Tracy Smith guessed it’d be between four and six. The Arizona State skipper believes that the Sun Devils will have that amount of players taken in the MLB Draft. That’s a low number than coming into the season because of the loaded roster Arizona State had. As MLB reduced its draft from 40 rounds to five, only 160 players will be selected.
For first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who has a chance to be the first overall selection, third baseman Gage Workman and shortstop Alika Williams seem to be locks to be taken in the first five rounds. Arizona State’s pitchers Justin Fall and R.J. Dabovich, left fielder Trevor Hauver would’ve been guaranteed to be selected in the first 10 rounds, but now their futures are more in doubt.
Could all six be selected? Yes. Could only three? Yes. Add in that seniors were granted their year back, an aspect that doesn’t affect the Sun Devils as much as other programs, and still have an entire freshmen class coming in, it makes things tricky.
“Here’s where we get to the meat and potatoes of this,” Smith said. “If you do the simple analysis of that, you’re gonna have more bodies, more guys committed to financial agreements than you technically have spots for right now.”
Smith certainly would love to have everyone back for a chance to make a run to Omaha that the Sun Devils seemed destined to do, but it doesn’t work like that. Instead he and plenty of other figures across college baseball have to create a plan to make rosters work for next year and beyond.
Currently college baseball has a 11.7 scholarship limit — the NCAA has ruled that returning seniors don’t count against this number. For example, catcher Nick Cheema returning to Arizona State won’t count against the number — and a roster that only goes up to 35 players.
Smith believes that teams should be able to go over that number for the 2021 season, but there should still be a limit. His fear is that for a program such as Arizona State, that will lose current players and possibly part of the signing class to the draft won’t be able to compete against a team that has close to 50 players on a team.
“The reason I’m paying so much attention to it is even though we’re going to be okay, I don’t want to be playing a team next year that has the ability to pull from 55 guys that are really talented, when we are dealing with 35,” Smith said. “I don’t think that is fair.”
The biggest struggle to this issue is that everyone sees it differently. Conference to conference, they have different suggestions or ideas that feel right to them. Even inside conferences, coaches have contrasting viewpoints.
Money is the biggest thing, the reasoning behind Bowling Green and Furman already cutting its baseball programs. An universal agreement seems far off and with more programs also waiting to see the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has on the college football season, but most college baseball coaches just want an answer to help plan and have the tough conversations that some players might be better off playing somewhere else.
In terms of the draft, draft eligible players who aren’t selected can only sign for a maximum of $20,000. Making the decision to come back to school for those who were once locks to be picked, tougher. As Smith pointed, for those players development if they sign, most likely wouldn’t have a minor league type season but more a spring training type of season. If they decided to stay at school they’d have a complete season to compete and most likely better conditions to train in.
The shortened season and draft have made next year’s college baseball plans hard for plenty of programs. However, the leaders in the games have to make sure that they do their best to not harm the game for years to come as well. Smith stronger believes that they can go past next year’s restrictions but need to normalize soon after that.
“To get this thing back to normal as quickly as possible,” Smith said. “I think you do some of these roster limits and roster things for a year but get it back. You have to put caps on it because if you don’t put caps on it, people will find ways around the rules to add a bunch of people to the roster.”
There’s a lot of questions to be answered in an ever changing world.