The Major League Baseball Draft gets underway on Monday night, beginning with the first two rounds on Monday night televised on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 are on Tuesday and the draft wraps up with rounds 11-40 on Wednesday.
Who on the Ole Miss roster will get drafted and when? What will two-sport standout Jerrion Ealy do and how badly with the draft ravage it 2019 signing class? Below are some thoughts on all of that.
1. Jerrion Ealy — A 2019 Ole Miss football signee, it was once thought to be all but a foregone conclusion that Ealy would spurn the opportunity to play baseball (and potentially football too) at Ole Miss and pursue professional baseball. That does not seem to be the case any longer. Ealy has moved into a dorm on campus and was present at the football facility on Monday morning. What does that mean? Well, not much on the surface. But Ealy’s draft stock has tumbled over the last couple of months and the sense around the football program is that he will indeed suit up for the Rebels next fall. If that is the case, he will likely do a richer version of the A.J. Brown route and sign with an MLB club while playing college football. Getting paid by a Big League organization while playing SEC Football is not the worst gig.
Who knows, though. A team could very well take a chance on Ealy on Monday evening and he could sign for a good chunk of money. But it appears more likely that he will play college football and sign in a later round with a club.
As is the case in just about every season, Ole Miss will have will have a number of juniors and seniors selected in the draft. When will the first Rebel come off the board and who will it be? Grae Kessinger, Cooper Johnson and Thomas Dillard have the highest stock of any draft eligible player on the roster. There is a chance Kessinger and Johnson hear their named called on Monday evening, and if not, almost certainly early on Tuesday. Both Kessinger and Johnson will likely go in the top five or six rounds, and likely earlier than that.
Dillard is a bit of a wildcard because he doesn’t necessarily have position at the next level. Will he be adequate enough defensively to play outfield professionally or will a team draft him as a catcher? The former seems more likely than the latter, but who knows? That is of what makes Dillard’s stock volatile. There is always a chance a team takes a gamble on Dillard because of his raw power and his plate discipline. Dillard walks a lot, which means he gets on base a lot and in an era in which baseball is so numbers driven, Dillard is an attractive talent. It would be immensely surprising if he is not drafted on day two.
Will Ethridge will also likely be drafted somewhere in the middle or the end of day two. He doesn’t jump off the page velocity-wise at 91-93, but he has a good changeup and a decent slider. The team that drafts Ethridge will likely do so because of his high RPM rate and run on his fastball, and hope that one or both of those secondary becomes stronger. He was drafted in the 35th round by the Mariners out of high school.
The only other player I could really envision seeing going in day two is Cole Zabowski. He’s been the most consistent hitter in Ole Miss’ lineup this season. He’s a good left-handed bat with a large frame and is fairly athletic for his size. Will a team take an early chance on his bat and frame? That will likely determine whether his name is called late on day two or early in day three.
Speaking of day three, the Rebels have a couple of guys that will likely get plucked on the final day. Zack Phillips throws 91 with his left hand and is alive and breathing, so there is a chance a team selects him relatively early on Wednesday and he signs, but I think he is back next year. Austin Miller has had a phenomenal year and possesses good enough stuff to be taken early enough on day three to sign as well. Will a team take a flyer on Parker Caracci? It is certainly possible, but I also think Caracci is back next year. Ryan Olenek will get drafted some time on Wednesday. I suppose there is a chance a team selects him on Tuesday and signs him for way under slot value because of his lack of leverage as a senior. He was drafted in the 17th round a season ago and that feels close to the range where he will fall this year as well.
Here’s where the fun begins. Who among Ole Miss’ 2019 class will get drafted and will it be early enough for them to spurn college baseball for the money? It is important to remember here that if a player is selected in the two days, because teams have a certain amount of slot money for top 10 round picks, the club likely has some sort of range or agreement in place with the player, or at the very least a strong inkling the player will sign. Teams are not going to waste slot money on a player that is not going to sign. Anyway, Let’s take a look.
Hayden Dunhurst – The Pearl River Central product has a good chance to be the team’s starter catcher next season. A left-handed bat with elite defensive skills, Dunhurst has an outside chance to be selected on Monday or early enough on Tuesday to sign.
Connor Walsh — a shortstop from Niceville, Florida, Walsh is a speedster and a good defender. His bat has potential but is his weakest tool currently. The defensive prowess and speed could be enough for a club to take a chance on him on Tuesday, but Ole Miss is anticipating he will show and he has a chance to start somewhere next spring.
John Rhys Plumlee. — A two sport star like Ealy, Plumlee had a more productive senior year at the plate than Ealy did. Plumlee is signed as a duel-threat quarterback in Matt Luke’s 2019 class. It is unlikely any MLB club is willing to gamble on a two-sport guy like Plumlee and he is likely headed to Oxford in some capacity. How he fits in with the baseball program remains to be seen.
Overall, it feels unlikely Ole Miss’ 2019 class will be severely damaged by this week’s draft, but of course these things are often unpredictable and could change quickly. We will have coverage all week at SuperTalk.FM.