College baseball does not possess the allure perhaps other college sports, or minor league baseball does. Just look what March Madness has become. For the college game, March is nothing more than another inconsequential start to the season. Further overshadowing collegiate baseball, Spring Training is in full swing during the first month of their season. This year’s division-I college season is already a month old. Towards the latter part of May, the NCAA holds their post-season tournament and wraps things up with the college World Series. Major League Baseball then conducts their annual June Amateur Draft.
I happen to like how baseball’s draft differs from the others. Baseball’s June Amateur Draft is not as true, comparatively speaking, as the other major sports. I’m actually amused by not being able to gauge a potential Rookie of the Year. Unlike basketball and football, baseball has something called the minor leagues where many golden nuggets turn into fool’s gold right before a general manager’s very eyes.
Baseball is by far the most difficult of the big four sports to predict, much less who the next potential Bryce Harper or Dwight Gooden might be. I only used them as examples because of the way they skyrocketed through their respective systems. Washington’s Bryce Harper, the number one overall pick of the 2010 draft, spent 2011 between long season-A and AA. He then took a quick sip of Gatorade at AAA last year before making his MLB debut. Doc was the fifth overall pick of the 1982 draft, and split the season between rookie ball and the New York-Penn League. In 1983, he spent a full season pitching class-A long season at Lynchburg. As we all know, Dwight went on to win the 1984 National League Rookie of the Year award, while Harper won last season’s award. Harper was a college selection, but Dwight Gooden was drafted out of high school, which is an increasingly popular tactic these days. The Tampa Bay Rays are wholly committed to this particular strategy. I can’t help but appreciate Tampa’s organizational acumen which year-in and year-out, maintains a consistency of quality throughout their minor league operation. It is actually pretty remarkable when teams nail one of their draft picks. The Mets apparently have another keeper in Matt Harvey, who was a seventh overall pick in 2010. The team holds the number eleven overall pick in this year’s draft.
Assuming the Mets and their selections reach agreement on contracts, drafted players, as well as signed amateur free agents, then embark on their professional careers. On average, these kids usually start anywhere between rookie ball to Port St. Lucie for an elevated talent. But generally speaking, a majority of the club’s June drafts usually start their minor league careers by opening the New York-Penn League season in Brooklyn.
Until the Brooklyn Cyclones and the New York-Penn League arrived in my backyard thirteen seasons ago, I didn’t care much for college baseball. But since 2001, I admit to enjoying a new way of spending March. By mid-winter, the industry starts issuing their lists of top college prospects. Baseball America consistently offers perhaps the most widely respected rankings. Otherwise, most lists serve the purpose. I also get the Big Ten Network, and a few FOX College Sports channels on my TV outlet. So when I notice a game with a corresponding player and school on the list, I try to watch a few innings on average, then obviously less once the Mets season opens in April.
This new routine has indeed changed my March baseball habits. Knowing a little something about a player or two, I look forward to the draft now like I never used to. I additionally get to watch quite a few of these players again when they hit the NYPL and visit Brooklyn. And after a decade-plus, I also now see the evolution in action where the list of familiar names who actually make it to the big leagues dwindles down to a very select few. It’s been a fun twelve years observing this. The overriding lesson – baseball is enjoyable at any level, but such a hard game to crack.
If you’re not a self-proclaimed expert, but want to gain more insight or knowledge, April and most of May remain in the NCAA regular season. Read this list of top 10 college prospects, and check out this list of 100 college prospects. Watch a game here and there, and before you know it, find yourself engaged in polite debate regarding this year’s draft.