Twelve of the 13 Big Ten programs saw a player drafted in the 2016 MLB Draft, 11 schools witnessing a player with remaining eligibility selected by a professional club. After 40 conference players were selected, here’s a very early post-draft look at the expected top teams for the 2017 based off of returning players, expected draft losses and possible returns.
Though Michigan State lost All-Big Ten selections Dakota Mekkes, Cam Vieaux and Jordan Zimmerman to the draft— all three top ten round selections—the Spartans saw catcher Matt Byars spurn a pro opportunity to bolster a team with depth on at the plate and on the mound. MSU’s rotation will be led by Ethan Landon, who nicely settled into the Saturday role behind Vieaux with a 2.75 ERA, after sitting out a year in transferring from Kansas State. Left-hander Alex Troop, who redshirted the 2016 season due to injury, will be back as a force at the plate (.372 AVG) and in the weekend rotation (1.64 ERA, 11 IP), a pitching staff rounded out by Andrew Gonzalez (2.84 ERA, 57 IP)on the weekends. As was the case in 2016, MSU’s bullpen will have a spoil of riches. At Jake Boss’ disposal will be Keegan Baar, Walter Brokovich, Jake Lowery and Joe Mockbeel. In the field and at the plate, the Spartans have athleticism and talent around. Along with Byars, Marty Bechina, Dan Chmielewski, Dan Durkin, Brandon Hughes and Chad Roskelly.
Five Wolverines were drafted, but the draft was far from a knockout blow for Michigan. Left-handed pitcher Brett Adcock was expected to be drafted high after his junior season, and was a fourth-round selection by the Houston Astros. Michigan will lose an impact bat in two-way player Carmen Benedetti, a 12th-round pick of the Astros who batted .326 with 19 doubles, but outside of those two, it was a favorable draft. Left-hander Evan Hill was not returning regardless, the 19th-round pick of the Tigers a senior, while right-handed pitcher Jackson Lamb and junior catcher Harrison Wenson were selected late enough, respectively picked in the 35th and 39th rounds to envision returns. If they do, they will return to a team full of returning starters at the plate. Michigan will return each starter around the horn, Drew Lugbauer (1B), Ako Thomas (2B), Michael Brdar (SS) and Jake Bivens (3B). Additionally two players who saw time in the outfield, Jonathan Englemann and Johnny Slater will be back. On the bump, left-hander Oliver Jaskie and right-hander Ryan Nutof will be juniors with weekend experience, and classmate Bryan Pall will be back at the back of the bullpen after a four-save 2016 campaign.
The draft was as favorable to Nebraska as it could be. Ryan Boldt was expected to be a three-year player, and after the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the second round, it is time for him to move on. The Baltimore Orioles selected left-handed Max Knutson in the 12th round, but the southpaw was unable to harness his stuff to be a dependable pitcher, often regulated to midweek and mop-up duty. First baseman/DH Ben Miller was drafted in the 32nd round, a late flier for the Pirates who appears likely to return. Right-handed pitcher Derek Burkamper was not drafted, giving Nebraska the ability to return its entire rotation of he, rising sophomore right-hander Matt Waldron and to-be junior southpaw Jake Meyers. Nebraska not only has its 1-2-3 returning and another year of closer and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Chad Luensmann, the Huskers also a quartet of key bats returning. In support of Miller, follow DH/1B Scott Schreiber is back. As a sophomore, Schreiber hit a Big Ten-best 16 home runs. A two-way standout, Meyers led Nebraska in hitting at .326. With catcher Jesse Wilkening looking to build off of a freshman season where he batted .280, the Huskers have a core four to build around.
The Terrapins are expecting to lose all-everying ace Mike Shawaryn. A fifth-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox, Shawaryn is Maryland’s career leader in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins. While Shawaryn leaves a very big hole atop the Maryland rotation, the Terps return a pair of right-handed pitchers in Taylor Bloom and Brian Shaffer to form a stout 1-2 punch. The two combined to pitch 206 innings as sophomores with 135 strikeouts and just 22 walks between them. At the plate, Maryland did not lose a bat to the draft, welcoming the return of seniors DH/C Nick Cieri and OF Madison Nickens. Those two look to add pop and run-production around freshman All-Americans Marty Costes and Nick Dunn and rising juniors Kevin Biondic and Kevin Smith. Maryland will need to find consistency in the bullpen to contend for the title.
The Buckeyes boasted a Big Ten-best six draft picks and the departures will be felt across the board. Drafted players will elgibility Ohio State will lose include two dynamic outfielders in Ronnie Dawson and Troy Montgomery, respective second and eight round picks, first baseman Jacob Bosiokovic who hit 11 home runs, and three-year Friday night ace Tanner Tully. But Greg Beals’ club heads into the 2016 offseason in pretty good shape. Counting first baseman/DH Zach Ratcliff who redshirted the 2016 season, but has 58 starts under his belt, Ohio State returns four starters to the lineup, third baseman Brady Cherry, outfielder Tre’ Gannt and catcher Jalen Washington. Right-hander Ryan Feltner, who projects to be one of the Big Ten’s top prospects in 2018, will slid to the weekend rotation to join Adam Niemeyer who held the Sunday spot during his sophomore year. Ohio State’s bullpen returns four pitchers who each ERA’s under 3.10 and combined to pitch 122.1 innings, as well as right-handed pitcher Jake Post who missed the 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery and holds a 3.48 ERA over 108.2 innings.
Chris Lemonis has the unenviable task of replacing an entire weekend rotation and likely a key reliever. Its expected stout reliever Jake Kelzer will join the trio of graduating weekend starters in seeing his days in Bloomington come to an end as well, as he was drafted for a third time following his junior season. However, not all is lost on the mound. Thomas Belcher, Jonathan Stiever and Paul Milto combined to appear in 60 games, log 110.1 innings with a combined ERA of 2.69. Looking to rebuild its pitching staff, the Hoosiers should be able to count on getting more from an offense that batted .257. Freshman All-American third baseman Luke Miller debuted nicely in Bloomington with a .284 average and 11 doubles. Outfielder Alex Krupa transferred in from Iowa Western for his junior year and batted .281 with 14 stolen bases. Assuredly looked upon to do more, Logan Sowers batted .273 with eight home runs during a solid sophomore season. Leading Indiana in hitting, outfielder Craig Dedelow batted .302 with 22 extra-bases hits as a junior. Dedelow was drafted in the 34th round, making his departure anything but a foregone conclusion.