Before his future destination is broadcast from a New Jersey television studio, LSU pitcher Ryan Eades will probably hear from scouts, an advisor and his parents — any of whom might tell him about the Major League Baseball team that makes him a first-round draft pick.
The Slidell native is projected to be a first-or second-round selection in the draft, which begins Thursday. But he probably won’t be able to focus solely on things like contracts and assignments. There’s still the small matter of preparing for a weekend start this weekend’s super regional against Oklahoma.
So the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Northshore graduate is taking a reasonable approach: A little bit of ignorance might be bliss.
“The scouts will be able to talk to an adviser, but I’m not all up in that,” Eades said. “I’m just going with the flow. Whatever happens, happens. And I don’t what the hell is going to happen.”
He might not wait long. ESPN draft analyst Keith Law said he thinks Eades might land somewhere in the final 10 picks of the first round, which starts at 6 p.m. Thursday on the MLB Network.
“Eades’ stuff has been a little bit up and down, which pushes him down the draft boards,” Law said. “He will still sit 91-94 (mph), showing very good feel and particularly solid command of the fastball.”
If LSU coach Paul Mainieri had his way, the rest of his draft-eligible roster would treat the draft as a mild nuisance ahead of preparing for the Sooners. While Eades and second baseman JaCoby Jones could learn their fates Thursday, their teammates face a potential distraction.
On Friday, rounds 3-10 take place over a six-hour span that starts at noon, leading to an overlap ahead of LSU’s usual pregame routine before facing OU in the opening game in a best-of-three series.
“We’ll have guys out there taking infield and have to call them off to tell them there’s a scout calling,” Mainieri said. “It’s a crazy thing.”
For his part, Jones, a 6-3, 200-pound junior, is ambivalent: He’s interested in where he lands, but also focused on OU ace Jonathan Gray, who might end up going No. 1 overall to the Houston Astros.
“For some guys, it can be a distraction,” Jones said. “It’s their decision to pick me, so I have no say-so.”
For all of Jones’ physical tools, Law envisions a swing overhaul in his future.
“He plays a very solid second base and could probably handle third, but if he doesn’t hit, nothing else matters,” Law wrote in a scouting report.
After Eades and Jones, Baseball America ranks first baseman Mason Katz No. 231 out of its top 500 draft prospects, followed by junior relief pitcher Nick Rumbelow (No. 424) and junior catcher Ty Ross (No. 474), along with left fielder Raph Rhymes.
Pleased as he his for his players, Mainieri thinks the draft should happen after the College World Series winds down, perhaps holding off until July 1.
“This is an important day in these kids’ lives,” Mainieri said. “Imagine you’ve dreamed your whole life of playing professional baseball and this was the day that dream was going to come true. Yet you’ve got the most important baseball game of your life on that same day. It’s kind of a full plate for everybody.”
Major League Baseball tweaked some aspects of its draft process in its most recent collective bargaining agreement that provides one benefit to college programs. Instead of setting the deadline to sign contracts in mid-August — around the first day of most fall semesters — the deadline now falls the first Sunday after the All-Star Game, landing on July 12 this season.
The draft might also cannibalize part of LSU’s recruiting class — especially Terrebonne outfielder Justin Williams, who’s ranked by Baseball America as the No. 89 propsect in the draft.
“I’m not really counting on him coming to school,” Mainieri said. “I think he’s going to get selected in a position where he’ll be encouraged to take the opportunity.”
David Palladino, a sophomore right-hander from Howard (Texas) Junior College, is 6-foot-8 and reaches the mid-90s with his fastball, but is a potential pick in the top 10 rounds.
“He would be a very formidable option to enter into our rotation next season,” Mainieri said. “He’s had a really good year, and I just don’t know what’s going to happen there.”
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