MLB Draft 2011: 5 College Athletic Departments with Most to Lose in MLB Draft
The high school sports hero of yesteryear excelled on different playing fields. In the fall, he might play football, basketball in the winter and hit the diamond in the spring.
But as collegiate athletics have grown increasingly business-like, so too has the makeup of the high school athlete. Specialization in one sport has become the trend, with club and AAU teams competing year-round, and the multi-sport high school star has gone the way of the VHS and Nintendo 64.
But, multi-sport ironmen can still be found occasionally in the high school ranks and more than one will be targeted by a team in the 2011 MLB draft, which begins tonight.
Many of these two- and three-way sports stars have already committed to big-time college programs in sports other than baseball and will soon be forced to make a monumental decision: sign a professional baseball contract or head to college.
Turning down a potentially huge payday might not be possible for more than a few of these two-sports stars, so let's look at which college athletic departments could take the biggest hits during the 2011 MLB draft.
5. South Carolina Gamecocks Football: Shon Carson and Ahmad Christian
The South Carolina Gamecocks football program is in the unenviable position of having two commits considering pro baseball instead of collegiate football careers.
Outfielder Shon Carson (Lake City, S.C.) and shortstop Ahmad Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) are two speedsters set to join Steve Spurrier's football program in Columbia this fall (Carson as a running back, Christian as a corner back), and both could be selected in this year's MLB draft.
Carson is the more highly touted baseball player of the two (a switch-hitting center fielder with blazing speed) and has a realistic shot of being drafted in the first couple of rounds of this week's draft.
There has been talk of Carson playing professional baseball in the spring and hitting the gridiron for the Gamecocks in the fall, but as Josh Hoke of TheState.com points out, his signing bonus could be considerably less if that's the option he chooses to pursue.
The chances of Christian getting selected highly in this year's draft is considerably less, and the cornerback/kick returner is likely to suit up for the Gamecocks this fall.
4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Basketball: Pat Connaughton
Pat Connaughton, a 6'4" fireball throwing right hander from Danvers, MA, is also a standout on the hardwood. The 17-year-old has accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Notre Dame to play basketball next winter for the Fighting Irish.
A shooting guard/small forward, Connaughton has displayed an elite nose for the ball, averaging a whopping 17.5 rebounds per game during his senior campaign for St. John's Prep, to go along with 24 points.
Connaughton has never had to prove he's elite pitcher, showcasing a fastball that can reach 94 mph on radar guns. He has been projected by most to be selected in the first five rounds of this week's MLB draft.
Like the other players on this list, the position that Connaughton gets drafted will play a large role in determining whether or not he decides to pursue a professional career or not.
Getting selected in the first several rounds could yield a million dollar payday, and that kind of money could be too much for the kid to pass up, even if his heart still lies on the hardwood.
3. St. John's Red Storm Basketball: Amir Garrett
Amir Garrett may be the most decorated non-baseball player on this list, as ESPN has him graded as the 97th best basketball prospect in the 2011 class.
The 6'6" slasher is headed to St. John's on a full hoops scholarship, but Garrett recently sent the MLB scouting world abuzz when he hit 96 mph during a bullpen session in front of more than 25 scouts.
But, Garrett remains a baseball enigma. He has played barely any high school baseball (Findlay Prep, the school he attended most recently, doesn't even have a baseball team) and has very little game experience.
Still, a 6'6" southpaw with mid-90s velocity has scouts already making comparison to the Tampa Bay Rays' David Price, and Garrett's shear potential could make him an early round pick this week.
2. Oklahoma Sooners Football: Archie Bradley
Archie Bradley is a hulking pitching prospect form the greater Tulsa, Oklahoma area who is also a prized recruit of the Oklahoma Sooners.
A likely surefire top-10 pick in Monday's MLB draft, Bradley will be faced with either accepting a multi-million dollar signing bonus or taking his talents to Norman to play for Bob Stoops and the Sooners.
The Elite 11 QB Camp invitee possesses a 96 mph fastball and a devastating breaking ball. While not as heavily recruited on the gridiron as he was on the diamond, Bradley decided on the Sooners because they offered him a chance to play both sports.
He's a raw football prospect and likely wouldn't see the field for a couple years in Norman (though rumors of his football throwing ability are tantalizing). My guess is he'll sign a baseball contract and leave the Sooners by the wayside.
1. Nebraska Huskers Football: Bubba Starling
The legend of Bubba Starling hit an apex last week when ESPN.com ran a 3,000 word expose on the small-town Kansas product.
A center fielder, Starling has the size (6'5, 195) and speed (sub-4.4 according to many) that leaves both MLB and college football scouts mesmerized.
Starling is probably the most polished QB prospect of any of the two way prospects who could get selected in this week's draft and would compete for playing time as a true freshman in Bo Pelini's Nebraska offense.
But as a likely lock to be a top-10 pick in the MLB draft, will Starling be able to turn down millions of dollars? He and his family haven't tipped their hand either way but have done their best to exude a sense of commitment to the University of Nebraska.
Regardless of the decision Starling makes, this is a player we'll see playing at the highest level of pro ball, whichever sport it may be.
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