- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- David Perno was wearing a post-draft smile Thursday morning -- because 14 members of his nationally touted signing class are already enrolled at Georgia and he expects to keep them.
Perno’s Bulldogs had five signees drafted this week in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, led by second overall pick Byron Buxton and second-round selections Duane Underwood and Joe DeCarlo. But thanks to new draft rules that penalize teams when they can’t sign their picks, high school prospects like Georgia signees Kyle Carter, David Gonzalez, Sean McLaughlin and J.T. Phillips didn’t go as early as they would have in previous drafts -- or in Carter and Phillips’ case, they didn’t get drafted at all -- so they will instead play college ball.
“A guy like Kyle Carter, who’s potentially a second- or third-round pick, they couldn’t sign him so they don’t even draft him,” Perno said. “J.T. Phillips, they didn’t feel like they could sign him and so he doesn’t even get drafted. That’s the unfortunate thing about it.
“And you feel like Sean McLaughlin and David Gonzalez going in the 38th and 40th round, they’re already here in summer school, so you don’t see any complications in something turning with those events because they’re limited on what they can give them at this point.”
Perno was as intrigued as anyone during Tuesday’s middle rounds, when college players continued to fly off the board while relatively few high schoolers’ names were called. Pro clubs are clearly feeling their way through the new draft guidelines -- which require teams to sign picks by July 13, set a specific dollar amount of signing bonus money clubs are allowed to offer their picks in Rounds 1-10 and cap signing bonuses at $100,000 after Round 10 -- in year one of the new rules.
“It’s still a work in progress and I think teams will continue to make adjustments,” Perno said. “And I think they’ll continue to make adjustments in that area. I don’t know what they’ll be, but we were extremely fortunate. Obviously the deadline is July 13, but at the same time I think we’re in great shape and it without question has the potential to be the best class that ever gets to campus.”
The new class will join a group of upperclassmen who will remain largely intact. Pitcher Alex Wood went to the Atlanta Braves in the second round and intends to turn pro, but shortstop Kyle Farmer was Georgia’s only draft-eligible junior selected and he already announced his intention to return for his senior year.
Again, that’s an unusual experience for Perno, whose roster has been decimated through the years by early departures and signees accepting minor league deals.
“Going into it, we knew there were three, four guys that were out -- Buxton, DeCarlo, Underwood and Wood,” Perno said. “There were probably six others, including Kyle [Carter], that could go either way. It looks like right now every one of them are coming to school, or in Kyle [Farmer’s] case, coming back. It’s never been like that. That’s a first.”
There will be changes within the coaching staff as well, as Perno announced a staff reorganization on Thursday.
Veteran assistant Jason Eller will become the team’s pitching coach after sharing those responsibilities with Perno for the last two seasons. He will focus on developing the starting pitchers, while he and Perno will both work with the bullpen staff.
Allen Osborne adds the recruiting coordinator title to his duties, having served as hitting instructor and third base coach and assisted with camps and recruiting in the past.
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