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UCLA Baseball: Early Look at 2015, Part 2- The Recruiting Class of 2015, and the MLB Draft

We continue our early look at the 2015 baseball season. Part 1 covered the returning players, and the potential hits from the MLB draft from the current juniors and redshirt sophomores. Today, in part 2, we look at how well the pipeline can be filled from next year's recruiting class. The MLB draft will have a huge impact on how many potential Bruin baseball players come to Westwood.

Gerrit Cole turned down 1st round money to come to UCLA. Can history repeat itself?
Gerrit Cole turned down 1st round money to come to UCLA. Can history repeat itself?

In part 1 of our 2015 baseball preview (link here), we looked at the returning players and the potential impact of the draft on the current roster of juniors and redshirt sophomores. The other uncertainty every season is the impact of the draft on the incoming freshman class. Whencollege baseball coaches are building a recruiting class, they need to factor in (through discussions with family) how much money it would take to sway a prospect to turn pro, and they then need to predict how high a prospect would go in the draft. To make the process even more difficult, the college coaches need to go through these calculations in the fall of 12th grade. The pros get to wait until June before they make their final decision.

The 2015 MLB draft begins later today with the first two rounds. Rounds 3-10 are on Friday, and then the cattle drive begins in earnest on Saturday, with rounds 11-40. As we mentioned in part 1 of our preview, most of the holes in the lineup should be able to be filled with existing starters, starters returning from injuries, and other squad members who could step up with more playing time. That is fortunate, because the incoming high school class will most likely not contribute as much thanks to the upcoming draft, based on recent history.

Here are the recent draft results for incoming classes at UCLA-

In 2008, the Bruins had seven announced recruits from the fall of 2007. Of these seven, four were selected in the first five rounds of the draft. The other three were not drafted. Of the four draftees, Gerrit Cole turned down 1st round bonus money from the Yankees to come to UCLA. His decision was richly rewarded, as he received a college education, was part of UCLA's first team to get to the championship series in Omaha, was the first overall selection in the 2011 draft, and now starts for the Pirates.

The other three all turned pro out of high school. Infielder Cutter Dykstra was picked in the 2nd round by the Brewers, and is currently playing AA ball in the Nationals' organization. Tyler Chatwood was recruited as a position player, but after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft by the Angels, he has become a pitcher at the major league level with the Rockies. Outfielder Clark Murphy was picked in the 5th round by Texas. He is currently playing independent ball. Hindsight is 20-20, but college would have been the better route for Murphy. Bottom line- UCLA lost three of the seven recruits to the draft, all picked in the 5th round or better. But the remaining recruits, particularly Gerrit Cole, along with early enrollee Trevor Bauer, became the core of the first UCLA team to make a deep run in Omaha and set the stage for future success.

In 2009, the Bruins had nine announced recruits from the fall of 2008. Of these nine, three were selected in the first four rounds of the draft. Three more were drafted in rounds 33 or worse. The other three were undrafted. All three tail end draftees improved their draft prospects dramatically by coming to UCLA. Jeff Gelalich was picked in the 1st round of the 2012 draft, Scott Griggs was picked in the 8th round of the 2012 draft, and Cody Keefer was picked in the 15th round of the 2012 draft. All are currently in A ball, as they start the climb up the minor league ladder.

All three recruits who were drafted early turned pro (no Gerrit Cole's in the class). Outfielder Trayce Thompson was picked in the 2nd round by the White Sox and is currently in AA ball (notice he is only one or two rungs up the ladder compared to the players who came to UCLA, but he does have his signing bonus). Catcher Max Stassi was picked in the 4th round by the A's, and made his major league debut in 2013 with the Astros. Stassi is currently in AAA, but so far so good. Infielder David Nick was picked in the 4th round by Arizona, and is currently in advanced A ball with the Braves' organization. Bottom line- UCLA lost three of the nine recruits to the draft, all picked in the 4th round or better.

In 2010, the Bruins had eight announced recruits from the fall of 2009. None of these recruits were drafted better than the 6th round, and all came to UCLA. This group were core members of the national championship team, including Adam Plutko (drafted in the 6th round), Nick Vander Tuig (drafted in the 39th round), Pat Valaika (undrafted), NIck Weiss (drafted in the 10th round), Brenton Allen (drafted in the 9th round), Pat Gallagher (undrafted) and Kevin Williams (drafted in the 40th round).

Since 2010, Bruin recruiting classes have been hit hard by the MLB draft. In 2011, UCLA had a recruiting class with eight members. Three of these eight were drafted in the first two rounds, and they all turned pro (pitcher Joe Ross, 25th selection overall by the Padres, position player Tyler Goeddel, the 41st selection overall by Tampa Bay, and 2nd round catcher Tyler Hedges). The only other player from this class who was drafted was Kevin Kramer, in the 25th round, and he came to UCLA.

The 2012 recruiting class had nine members. Three of this class were drafted in the 7th round or better, and they all turned pro. In addition, another member of the class went undrafted but then turned pro after receiving a $400K signing bonus as an undrafted free agent. So four of the nine recruits never made it to campus. The four include pitcher Lucas Giolito (taken as the 16th selection overall by Washington), infielder Daniel Robertson (taken as the 34th selection overall by the A's), pitcher Max Fried (taken in the 7th round by the Padres) and undrafted pitcher Felipe Perez. This reduced the incoming class to five players, same as 2011.

Last year, the incoming recruiting class had 10 members. Of this class, five players were selected in the 11th round or better, and they all turned pro. Notice how the bar for turning pro keeps turning more against the Bruins. Gerrit Cole came to UCLA as a 1st round draft choice. Adam Plutko came to UCLA as a 6th round draft choice. Brenton Allen came to UCLA as a 9th round draft choice. Nick Weiss came to UCLA as a 10th round draft choice.

In last summer's draft, infielder Gosuke Katoh (2nd round), infielder Dominic Nunez (6th round), pitcher Dustin Driver (7th round), pitcher Steven Farinaro (11th round) and pitcher Jonah Wesely (11th round) all were drafted by the 11th round and all took the money. I honestly think the pitchers in particular made a big mistake. Are they going to progress faster to the majors by starting out in rookie ball and moving up the ladder, or would they do better by coming under Coach Savage's wing for three years? Based on the experience of Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Rob Rasmussen, Adam Plutko and Nick Vander Tuig, pitching for UCLA provides a pretty solid foundation for future success. But the bottom line is that for the third straight year, the Bruins were down to five new recruits per season after the MLB draft had taken its toll.

All of this brings us to the upcoming draft. There are nine recruits who were announced as members of the 2015 class in November. Of these nine, all but one are in the Baseball America draft preview database of top prospects (Here is the Baseball America top 500 list).

The slot value for the #1 pick overall is $7,922,100. And that #1 pick is projected by Baseball America to be UCLA recruit, Brady Aiken, a left handed pitcher from Cathedral Catholic in San Diego. His high school teammate and felllow recruit, infielder Sean Bouchard, is projected to go in the 3rd round. Infielder Josh Morgan from Orange Lutheran is projected to go in the 2nd round. Pitchers Jacob Nix and Grant Hockin are projected to also go in the 3rd round.

Thus, five of the nine recruits from the 2015 class are projected to be picked in the first 110 selections of the MLB draft. If this pans out, it would appear to be extremely unlikely based on recent history that any of them would come to UCLA- arrgh (insert teeth gnashing here).

There is more hope for the other three recruits in the 2015 Baseball America draft database. Infielder Nick Valaika (Pat's younger brother), pitcher Matt Trask, and pitcher Nathan Hadley are all picked to go somewhere between rounds 11 and 16. And pitcher Griffin Canning is projected to not be drafted among the first 500 selections. It would be great to have Nick come to UCLA to see if he can duplicate his brother's national champion run, and the pitchers would provide needed depth for the pen and potential midweek duty.

Clearly, UCLA's recruiting process has taken a big hit from the MLB draft in recent years. We need more classes like 2010, and less classes like the recent past. But in the meantime, with the projected return of Eric Filia and Kevin Kramer, the expected progression of last year's returning starters and the strength in the weekend rotation, we should hopefully be able to look back on 2014 as a frightful aberration.

We will keep tabs on the upcoming draft, and on upcoming signings. Hopefully, the Bruins can come out of this relatively unscathed in terms of the junior class, and can also pick up some pleasant surprises in terms of the incoming recruits.

Go Bruins !!