The 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft proved one thing to Texas Tech head coach Dan Spencer.
No matter how he thinks things are going to go or who will be chosen, there will always be surprises. This year, though, the surprises may work out for the best for his Red Raiders.
After evaluating who from his current roster and signing class was chosen and which ones are more likely to sign, Spencer is optimistic that the damage to the 2012 version of the Red Raiders could be minimal.
"I think it went fine for our (drafted) players," Spencer said. "Our pitching for the most part survived and with our pitching I feel pretty good. What hurt us was the shortstop position, obviously, so that's what we'll do the next couple of weeks is find some players there and guys we think we can sign, and I think we will."
Going into the draft, Spencer expected juniors Kelby Tomllinson at shortstop, Stephen Hagen at first base and relief pitcher John Neely to be selected high enough to turn pro. Tomlinson was taken in the 12th round by San Francisco. But after 50 rounds were completed, neither Hagen, who was taken in both the 2007 and 2009 drafts, nor Neely, who was 9-1 with a 2.97 ERA in 2011, were drafted.
However, Reid Redman, who started all 58 games at third base and led the team with a .320 batting average, and left-handed pitcher Zach Fowler were chosen - a surprise to the coaches and the players.
Plus, a pair of signees for 2012 at shortstop were drafted, including Trey Ford from South Mountain (Ariz.) Community College and outfielder Devon Conley from New Mexico JC. Ford was taken in the 14th round, while Conley went in the 47th.
After three days of talking to players and evaluating who was drafted, Spencer believes Fowler will sign, as will both Tomlinson and Ford, leaving a gaping hole on the left side of Tech's infield.
But Spencer is confident Redman will return and that Conley will keep his commitment to Tech.
He's also a bit baffled as to how a pitcher with Neely's numbers can go undrafted.
"When was the last time a guy like John Neely ran up the numbers he did in the Big 12 and not get drafted?" Spencer asked. "I thought we'd lose Neely, and he's disappointed, but I think John's the type of kid and I think he's competitive enough to roll that into a chip on his shoulder and maybe make it a motivator for next year."
Because most of the Tech roster in 2011 was dominated by underclassmen, the 2012 version will have a load of experience as well as an increase in young, talented players in the signing class.
Should Fowler be the only Tech pitcher to leave, the Red Raiders will return the pitchers responsible for 500 of their 516 innings pitched last season.
Spencer also expects contributions from redshirt left-handers Rusty Shellhorn and Travis Hoffmeister. Friday starter Daniel Coulombe, who missed more than half the season after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery, will also be back.
Tech will return almost everybody defensively. Second baseman Jamodrick McGruder is expected to be fully healed from the broken bone in his hand. With Redman and Hagen, Tech also returns two solid corner infielders.
Spencer also returns all three starting outfielders, although Conley and fellow newcomer Brennan Moore from Grayson County College are expected to compete for starting roles alongside all-Big 12 center fielder Barrett Barnes.
"Our pitching will be in better shape than I thought it would be," Spencer said. "We'll have to have somebody at shortstop now that will probably be younger than we thought they would be."
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