Monday, August 18, 2008
College Baseball Breakthrough
The clock struck midnight and the opulent, powerful and opposite of Cinderella coach known as the New York Yankees were expecting to sign a plum prospect last Saturday night and got a pumpkin instead. Yes folks, not only were the cash rich Bronx Bombers jilted at the alter, but super agent/advisor Scott Boras actually lost a sizable amount of money...investing hundreds of billable hours of tub thumping, chest beating, and artful negotiating to only watch his first round draft pick, Gerrit Cole officially commit to UCLA.
Cole is a mature RHP with a 6'3'', 200lb. frame from Orange Lutheran HS. His strong, wide frame projects extremely well. More important, Cole throws in the mid-high 90's with minimal effort. The Yankees coveted Cole and Eric Hosmer as their top two high school choices. When Hosmer went third overall to the Royals, Cole became their man.
Not in recent memory have the Yankees had a first round draft pick...and a Scott Boras client at that, fail to sign a lucrative contract. Usually, Boras reduces most MLB front office personnel to whimpers, but Brian Cashman and Boras are cut from the same cloth. They get the deals done. But not this time.
The UCLA Bruins get Cole for the next three years and that, in of itself is absolutely fantastic for college baseball. Just when we thought that the NCAA was doing everything in its power to destroy D-I baseball, along comes a public relations gift like this...A first rounder picking UCLA over the Yankees!!!
NCAA baseball has been the benefactor of great coverage this year from ESPN, CBS, and FOX, and was capped off by record College World Series ratings from the surprising run by Fresno State.
But, there is still a huge gap when trying to make the connection from college to the pro's. Unlike football and basketball, a player is rarely introduced as a product of their college. MLB looks like it is trying to bridge that gap by televising the Draft and giving it prime time status. This year, more college players than ever before were drafted in the top rounds and many, like Florida State's Buster Posey, Vanderbilt's Pedro Alverez, Miami's Yonder Alonzo, and Georgia's Gordan Beckham got huge, over-slot bonuses.
Playing college ball is becoming the choice of more and more top prospects...especially position players and many developing pitchers. Even MLB scouts are conceding that they like the more physical, disciplined and mentally mature 21 year olds over their barely adult counterparts.
The MLB draft this year was proof of that. There will always be the freakishly good HS players like Tim Beckham and Eric Hosmer that are worth the risk...but for the most part, most High school players need the controlled discipline of college with it's multitude of mentors from professors, tutors, TA's, strength and conditioning coaches and baseball coaches watching their every step on their way to adulthood.
And now, high profile, power pitcher Gerrit Cole will be a collegian...the story of the 2009 season...creating excitement throughout the PAC 10 and the rest of the west as the guy who told two titans of pro baseball...the Yankees and Scott Boras...thanks, but no thanks. This could be the start of more big name prospects following suit...turning college baseball into the type of panache and status that basketball and football enjoy.
This will be great for College Baseball...great for all of you prospects out there and a big financial boost for universities...you heard it here first.