June 9, 2017
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
There’s a difference between anxious and eager.
A good way to tell the difference would be by watching Georgia Tech baseball head coach Danny Hall next week. You’ll see the former on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday as Major League Baseball holds its annual First-Year Player Draft. The latter comes in the days after when Hall and his staff can assess the team.
He knows the drill, as heading into this year’s Draft, MLB teams have plucked 114 Yellow Jackets from his roster while at Tech (he’s had 131 total selections) and 58 more straight out of high school before they even got to The Flats. Hall has had at least five players go pro 16 times since he arrived in 1994.
That trend may continue this year with seniors-to-be outfielder/first baseman Kel Johnson, third baseman Trevor Craport and second baseman Wade Bailey, centerfielder Ryan Peurifoy, who graduated in May, and pitcher Zac Ryan, who is on course to graduate but has used up his eligibility, as the primary candidates.
“I would say probably (Johnson, Craport and Bailey) may have hard decisions to make on ‘Am I going to sign and go or am I going to try to come back for my senior year, play another year, get closer to my degree and I think likely, play on a much better baseball team next year than the one we had this year?’” Hall said. “I think Zac Ryan will get an opportunity to play. I think Ryan Peurifoy will have a chance to go play.”
While Hall has plenty of experience in adjusting to the aftermath of the wrecking ball the MLB Draft can be on his roster, watching as it happens never gets any easier.
“The first day’s not bad because it’s rounds one and two and unless something crazy happens I’m not sure that any of our current players or our signees would go in those days,” said Hall, who has had six first-round selections, seven supplemental first round picks and four second-rounders. “But the next day gets pretty gut-wrenching. So you just kind of watch in high anticipation, seeing if guys are going to go in those top 10 rounds, because generally speaking, if somebody goes in the top 10 rounds they are probably more likely to sign because the teams won’t take them unless they think they can sign them.”
Hall won’t try to weight his players’ decision either way, but will serve as a sounding board for them as they weigh their options.
“It’s basically, ‘I’m here if you need me’ and, obviously, if pro scouts call me and ask me about guys, which happens sometimes — our guys are seen so much that the professional scouts that are in our area can kind of form their own opinions,” he said. “It’s got to be THEIR decision and their family’s decision on what is the right thing at this present time for them to do. I even treat our high school signees that way, to where whatever they think is best for them and their family. It has to be their decision.”
Hall believes academics could play a role in how Johnson and Craport make their decision should they get chosen, while Bailey, also very much invested in getting his degree in business administration, comes into the MLB Draft with his stock at a high point.
“I think all three guys have a burning desire,” he said. “The interesting thing with Kel and Craport is that they are pre-med majors. Take baseball out of it and they have pretty lofty goals with their education to either be a doctor, I think Craport has his eyes on being a veterinarian. So those two guys, definitely have high goals for their education.
“Wade’s had a tremendous year,” he added. “In my opinion the last two or three weeks he played the best baseball that he has played and in Collegiate Baseball he was a Second-Team All-American.”
A determining factor in staying or going may be where they are drafted and how much money that teams offer. The latter can actually have a ripple effect on high school commitments.
“The thing about the draft and the way it’s structured now is that the teams have a pool of money so they’re going to try to sign, the best players they can sign with that pool,” said Hall. “You see sometimes teams take somebody that they know they can sign for less money so that they can give somebody else more money. That’s honestly what you worry about with your high school guys. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where they get picked if they play around with the money to where they can give them more money than what the slot says it should give them.”
Another big unknown that affects recruiting is planning where the coaches put their energy and whether they need to try to replace holes at second base, third base and outfield/first base and in three of the top four spots in the batting order.
“It’s very tough because if we’ve got quite a few infielders signed to come in here, if Craport’s back, if Wade’s back, and even Kel — because we played Kel a lot at first base– that definitely is going to impact those guys as incoming freshmen,” Hall said. “Maybe some of the incoming freshmen that thought they had a clear path to come in and play, if those guys don’t sign, it makes it less clear for them to get in here and get playing time. Honestly, there are probably three or four of our signees that are going to have some tough decisions to make with the draft as well.”
Hall has decided that the best part of the MLB Draft is when it’s over.
“Absolutely,” he said, with a laugh. “Because then it becomes very clear on what your team’s going to look like and the direction your team’s going to take.”