The Major League Baseball Annual Draft begins Thursday and continues through Saturday with 40 rounds scheduled, and several area athletes–at both the high school and collegiate levels–have been mentioned as potential draftees, a few being listed as “highly-touted.”
Players out of high school and players who have completed their junior year in college are eligible for the draft with all the draft action available for viewing on the MLB Network.
Among the names mentioned from this area are three of this past season’s top high school players–Ashley’s Shane Shepard. New Hanover’s Tyree Johnson, and Topsail’s Trent Hansley–and while each have made a commitment to attend college next year.
Ashley’s Shane Shepard has signed his National Letter of Intent to attend North Carolina State University on a baseball scholarship, joining brother Chance, who recently completed his sophomore year on the Wolfpack baseball team.
But Shane has received some serious interest from area scouts from the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, and he has attended “tryout” camps for both teams.
Shane has a pre-determined spot in the draft where he would prefer to go but indicated he would be open to signing if he were drafted lower depending on the financial package.
“I’ve been talking to area scouts from the Braves and Nationals,” Shepard said. “They can’t really tell you a round but they do ask what your bottom line (round-wise) is, they can’t make assumptions.
“If I get drafted in the top 10 rounds I will definitely go. I would leave the day after graduation for a rookie league in Florida at the team’s spring-training complex. I think, even if it’s a lower round, I would go if the dollars were right. Right now it’s all speculation until I get a telephone call.”
Several years ago Dixon High school’s Rookie Davis – who had verbally committed to East Carolina University as a sophomore – was drafted by the New York Yankees. One of the stipulations in his contract, which included a nice signing bonus and the contract, was they would pay for his college education once his professional baseball career came to a close. Shepard said that would be an added incentive to go pro.
“I certainly would like to eventually attend college and if something like that was included in a deal it would be an added incentive,” Shepard said. “I have heard there is an $80,000 amount set aside for education but you have to take advantage of it within two years of the end of your career.”
Ashley baseball Coach Brian Stewart said he is excited for Shane at this time, and excited that an Ashley player may be playing professional baseball soon. Stewart feels Shane has the ability to make it at that level.
“Shane is the best pure hitter we’ve had here at Ashley, he can hit for power or for extra bases, and when he is completely focused at the plate he is a really tough out,” Stewart said. “He works at it (hitting) and he wants to play Major League Baseball and he has the intangibles necessary to get there.
“Chase had more pure power and, when his time comes, I think he can play at that level, too. As for Shane, I think it’s going to happen for him because I’ve seen his progression from his sophomore year to his senior year. He has grown (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) and he looks like a Major League player.”
Shane had a .425 batting average this past season, knocking in 35 runs and hitting three home runs while walking 30 times.
New Hanover pitcher Tyree Johnson had earned a full baseball scholarship to Spartanburg Methodist University, but he also is high on some teams’ draft lists, having heard specifically from area scouts of the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers.
But Johnson appears to have his heart set on the college experience and basically said it would take a mind-blowing offer for him to go in the professional direction.
Johnson was 9-2 on the bump for the Wildcats last season, leading them to the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference regular-season title and deep into the NCHSAA 4A state playoffs. Johnson threw 73 innings, giving up 26 hits and 28 runs (9 earned runs) while walking 41 and striking out 99. His WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was 0.92 and his ERA (earned-run-average) was 0.86.
According to New Hanover Assistant Coach Erik Bron, Tyree lost 2-0 to Hoggard in a game where both runs were unearned and a 5-1 loss to Topsail in which four of the runs were unearned, indicating Tyree’s record, “Was a little misleading when it comes to just how dominant he was.”
“I guess [going pro] depends on where I am drafted and how much the offer is,” Johnson said. “The way I look at it is I can go to Spartanburg Methodist for a few years, work on my game, and possibly get drafted higher that I will now out of high school.
“It would add to the consideration if they added some sort of education clause to the contract offer but right now my heart is set on going to college. There is no set dollar amount or draft position, just a lot to consider. I guess I’ll just wait and see what happens.”
New Hanover baseball Coach Richard Foy said it is entirely up to Tyree but that the college experience might be of more benefit to him.
“Tyree has never been a full-time baseball player. He has split his time between basketball and baseball with basketball getting the majority of his time until this past summer when he pitched and played for Post 10,” Foy said. “Right now, because he is only 17 (Tyree turns 18 in August), we don’t really know if his body has fully developed, he could grow.
“If he is bound-and-determined to play pro ball I personally think he should go for it but if he wants to go to college first he should go to school. There is no telling which one is correct; it’s totally up to him and how he feels about it.”
Topsail senior Trent Hansley, who has led his team into the NCHSAA 3A state-championship series in Mudcat Stadium in Zebulon, verbally committed – and recently signed his Letter of Intent – to attend East Carolina University. Hansley said it almost amounts to six of one and a half-dozen of the other.
“I don’t know, I guess if it’s a life-changing opportunity to where I would be able to totally support myself without going to college I would consider it,” Hansley said. “If there was a college fund and I knew I could pursue my (professional baseball) dream and still have college to fall back on when my career is done it would probably go a long way to altering my decision.
“To be honest it doesn’t matter what round if it happens. I just want to know how I rank against other people and the dollar sign. It would be a honor to be drafted out of high school for sure.
“I wouldn’t go for sandwich meat but I’m not looking for $10 million. It would have to be a reasonable place in-between. My mom (Robin) and dad (Stan) have said it is ultimately up to me, but I would have to able, again, to support myself and not depend on them for anything. Whatever I choose to do they will back me 100 percent, just like they have always done.”
Several UNC-Wilmington players have also been mentioned as draft possibilities, at the top of the list are pitchers Kelly Secrest–a graduated senior–and junior Jordan Ramsey.
Other potential Seahawk draft possibilities are senior left-handed pitcher Mat Batts, and senior left-handed pitcher Christian McDonald. Duke senior third-baseman Jordan Betts (New Hanover High School) is also on the list.
UNCW baseball sports information director Tom Riordon said the players have already left and it was the university’s policy not to release their cell phone numbers so they were unavailable to interview for this story.