PROVO — BYU coach Mike Littlewood and his staff found them, recruited them and signed them. Now they will find out if they can keep them.
Three of BYU baseball’s prized recruits could be drafted on Friday or Saturday and even though they signed with BYU, an opportunity to play in the minor leagues and a hefty signing bonus may be too tempting to pass up.
Thursday the annual Major League Baseball draft got underway with the first and second rounds. It will continue with rounds 3-10 and will conclude on Saturday with rounds 11-40.
Two of the three prospects the Cougars could lose are catchers. Pleasant Grove’s Payton Henry, the Daily Herald’s Valley Player of the Year in 2015 and David Clawson, who Littlewood said was the No. 1 defensive catcher in Southern California, are figured to be prospects that could be taken on Friday as is Pete Nielsen, a shortstop from Madison High School in Virginia.
“I just hope they make the right decision. I always tell guys that if they sign (with an MLB team) they get life-changing money, something that will take care of them for the next 7-10 years,” Littlewood said. “It’s tough for a high school player to be away from their family for eight months and it’s a difficult transition for kids just coming out of high school.”
Littlewood would know. His son Marcus was a second-round pick (2010) by the Seattle Mariners. Marcus chose to take the signing bonus that was over $1 million and is now playing at the Double A level.
BYU has two current players who are projected to be drafted on Friday. Brennon Lund, a junior outfielder, and junior pitcher Michael Rucker, put up numbers that have caught the attention of Major League scouts.
Lund led BYU in hitting with a .387 average. He had 19 doubles, five triples, two home runs and 34 RBI. He stole 15 bases and was caught just twice. Littlewood expects him to be taken between the third and fifth rounds.
Rucker was the ace of BYU’s staff this year. He was 11-1 with a 2.73 ERA, He pitched in 102 innings and gave up just 80 hits. He is expected to be drafted somewhere between the third and seventh rounds.
Bronson Larsen, a junior catcher and Connor Williams, a sophomore outfielder, could also be drafted but if they are it will likely be in the later rounds.
Utah Valley University has three seniors who could be later round selections. Pitcher Danny Beddes and infielders Greyson Bogden and Mark Kruger are the Wolverines that have draft potential.