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Virginia baseball bracing for MLB Draft impact on 2021 recruiting class

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Photo courtesy UVA Athletics.

Recruiting in college baseball isn’t anything at all like it is in college basketball, college football, for starters, because basketball and football coaches don’t also have to compete with the pros.

“We’ll find out about the incoming recruits and what our team’s going to look like next year after this draft passes in mid-July,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said, assessing his Class of 2021, which had as its centerpiece Lewisberry, Pa., outfielder Benny Montgomery, who is projected by Baseball America to be the first high-school outfielder to go in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft, which begins on July 11.

Assuming Montgomery goes in the first round, he almost certainly won’t be matriculating at UVA, given the money involved. Baseball America has Montgomery currently going 23rd overall, which puts him in line for a $2.9 million signing bonus.

That’s roughly 2.9 million reasons you wouldn’t expect to see him in a Virginia uniform right there.

“You know, when Benny committed to us his freshman year in high school, nobody knew, Virginia baseball didn’t know, professional baseball didn’t know, nobody knew that Benny Montgomery would develop into a first-round pick, because it’s so early, you just don’t know how it’s going to end up panning out for you,” O’Connor said.

Two other Class of 2021 recruits – Red Bank, N.J., righthanded pitcher Shane Panzini (240) and Rochester, N.Y., shortstop/pitcher Casey Saucke II (477) – currently rank among Baseball America’s Top 500 prospects.

That would have Panzini going in the eighth round, and Saucke somewhere in the mid-teens – eighth-round bonus money falls between $160,000 and $190,000, and anything after the 10th round is going to land you $100,000 or less, so unless they move up, you’d probably expect both to be on their way to Charlottesville this summer.

I say that, and then, there’s the case of Max Kranick, a righthander out of Scranton, Pa., who committed to UVA for its Class of 2016, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, was able to wrangle a $300,000 signing bonus out of the Pirates – $200,000 above the allotment for a post-10th round pick – and bypassed UVA for MiLB.

O’Connor spoke with us on the “Jerry Ratcliffe Show” podcast a couple of weeks ago on a day that happened to be the one on which Kranick made his MLB debut with the Pirates. He pitched five perfect innings in his debut against the St. Louis Cardinals before being lifted after a lengthy rain delay.

“I think we lost three recruits that didn’t come here that year,” O’Connor said. “We didn’t anticipate that in the recruiting process, that he would be selected and go into the professional baseball. What happens, unfortunately, is if you lose too many of them in a year, well, that impacts your team the next two or three years. That happened to us a little bit a few years ago, and it’s tough to overcome.”

Which is to say, you can outrecruit yourself, if that makes sense.

Nothing you can do about it, because you’re supposed to recruit the best talent, right?

“You just have to do the best you can to recover if you do lose them,” O’Connor said. “It’s good that you’re getting that level of a recruit. But you know, if it doesn’t pan out for you, they actually don’t wear your uniform, this is of no benefit to you.”

Story by Chris Graham

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