Mac Marshall to play for LSU after Astros fall short

Talented left-handed pitcher Mac Marshall will play at LSU.

The Tigers can thank Brady Aiken for that.

The Major League Baseball signing deadline passed Friday without Marshall signing with the Houston Astros, a huge coup for an LSU program that needs a power weekend arm.

The Astros failed to sign the draft’s No. 1 pick, Aiken, losing bonus money Houston likely would have used to woo Marshall away from Baton Rouge. Aiken became just the third No. 1 pick not to sign with a team and the first since 1983.

Aiken reportedly turned down $5 million. If he had accepted, the Astros had plenty of leftover bonus money to meet Marshall’s asking price of $1.5 million.

Marshall, a Georgia native rated as one of the top 50 prospects nationally, is the headliner of LSU’s star-studded 2014 signing class.

He expected an offer from Houston on Friday, coach Paul Mainieri said. The coach called the day “stressful” and bittersweet.

“Kids have a dream and goal to play professional baseball,” Mainieri said.

“He’s got to deal with it all emotionally. You’re happy for the program, for the team. You’re disappointed for him if he’s disappointed in the happenings of the day. Strange mix of emotions.”

On his Twitter account Friday night, Marshall posted, “Omaha 2015 here we go!”

Marshall’s situation tied directly into that of Aiken.

The heart-pounding moments ended at 4 p.m. Friday when news broke that Aiken and the Astros hadn’t reached a deal. The team lost nearly $8 million in signing money that came with the first-round selection.

It left them nothing to fling at Marshall and sealed a surprising result: LSU kept 11 of the 12-member freshman signing class — something Mainieri said he would not have believed before the draft.

Selected in the third round, first baseman Bobby Bradley, of Gulfport, Mississippi, signed with the Cleveland Indians a month ago. He’s the only one not coming to Alex Box Stadium.

Many of the six pitchers in the class are power arms expected to help a program that faced serious depth issues last season. Those include Jake Latz, a hard-throwing lefty from Illinois who turned down nearly $1 million on draft week in early June.

“I knew this class was going to be special,” Mainieri said. “We knew we had a lot of high risk draft players. I’m proud and happy of the group. They’re dynamic and very influential. Special class.”

Marshall, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, is expected to challenge for a weekend starting spot on a staff that lost its No. 1 hurler, Aaron Nola, and its closer, Joe Broussard.

His disappointment in not getting an offer Friday will fade, Mainieri said.

“He expected to have an offer today,” Mainieri said. “But no offer ever came because of the domino effect because of Brady Aiken, so the opportunity for Mac never became real.

“Believe me, he loves LSU. On the other hand, he wanted to play pro baseball. He thought that opportunity would present itself.”

Marshall, projected to be one of the top 50 prospects, turned down about $1 million he was offered during the draft, Mainieri said. Thus, he slipped in the draft to the 21st round. His asking price was expected to be $1.5 million, a source said.

Marshall enrolled in LSU in early June and has been working out with his Tigers teammates. He had been adamant over the past few weeks that he was committed to playing college baseball at LSU.

Things turned when the Astros uncovered an elbow injury during a physical with Aiken. The two had originally agreed on a contract worth about $6.5 million, but Houston dropped the offer by more than half before offering, reportedly, $5 million to him Friday.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU baseball, follow our Line Drives blog.