BASEBALL: Ball State catcher, shortstop could be late round picks in MLB Draft
The attention that top draft prospects Kolbrin Vitek and Perci Garner brought to Ball State University this year could be very beneficial to their teammates this week.
Scouts returned to Ball Diamond throughout the spring to see Vitek, an All-American who will most likely be picked in the first round of the MLB Draft on Monday, and Garner, who is projected to be selected in the first five rounds. While the scouts and some more high-profile talent evaluators, such as Boston general manager Theo Epstein, came to Cardinals games with the purpose of watching Vitek and Garner, they noticed other players as well.
"Guys got seen that wouldn't have typically gotten seen because of those guys," Jonathan Maurer, who is advising Garner in the draft, said.
Shortstop T.J. Baumet and catcher Zach Dygert will try to parlay the extra attention into becoming draft picks themselves. The 50-round draft begins Monday at 7 p.m. and continues through Wednesday.
Dygert is known to Major League teams after the Washington Nationals selected him in the 48th round last year. Someone will likely take a flyer on the senior near the end of the draft again this year.
"Guys liked Dygert more last year," Baseball American executive editor Jim Callis said. "They felt he went backwards as a prospect. He can still be a good organizational catcher, and there's value in that."
Dygert hit .302 with 12 home runs and posted a team-best .450 on-base percentage.
Coach Greg Beals is hopeful someone will draft Ball State's captain again.
"I'm optimistic someone's going to give him a chance," Beals said. "I just want Zach to get a chance to go out and play."
Before the season started, Beals knew there was a chance Baumet would play himself into a position to be drafted. Despite a poor start to the year, the junior was able to turn his play around and is once again in a position to be picked.
Baumet had the Cardinals' second-best batting average of .337. He also stole a team-best 26 bases. However, his 53 errors in two years at shortstop cause some scouts to question if he can stay there in the minor leagues.
"I don't think he has the actions or the quickness for shortstop," Callis said. "He doesn't profile for second base, and I don't think he profiles well at third base either. You could really make him a pitcher. His arm is by far his best tool."
Callis and Beals said Baltimore is the team most interested in Baumet. Should he get selected in the first half of the draft, he would probably forego his senior year at Ball State.
"T.J. feels in his own mind [that] he's ready for the next challenge," Beals said. "He's been a three-year starter in college and is just ready for that next challenge."
Were Baumet to return, Beals thinks he could develop more as a hitter and increase his draft stock. However, seniors, unlike juniors, don't have the leverage of returning to school when negotiating a signing bonus. While nothing is certain, Beals is anticipating losing Baumet, something Vitek and Garner may have had a hand in.
"I'm even more concerned now then I was midway through the year because T.J. finished so strong," Beals said. "All the attention Garner and Vitek were getting, all the people got to see T.J. play as well."