texas/Boswell High), Jeremy Lapp-Barger (Sykesville, Maryland/Century High), Theo McDowell (Essex Junction, Vermont/Salisbury School), Zach Ottinger (Marietta, Georgia/Lassiter High), Daniel Ouderkirk (Penn Laird, Virginia/Spotswood High), JJ Sousa (Palm Coast, Florida/Matanzas High) and Tevin Tucker (Petersburg, Virginia/Prince George High).

Once the 40 rounds of the draft are complete, those underclassmen and high schoolers selected will begin the decision-making process. The NCAA provides some guidance for this, and those drafted have until July 6 to sign a professional contract.  If they do not, they would then be eligible to return to, or attend, WVU.

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