USF baseball could take hit from MLB draft
Major-league baseball's annual draft starts Tuesday, and that means it's time to ask a perennial question: Will USF signees be drafted high enough to consider signing a pro contract instead of going to college?
With a small senior class, USF coach Lelo Prado signed only six players last fall, but three are in position to be drafted in the first 10 rounds, which could result in six-figure signing bonuses.
Which Bull is likely to be drafted first? It looks like it'll be Chase Greene, a speedy outfielder from West Boca Raton who is among the fastest prospects in the draft.
Football players are measured by the 40-yard dash, but baseball prospects are measured in the 60-yard dash -- essentially the time it takes to get from second base to home. Anything under 6.4 seconds is outstanding, and Greene said in a workout this week with the Cardinals and Mets, he ran times of 6.17 and 6.25 seconds. He flew to Washington, D.C., for another workout with the Nationals.
Greene said Thursday night that he's been told he should be drafted between the third and sixth rounds, and good numbers in pro workouts have him optimistic about his draft status and chance at a strong signing bonus.
"I know my minimum right now. Anything below $150,000, I'd definitely want to come to USF," said Greene, who stole 41 bases and hit .411 as a high school senior.
Most players at four-year colleges have to wait until they're three years out of high school to be drafted again, but Greene is old enough that he'll be draft-eligible as a college sophomore, and that has him more open to playing for the Bulls if his offer isn't what he's looking for.
Another Bulls signee who could be drafted early is Chad Taylor, an outfielder from Jefferson High who has drawn unprecedented interest at a school known for producing baseball standouts like Fred McGriff, Luis Gonzalez and Tino Martinez.
"I have never had so many scouts attending my practice," longtime Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta said this week. "He's a very good ballplayer, and he'll probably go if the money's right."
Cuesta said he's heard a wide range of answers on where Taylor could be drafted, from as high as the second or third round to as low as the 10th. Neither Taylor nor Greene are ranked among Baseball America's top 200 draft prospects, which would cover the first six rounds or so, but should be ranked high when BA releases its rankings for Florida prospects.
A third Bulls signee whose draft status has been impacted by injury is Alonso right-hander Ray Delphey, who was one of the best pitchers in Hillsborough County before he suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee. Delphey tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in April, but has already had surgery and is expected to recover in time for the 2010 college season.
Delphey's father, Ray, said his son had hoped to go in the first three rounds before the injury, but there has still been strong interest from teams. The Red Sox and Marlins have come to the Delphey house, and the Padres have shown the most interest of any teams.
The family chose to use USF's team doctor, Charles Nofsinger, for his surgery and ensuing rehabilitation, and Delphey is scheduled to meet Monday with Bulls coaches, who would like him to start summer school at the end of the month. Once a player sets foot on campus for class, he cannot be signed, so starting in summer would keep the Bulls from waiting until August to know whether he's playing.
"Right now, he's going to the University of South Florida, and (the bonus) would have to be really competitive for him to bypass that," Delphey's father said.
Jesuit outfielder Jimmy Falla is expected to be at USF, according to coach Richie Warren, who has another Bulls signee in Nick Lockwood, younger brother of USF sophomore Ryan Lockwood. Warren said the two brothers would like to play together, but with both Lockwoods eligible for the draft, if Ryan were to sign a pro contract, it could make Nick more likely to consider the same.
Zephyrhills pitcher Austin Adams didn't pitch this season due to an elbow injury, and Bulldogs coach Bruce Cimorelli said he expects Adams to be at USF this fall.
Check back Tuesday and Wednesday for updates throughout the baseball draft -- Bulls junior pitcher Shawn Sanford should be the first USF player taken and could leave a year early, as shortstop Addison Maruszak did last summer.