Although the season ended in disappointing fashion Monday for the Missouri baseball team, a few Tigers are still excited.
Juniors Evan Frey, Brock Bond and Jacob Priday are expected to get drafted in today’s MLB draft. The first round is televised on ESPN2 beginning at 1 p.m. The draft will end on Friday.
Frey will likely get drafted earliest. With more than 20 teams expressing interest in Missouri’s speedy center fielder, Frey is projected to hear his name called as early as the fourth round. He said that the Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and New York Yankees have seemed most interested.
“At the end of last year,” Frey said by phone Wednesday, “I started thinking that this year would be my last at Mizzou. I’m pretty positive I’m leaving. I’ve always wanted to play professionally, so this is a great opportunity for me.”
Frey saw his draft stock increase throughout the year. His .348 batting average, 78 hits and 65 runs led the Tigers.
Major league teams started to notice Bond after he had a strong summer season. Like Frey, the switch-hitting second baseman also saw the interest increase during the season because of his ability to hit for high average and get on base. Bond finished among the team leaders in average, RBIs, hits and doubles.
“Ten teams seem like they’re pretty interested in me,” Bond said. “The Cardinals, Giants and Indians seem like they’re most interested.”
Bond and Frey said it would be a dream to get drafted by the Cardinals. Bond is a native of St. Louis, and Frey grew up only 15 miles away.
“It doesn’t matter what team drafts me,” Bond said, “but I’d be extra excited to get drafted by the Cards.”
While both Tigers are excited about the draft, they said this past weekend made them take a harder look at their future.
“This was a big turning point for the program,” Bond said. “I think it’s going to be all uphill from here on out. But to see how close we got to a super regional, yeah, it’s frustrating. It kind of made me want to stay back for another year.”
Bond also said he’s thought about his situation.
“I’ve had some doubts,” Frey said. “The main thing is just leaving my teammates and my coaches, because we’re all so close.”
Because of their defense, speed and hitting ability, Bond and Frey are virtually a lock to get drafted by Friday. Priday, Missouri’s designated hitter, is more uncertain about his draft prospects.
“A couple of teams have talked to me, but not as many as those guys,” Priday said. “The Marlins, Rangers and Diamondbacks have shown the most interest, though.”
Coming off shoulder surgery for a torn labrum at the beginning of this season, Priday was relegated to a hitting-only role for the Tigers. He flourished as the designated hitter and led the team in home runs and RBIs, and his .297 batting average only trailed Frey and Bond.
“Teams are most interested in my bat,” Priday said, explaining that the National League teams want to test him as an outfielder or catcher. “That uncertainty of defense is going to play a role in getting drafted, but maybe someone will take a chance on me.”
Priday, Bond and Frey have yet to sign with an agent. Instead, they are using the experience of the Missouri coaching staff to help them through the draft process.
The Detroit Tigers drafted Missouri assistant coach Evan Pratte out of then-Southwest Missouri State University in 1991. He played for five years in the Tigers’ minor league system before he began coaching in 1997. His three draft-hopeful players said his advice has been invaluable.
“The best advice he gave me was to let the teams know that I want to play pro ball,” Bond said, “and that I’m not worried about the money. All I want is the opportunity.”
Priday said Pratte told him not to rush into anything.
“He told me to see what’s going to be best for me,” he said. “To see what’s the best path to help me stay in the big leagues. Coach P was in my shoes before. He got drafted as a junior and then decided to come back for his senior year. He got drafted again, so it’s a path I’m going to consider as well.”
As they wait for the draft to begin today, Bond, Priday and Frey agree they aren’t getting too caught up in the future.
“I’m excited, but it’s out of my control,” Frey said. “I just have to sit back and see what happens.”