The season may be over for the Ohio State baseball team, but there is still plenty of baseball left ahead for several of the key players in the team’s lineup.
With the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft set to begin on June 9, players like junior left fielder Ronnie Dawson and junior center fielder Troy Montgomery should be prepared to hear their names called by teams in the first 10 rounds of the 40-round draft.
Entering the season, both outfielders were considered to be top college baseball prospects. According to Baseball America, Dawson was the fourth best prospect in the Big Ten, and Montgomery was the sixth best.
The top prospect among all draft-eligible OSU players is Dawson. The junior outfielder finished the season with a slash line of .331/.419/.611 with 13 home runs, 21 stolen bases in 25 attempts and 37 walks to only 43 strikeouts. He is currently ranked as the 53rd best prospect according to Baseball America and 121st on MLB.com. OSU coach Greg Beals reflected on how much the outfielder has grown since joining the team and how much devotion he puts into his improvement.
“Ronnie is very cerebral about his hitting approach,” Beals said. “He takes a lot of swings, maybe more than anyone else on the team in preparation. The biggest thing is how he has matured mentally. He’s a high-energy guy. When he first came here, it was all a rollercoaster ride. He’d get all jacked up then have a couple bat at-bats. It was up and down.”
Beals said he feels Dawson has found a way to turn raw abilities into true baseball talent and results.
“It can simply be said that Ronnie came in here as an athlete,” Beals said. “He’s now a baseball player with great athletic ability, a skilled baseball player.”
Dawson’s development has moved him into consideration as one of the better college bats in the draft. Jim Callis, executive editor of Baseball America and MLB.com draft and prospect expert, said he looks at Dawson as a high-upside bat who is liable to go in the second or third round of the draft.
“I think he’s got one of the best power-speed combinations in the draft, especially on the college side,” Callis said. “He’s got some of the best raw power … I don’t think he’s quite a plus runner on the bases, but he’s above average in both categories, and there aren’t too many players in the draft who are like that.”
Another player with plenty of draft hype is Montgomery. The centerfielder finished the season with a .297/.423/.466 slash line with eight home runs. He also racked up 21 stolen bases in 28 attempts and demonstrated promising plate discipline, walking 50 times (second best in the Big Ten) and striking out only 41 times. Callis said he views Montgomery as a prospect very likely to go early in the draft, even if not as high as Dawson.
“He’s a plus runner, plus centerfielder, he’s got a plus arm too,” Callis said. “You wish he was more consistent with the bat. There aren’t going to be too many players in this draft who give three plus tools. Now granted his hitting tools are going to be viewed as the most important and he’s inconsistent, but he’s a pretty athletic kid and I could see him realistically going (in the) six to 10 (rounds) … I think he will definitely go on the second day of the draft.”
While Montgomery and Dawson are the most hyped draft prospects from OSU, that does not mean other players will not be taken in the draft. Seniors like third baseman Nick Sergakis turned in a great season and could find himself taken later in the draft. As Callis discussed, there is often some value in drafting seniors later in the draft.
“The way the draft is … you only have so much you can spend in the first 10 rounds,” Callis said. “Sometimes teams will take seniors in the eighth round and sign them for $1,000 so they can save bonus money in the pool to pay somebody up in the draft with a higher bonus demand.”
And Sergakis could certainly be viewed as a solid late draft pick for most teams. Before the season, Baseball America rated Sergakis as the Best Defensive Third Baseman in the Big Ten conference. The Buckeyes co-captain finished the year with the second highest on-base percentage in the Big Ten and seventh in total hits.
The draft begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday and will be aired on the MLB Network.