The LSU baseball team is working this weekend to try to extend its season, and beginning Monday several current and potential Tigers will find out what the future might hold for them.
The Major League Baseball draft begins with the first 60 picks Monday night, and several LSU players and recruits will be selected over the course of the three-day event.
Tigers right-hander Kevin Gausman is projected to be a high first-round pick, perhaps in the top five. After that, things are far less certain.
“I feel 100 percent confident that Kevin’s name will be called on Monday night,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I’m hoping we’re all together on Monday night watching it for a positive reason. For Kevin’s sake, I’d like him to be able to sit there and watch the show instead of being worried about winning a game to advance.”
The ideal scenario for the Tigers would be to win the Baton Rouge Regional on Sunday and be free to watch the draft Monday night, but if they find themselves in a winner-take-all finale, it would be Monday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Mainieri said he thinks two of his seniors — shortstop Aaron Nola and third baseman Tyler Hanover — “will get a chance professionally. Both were drafted last year — Nola in the 31st round by the Blue Jays and Hanover in the 40th round by the Yankees.
It’s a foregone conclusion that Gausman will sign, given how high he is going to be selected. He said he has tried not to pay much attention to draft speculation as he focused on the Tigers’ season, though it’s not completely avoidable because of media speculation and others asking him about it.
“Obviously, it’s in the back of your mind,” he said. “With the media these days, it’s pretty crazy. Everybody wants to talk about it, but I just put it to the back of mind and focus on winning games, and the rest will take care of itself.”
The Houston Astros have the first pick, followed by the Minnesota Twins, the Seattle Mariners, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals.
“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” Gausman said. “Most teams in the top five don’t know who they’re going to pick yet. I’m pretty sure they’re going to sit down in a room over the weekend and debate over who to pick, but it all depends on who the first pick is. Then, the other teams will go from there and figure out who their guy is going to be.”
Gausman, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Dodgers coming out of high school, is eligible as a sophomore because he’s 21 years old. Once players enroll in a four-year college, they must complete three years before being eligible for the draft, unless they turn 21 before that.
Mainieri expects several juniors — outfielder Raph Rhymes (picked in the 40th round by the Pirates last season), first baseman/outfielder Mason Katz and pitchers Nick Goody, Joey Bourgeois and Brent Bonvillain — to get selected some time during the week.
“It’s just a question of whether they’ll be drafted good enough to give up their senior year,” Mainieri said.
LSU also has to wait to see if any recruits choose to give up their college careers entirely to turn pro.
High-school signees Mainieri and his staff will keep an eye on this week include Las Vegas Bishop Gorman right-hander/third baseman Joey Gallo, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy second baseman Jesmuel Valentin, Albuquerque (N.M.) Academy second baseman Alex Bregman, Chabot (Calif.) Junior College right-hander Will LaMarche, Miami Gulliver Prep catcher Chris Chinea and Rummel right-hander Mitch Sewald.
Baseball America lists Gallo as the No. 33 prospect in the draft and projects him to go to the Tampa Bay Rays with the 25th pick.
In the Perfect Game All-American Classic last summer, Gallo blasted a 442-foot home run at PETCO Park in San Diego, helping him earn the game’s MVP award.
“I think Joey really wants to go to LSU, but he may not be able to,” Mainieri said. “He might just get offered so much money he can’t turn it down.”
The son of former big-leaguer Jose Valentin, Jesmuel Valentin is listed by Baseball America as the draft’s No. 71 prospect.
Bregman led the USA Baseball 18U National team to a gold medal in the fall, but suffered a broken middle finger on his right hand while fielding grounders before the fifth game of his high school season. Nonetheless, Baseball America ranks him the No. 121 prospect in the draft.
The signing deadline has been moved up from Aug. 13 to July 13 this year, allowing college coaches to know who will be coming back and arriving — and who won’t — a month earlier.
“It’s a little easier to deal with for the coaches,” Mainieri said.
Scott Hotard contributed
to this report.