Each June, living rooms across the country erupt as college baseball programs groan.
The MLB draft pushes scores of teens toward their pro dreams, but also guts the recruiting classes UCLA has suffered its share of the burden, losing five recruits last year — including a pair of 11th-round selections.
The blows are coming earlier this time, which at least makes for less guesswork on the part of the coaches. Lefty Brady Aiken was as good as gone even before he officially became the No. 1 overall pick on Thursday, as the UCLA signee was already a consensus top-three prospect. The first high school pitcher selected first since 1991 is in line to sign for just shy of $8 million, and the Astros certainly wouldn’t have risked the top pick without confidence they could ink him.
The same likely goes for righty Grant Hockin out of La Verne’s Damien High, who was picked 61st overall by the Cleveland Indians. Ranked the 109th-best draft prospect in 2014 by Baseball America, a below-slot bonus would still mean around $500,000 or so.
Three other UCLA commitments — shortstop Josh Morgan, righty pitcher Jacob Nix, and third baseman Sean Bouchard — are ranked in BA’s top 105 and could be good bets to go pro as well. If that happens, the Bruins again lose five prospects they had originally signed to letters of intent. (At least one expert thinks Nix may be unsignable, so there’s that.)
The silver lining is that this draft probably won’t be as stunning as 2013’s blindside hit, one head coach John Savage has called the worst such loss he’s seen at UCLA. A year ago, the Yankees reached for second baseman Gosuke Katoh in a surprise second-round selection. Two days later, the Cardinals took pitcher Steven Farinaro in the 11th round and lured him away from school with second-round money ($750,000). Fellow 11th-rounder Jonah Wesely also bypassed UCLA, albeit for about a quarter of the bonus.
Besides, karma already slapped the Bruins around with injuries en route to 25-30-1 record.
Day 2 of the MLB draft starts at 10 a.m. Friday, continuing from the third through the 10th round. Rounds 11-40 will start the same time Saturday.
Here’s the rest of the incoming UCLA class, along with their Baseball America prospect rankings:
63 – SS Josh Morgan, Orange Lutheran HS (Orange, Calif.) Third round, No. 95, Texas Rangers
104 – RHP Jacob Nix, Los Alamitos (Calif.) HS Fifth round, No. 136, Houston Astros
105 – 3B Sean Bouchard, Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego)
289 – RHP Griffin Canning, Santa Margarita HS (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) 38th round, No. 1133, Colorado Rockies
349 – INF Nick Valaika, Hart HS (Valencia, Calif.)
355 – RHP Matt Trask, Davis (Calif.) HS
446 – RHP Nathan Hadley, Loyola HS (Los Angeles)
Ranked draft-eligible Bruins
163 – *C Shane Zeile, .324 AVG, 70 H, 28 RBI, 2 HR Fifth round, No. 160, Detroit Tigers
330 – RHP Jake Ehret, 2.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 15 K, 20.0 IP, 1-0 14th round, No. 425, Cincinnati Reds
360 – LHP Max Schuh, 1.55 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 34 K, 29.0 IP, 0-1 Seventh round, No. 211, Baltimore Orioles
413 – *RHP David Berg, 1.50 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 35 K, 48.0 IP, 11 SV, 3-2 17th round, No. 516, Texas Rangers