Upcoming draft hangs over regional

May, 31, 2012
5/31/12
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On Monday, LSU might be playing to continue its baseball season.

But its most notable player will also be getting his name called on the first day of Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.

Kevin Gausman, the LSU right-hander who will pitch Saturday, is likely to be among the first picks, if not the first pick, when the draft starts Monday.

"Hopefully, we'll all be together Monday night to watch it, but for a positive reason," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Thursday after his team held a brief practice before Friday's start of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.

The way the brackets are set up, if a team goes undefeated through the regional, the tournament will end Sunday. If there are two one-loss teams, there will be a winner-takes-all game Monday night.

Mainieri is hoping for his team, the tournament's No. 1 seed and No. 7 overall national seed, to be the winner in the former scenario. The worse case would be if LSU is eliminated by Monday and the Tigers are watching the draft because there's no baseball left to be played.

"For Kevin's sake, I'd like for him to be able to sit there and watch the show without having to worry about winning a game," Mainieri said.

The timing of the annual June draft is, as usual, terrible for college baseball coaches.

The top 64 teams in the country are, ideally, fully focused on post-season play this weekend. But the draft, scheduled for three days between the regional and super regional (final 16 teams) rounds, makes it harder to stay completely focused on the task at hand.

Imagine if the NFL draft were held just before the New Year's Day bowls, or if the NBA draft took place between the NCAA tournament's opening weekend and the Sweet 16. Add the facts that the baseball draft can affect a recruiting class because high school players are draftable and some underclassmen can be drafted without "declaring" their intentions to leave for the draft.

For a team that recruits elite talent like LSU, those factors create all kinds of draft-related concerns, all right in the middle of the post-season.

"This draft is the worst time of the year for a college baseball coach," Mainieri said. "It's kind of a conflict because you are in a post-season and you are excited about that, but the draft itself creates such turmoil for you."

Mainieri said he doesn't expect Gausman, a draft-eligible sophomore, to come back to school next year. He said he expects senior shortstop Austin Nola, who slipped to the 31st round to the Blue Jays as a junior last summer, to go somewhere in the top five rounds.

"I think if he made it clear that he would sign last year, he probably would have gone in the top four rounds," Mainieri said.

Where it gets dicey for LSU's current roster is with juniors and draft-eligible sophomores. Mainieri threw out five names -- pitchers Nick Goody, Brent Bonvillain and Joey Bourgeois and position players Raph Rhymes and Mason Katz -- who are in positions where they might get drafted high enough to go pro, or they might come back to school.

Mainieri said there are also six signed players who could be affected by the draft. He said high school infielder-pitcher Joey Gallo of Las Vegas could be a first-round pick, utility player Alex Bregman of Albuquerque N.M. could go in the top three rounds, and junior college pitcher Will LaMarche is considered a top 15 round player.

Also, he said Florida catcher Chris Chinea, New Orleans/Rummel HS pitcher Mitch Sewald and Jesmuel Valentin, the son of long-time major leaguer Jose Valentin, could be drafted in a position where they'll sign a pro contract.

Pro clubs have until mid July to sign players they draft. Until then, Mainieri will be recruiting players already signed all over again.

Pitching plans: Mainieri announced Tuesday that Gausman (10-1, 2.84) would not pitch until Saturday and LSU would instead start freshman Aaron Nola (6-4, 3.93), Austin Nola's younger brother, against Louisiana-Monroe and its ace, lefty Randy Zeigler (5-6, 3.65).

Oregon State coach Pat Casey said the Beavers would start one of two left-handers, Ben Wetzler (7-2, 3.39) or Jace Fry (5-3, 2.48) against Belmont left-hander Chase Brookshire (8-3, 2.45) in Friday's other game.

Gary Laney | email

Reporter, GeauxTigerNation

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