Baseball: Coronavirus will impact MLB Draft-eligible Ragin' Cajuns
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 22, 2020
While the NCAA figures out how it is going to handle an extra year of eligibility for spring sport student-athletes whose 2020 seasons were canceled by the nation’s coronavirus crisis, and as Major League Baseball determines whether it is even going to hold its annual player draft in June, UL coach Matt Deggs ponders how some of his top Ragin’ Cajuns might be affected.
As Deggs sees it, pitcher Brandon Young could be a big beneficiary — if, that is, all players get an extra year of eligibility, and if the draft is actually held.
That’s in part because fewer players potentially would be in the pool of those willing to go pro early.
“I think a guy like Brandon Young — if everybody gets a blanket redshirt — has put himself in a really good position all of a sudden,” Deggs said last week, shortly after UL’s season was suspended and shortly before it was canceled altogether.
The same could be said for junior shortstop Hayden Cantrelle, who went into the season as D1Baseball.com’s No. 38 overall draft prospect.
If all players are granted an extra season of eligibility, Deggs suggested, highly rated juniors — like Cantrelle was before the year started — could have more options when it comes time to decide whether to sign or to remain in school.
Cantrelle was struggling at the plate and hitting just .136 through 17 games for the 8-9 Cajuns when the season was canceled.
But the Teurlings Catholic High product also started slow last year, and he wound up hitting .287 before heading off to the Cape Cod League for summer ball, quickly transforming himself into a top prospect.
“If they get another shot at this deal,” Deggs said of the juniors, “now they have even more leverage.”
With leverage comes the ability to negotiate a higher draft position and higher signing bonus.
But players with no more college eligibility inherently lose that leverage.
“So,” Deggs said, “it will be interesting to see what they (the NCAA) come back with.”
The NCAA has suggested relief will indeed be granted for those who lost most of their season to the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, and — with talks ongoing this week — said the full NCAA Division I Council will discuss and vote on that matter and other related issues March 30.
But there is not yet clarity on whether that extra season will be awarded to just seniors, draft-eligible juniors as well or all players.
Nor is there a definitive plan on how to pay for a costly initiative that, according to USA TODAY reporting, could cost NCAA Group of Five programs — like UL is — up to $400,000.
The ultimate decision, NCAA Division I athletic directors have been told by the governing body via email, likely will wind up being made by individual schools and or conferences once a broader framework is established.
Then there is the issue of the MLB Draft itself, currently scheduled to be held June 10-12.
The Associated Press reported last week that MLB is considering skipping it this year, a decision that — if made — could save teams $400 million in signing bonuses alone.
With spring training suspended, Opening Day postponed from Thursday until at least mid-May and the season itself in jeopardy of being shortened or even canceled altogether, MLB organizations are searching high and low for ways to avoid spending.
At least for now, though, the draft still is scheduled, and the possibility of seniors, if not all players, getting an extra season of NCAA eligibility still is on the table.
As Deggs sees it, that’s a big benefit to someone like Young, who with a 1.09 ERA and 3-0 record with four appearances including three starts was off to a super beginning to his 2020 season.
The righty from Lumberton (Texas) High and Howard (Texas) College, in fact, had been moved up in the starting rotation and was scheduled to be UL’s Friday-night starter for the start of Sun Belt Conference play before the Cajuns’ opener against Coastal Carolina was lost to the virus spread.
“If you think about it, he proved himself out to be one of the better pitchers in the country,” Deggs said. “And he was a senior, right? Now, all of a sudden, that makes him more of a junior.”
Young, in other words, could have the option of returning to college for another season if eligibility relief is granted as expected by the NCAA.
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“So if he has a chance to come back, he definitely can do that — or he can go ahead and sign,” Deggs said.
“It creates a little bit of leverage for guys that were able to prove themselves in a quick amount of time.”