The decisions made in the next few weeks by Texas Tech's players and signees chosen in the third day of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft could have a profound effect on how the Red Raiders enter 2012.
Tech had three players from this past season, but only two juniors, and one recruit chosen in rounds 31-50 of the draft on Wednesday. Being taken in those late rounds usually leaves players with hard decisions about turning pro or returning to school.
"To be honest I think we came out about as good as we thought we were going to," assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Trent Petrie said. "We have to get the shortstop position sewed up and we had a few more (Wednesday) that we've got to handle. But if we get the guys we're talking to right now we'll be perfectly fine. I'll feel good about that. I won't feel great until we get them signed, but it's a slow process just jumping through the hoops we need to and going that route."
Leading the list of third-day draftees is Tech's leading hitter from 2011 in junior third baseman Reid Redman, who was chosen in the 37th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Redman, who sat out the 2010 season after transferring from Baylor, led Tech with a .320 batting average with 34 RBIs and 12 doubles. He also had just nine errors in 185 chances for a .954 fielding percentage.
Redman, who is 18 hours shy from earning his degree in energy commerce, said Wednesday he hadn't even considered what monetary number it would take for him to leave school, and that being drafted has given him an option he never thought he'd have.
"Texas Tech has helped me out so much," Redman said. "The coaches, the school itself as a whole, I can't thank them enough. But right now I'd have to say I really don't know. I haven't talked to (head coach Dan) Spencer and I haven't talked to the Dodgers. It's a dream come true just to be considered in the draft. I'll talk about it with my family and the coaches and see how it goes."
Earlier in the day, infielder Nick Popescu was taken by Atlanta in the 33rd round. Popsecu played left field and second base for the Red Raiders in 2011 and was the only senior on the squad. He missed seven games with a hamstring injury but still hit .299 with one home run and 32 RBIs, and he was fourth on the team in stolen bases (10 of 13).
In his two years at Tech since transferring from Howard Junior College, where he led the Hawks to the 2009 national championship, Popescu hit .312 with 26 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 73 RBIs and he was 18 of 22 in stolen bases.
"I'm really excited for Pops," Petrie said. "He had a bit of a tough go with the injury but really the last 15 or so games he was really a great player for us."
Nine picks later, Baltimore selected Tech junior left-handed pitcher Zach Fowler in the 34th round. Used solely as a reliever, Fowler, who redshirted in 2010 after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery, made 23 appearances, going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. He worked 16 innings, allowing just six earned runs and nine walks while striking out 11.
"I was really surprised. I didn't expect to get drafted," said Fowler, who added he is 16 hours short of earning his history degree. "(The 34th round) is kind of a tweener. I'm not sure at this point and I haven't thought about it."
The Red Raiders caught a break when neither pitcher John Neely nor first baseman Stephen Hagen, both juniors, were drafted, meaning Tech will not have to fill a hole at first base and gets one more pitcher back for next season.
Neely, a right-hander, led Tech in wins (9), ERA (2.97) and saves (7) while logging 602/3 innings and striking out 56. Hagen hit .266 while starting all 58 games for the Red Raiders, finishing second on the team in home runs (6) and RBIs (42). His .985 fielding percentage was third among regular starters.
"I'm really surprised that nobody took Neely from the standpoint of the numbers he put up in the Big 12," Petrie said. "It's amazing to me he's not one of the 1,500 best players in the country."
The only Tech signee taken on the third day came very late in the draft. New Mexico Junior College outfielder Devon Conley was chosen in the 47th round, No. 1,415 overall, by the Baltimore Orioles.
In 58 games in 2011, Conley hit .359 with two home runs, 31 RBIs and a .508 slugging percentage.
Petrie said in a conversation he had with Conley Wednesday the junior-to-be has a number in mind for what it would take to sign but that Conley "is fully prepared to come to Tech, and we're hopeful he does. He will be as good athlete as there will be in college baseball next year if he decides to come to Tech."
Texas Tech freshman pitcher/outfielder David Paiz was named Wednesday to the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper Freshman all-American team as a multi-positional player.
He becomes the third Red Raider in the last two years, joining 2010 freshmen Barrett Barnes and Jamodrick McGruder, to be named a freshman all-American.
Paiz, who was also named first-team All-Big 12 Conference as well as part of the Big 12 all-freshman team, hit .284 with 13 doubles, two home runs and 27 RBIs, and on the mound was 3-5 with a 6.93 ERA, striking out 34 and walking 17 in 502/3 innings.