MLB Draft Could Poke Holes In WVU Baseball Roster

MLB Draft Could Poke Holes In WVU Baseball Roster

Three WVU underclassmen, along with two high schoolers and a junior college player who had signed letters of intent with the Mountaineers, were picked by Major League Baseball teams earlier this week, leaving them with decisions to make in terms of beginning their professional careers or deciding to return to college. Two have already done so.

The junior college player, freshman Paul McIntosh, has already announced his decision, and it’s a good one for WVU fans.

A catcher from Miami Gardens, Fla., McIntosh hit .331 with 16 home runs at Motlow State Community College this season. He had ten doubles and a triple, and drove in 48 runs. A selective hitter, he also worked 52 walks while compiling an OBPS of 1.190.

“It was the opportunity to further my education and go higher in next year’s draft,” McIntosh told of the decision to attend WVU rather than begin is career with the Los Angeles Angels, who drafted him in the 34th round.

One of WVU’s current players, shortstop Jimmy Galusky, told the Morgantown Dominion Post he is ready to begin his pro career after being selected in the 20th round by the Chicago White Sox. A mid-level hitter, Galusky has good range at shortstop and ranks sixth on WVU’s all-time assists list with 387. He manufactured a .412 on-base percentage and stole 13 bases in 18 attempts this year while changing his approach at the plate to incorporate a higher launch angle.

“It’s time for me, I believe. I’m a little older. I’m ready to move on,” Galusky told the Dominion Post.

That’s one early return in the Mountaineers’ favor and one against, but others remain to be determined. Chief among those are rising redshirt junior Michael Grove, who sat out this past year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Grove’s recommended bonus money in his draft slot at the end of the second round is $917,000 — a serious amount that can’t be ignored. While he could possibly better his draft standing were he to return and put up numbers like those he recorded before he was injured (career 117 strikeouts in 92 innings and a .174 batting average against as a sophomore), the surety of the money on the table and the confidence of the Los Angeles Dodgers in using such a high pick on him has to be tempting.

Also in that boat is high school signee Lawrence Butler. A sixth-round pick of the Oakland As, Butler’s bonus money is slotted at $278,000, and the chance to get a head start on a pro career, and get three more potential years on the payroll, also plays into the decision.

Butler is a multi-position player out of Atlanta, and projects as either a first or third baseman or as an outfielder. He was the number one ranked player in the state at the former position at Westlake High School by Perfect Game, and was also an underclassman All-American in 2017. for coach Kelcey White. Butler is the No. 1-ranked first basemen in the state of Georgia and No. 6 nationally by Perfect Game, while he is ranked the No. 28 overall player in the state. He was named a Perfect Game Underclass Third Team All-American in 2017. Like Grove, his position in this year’s draft may be too high for him not to capitalize on.

A pair of players in the 14th round have less bonus money available ($125,000 is the standard for Rounds 11-40), but still could decide to begin the next stage of their careers (Most recently, Kyle Davis, picked in the 15th round a year ago, elected to do just that when he signed with Houston.) Kyle Gray, on the heels of a huge year in which he earned All-Big 12 First Team honors by hitting .374 with 14 home runs and a .677 slugging percentage, could become make the call to join the New York Yankees, who continued something of a trend by making him the fifth Mountaineer to be selected by their organization.

High school signee Theo McDowell was picked in the same round by the Texas Rangers, who drafted a mind-boggling 22 right-handed pitchers — McDowell among them — in their 40 selections. A 6-5 hurler with good velocity who might also fill a two-way role in college ala Braden Zarbnisky, McDowell and Gray sit in draft territory that could easily springboard them into the minor league ranks.

None of this is a disaster for WVU. Draft picks taking away players and signees is part of the nature of the college game, and it’s addressed as much as possible in signing classes, where highly-ranked players are almost always backstopped by another player in case the former goes pro. It’s also a testament to the increasing talent on the field and in the recruiting class for West Virginia, which notched its highest-ever recruiting ranking (28) by Perfect Game. Still, these are some gaps that will have to be filled if WVU is to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2019.

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