Taking a look at potential Tech draftees

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Former Georgia Tech outfielder Matt Gonzalez finished his career as the NCAA’s active leader in base hits. (GT Athletics/Danny Karnik)

Georgia Tech figures to have multiple players selected in the major league baseball draft, which continues Friday with rounds 3-10 after the completion of the first two rounds Thursday night. The draft will conclude with rounds 11-40 Saturday.

Tech almost certainly lost one member of its signing class, as outfielder Taylor Trammell from Mt. Paran Christian in Cobb County was taken 35th overall by Cincinnati. A year ago, the slotted value for the signing bonus for the No. 35 pick was $1.756 million.

(Interestingly, the player taken 35th last year turned it down. Louisville pitcher Kyle Funkhouser returned for his senior year, believing he could improve his draft standing. He turned out to have a similar season, was not drafted in the first two rounds and now doesn’t have the bargaining leverage of being able to return to school.)

Five Tech players are rated in the top 500 of Baseball America’s draft prospect list.

Shortstop Connor Justus, No. 122

Outfielder Kel Johnson, No. 123

Pitcher Brandon Gold, No. 341

Outfielder Matt Gonzalez, No. 359.

Pitcher Matthew Gorst, No. 462

 

Justus and Gold, both juniors, have likely played their last for the Yellow Jackets. Gonzalez, a senior, obviously has, as well. Justus deserves credit for making a huge leap this year. A sometimes spectacular shortstop, Justus improved his batting average from .249 as a sophomore to .324 this season, and his on-base percentage from .349 to .442, 13th in the ACC.

Gold dropped his ERA from his sophomore year to 3.26 to 2.48, 11th in the ACC.

Gonzalez finished his career strongly, rebounding from a down junior season (.285 batting average after hitting .314 as a sophomore) to hit .378 (fifth in the ACC) with 11 home runs and a .577 slugging percentage.

“He’s a tremendous player,” Tech coach Danny Hall said following the Jackets’ win over Georgia at Turner Field, where Gonzalez hit the game-winning home run in the 10th inning. “Honestly, I feel like he’s a guy that, he’ll play his way into playing in the big leagues because he can play a lot of positions, he likes to play, he likes to work at baseball and he’s a great competitor.”

Johnson is an interesting case. With four-year college players, they typically are eligible for the draft after their third season. However, anyone who turns 21 within 45 days of the draft is also eligible, and Johnson qualifies.

Johnson put up impressive numbers as a sophomore – .319 batting average, 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 61 games. Last year’s 123rd pick received a signing bonus of $456,800. My understanding, though, is that Johnson is intending to stay for at least another season, and that intention could well affect if and when he gets selected.

Gorst had a phenomenal season, setting the school record for ERA at 0.55. Where he gets selected, perhaps not surprisingly, will likely dictate his decision. Hall compared him to Buck Farmer, the former Tech pitcher now with Detroit. Following his junior season, Farmer was drafted in the 15th round of the 2012 draft (the player selected after him was a high-school pitcher from Alabama named Jameis Winston), but decided to stay for his senior season. He was taken in the fifth round after his senior year and he signed for $225,000, almost certainly more than double what he would have received a year earlier.

I imagine Gorst is likely also someone who could help himself with a strong senior season that would cost him his leverage but also give him more time to raise his draft stock.

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