TAMPA — One day after the Houston Astros selected him with the 41st overall pick in the MLB first-year player draft, Lance McCullers, in his usual calm and collected fashion, expressed optimism that a deal can be done.
“I honestly feel, taking a step back and looking at it today, that it’s probably going to work out the best for me personally,” the Jesuit phenom said as he stood in the upstairs entertainment room of his Carrollwood home. “It could be a potentially great situation, and we’ll just have to wait and see with negotiations.”
While watching the draft with his family, McCullers received phone calls from several teams, including, according to Lance McCullers Sr., the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics, a team that had been linked to McCullers in several mock drafts with the 11th overall pick.
“The one we’d heard about the most was that Oakland was going to take him, and we found out there were three on their board — one was gone, and the other one had to be gone for them to take him — and they took a kid (Pace High SS Addison Russell, also a Scott Boras client) who’s supposedly really wanting to go to school,” McCullers Sr. said. “It’s hard to say.
“I still don’t think there’s 40-some kids in the country better than my kid. It’s just the way the draft goes. Certain teams want certain players, and you can’t do anything about it. It was a great feeling when he got his name called. Hopefully we can see him pitch in the big leagues in a few years and see him get called again.”
When McCullers Sr. was drafted No. 41 overall to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1982, he passed on his scholarship to Miami and signed for $65,000. The slotted value for the 41st pick in this year’s draft is $1,258,700, though the Astros have the flexibility to go over slot after picking Puerto Rican SS Carlos Correa with the No. 1 overall pick (he had projected to go at No. 7, a difference in slotted value of $4.2 million). The younger McCullers is committed to Florida.
In order to forgo his commitment, McCullers, who said he would like to wear No. 41 in honor of the draft spot he shares with his father, said he would consider three factors: a team’s history of developing young arms, its willingness to pay for his college education in the future and, most importantly, the amount of money it offers.
When asked if he thought using Boras as an adviser deterred teams, McCullers was adamant with his response.
“It didn’t have anything to do with Scott,” he said. “If teams took time to listen and actually show interest in me, then they would know that I wasn’t an impossible sign. I was just simply asking for teams to recognize that I’m one of the best pitchers in the country and that I have a strong commit to Florida and I’m not just going to go out there and throw my education away for nothing.
“At the end of the day, I ended up where I was supposed to be. If it works out, then I’m really excited to be a Houston Astro.”
First-year general manager Jeff Luhnow is equally optimistic.
“I believe that we will sign Lance McCullers and he will be a Houston Astro,” Luhnow told local reporters. “His numbers in high school competition in Florida, which is pretty good competition, speak for themselves. He’s going to quickly become one of our top pitching prospects.”