You can’t turn on ESPN from the day after the Super Bowl to the end of April without hearing constant chatter about the NFL Draft from talking heads like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. Most of the players chosen in the lottery portion of the NBA Draft have been household names since they were in high school or at least made it onto the national scene during March Madness.
In contrast to those two made-for-television events is the First-Year Player Draft, as the selection process in major league baseball is officially known. With a dearth of televised college baseball games and the inclusion of high school athletes in the process, only a handful of players are known to the casual fan, and even the very best will not reach The Show until gaining additional seasoning in the minors, often for several years.
But there is reason for Citadel fans to have more than a passing interest in this year’s draft, which runs from Thursday through Saturday. Junior catcher Joe Jackson dramatically improved his stock over the second half of the season, perhaps even moving up into the top 10 rounds of the draft, while senior Austin Pritcher, the Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year, may also be an early-round selection.
Britt Reames, who was chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 17th round following his junior season in 1995, thinks Jackson may have an advantage when it comes to his positioning in the draft. And it has nothing to do with his stats, as impressive as they were during the recently concluded 2013 campaign.
“Joe’s numbers played a significant role early on and definitely got him on team’s radars,” said Reames. “But he is also a commodity as a left-handed hitting catcher with power. Organizations, and even college recruiters, are looking for that uniqueness that Joe would bring.”
Jackson’s late-season surge that included MVP honors at the Southern Conference tournament may also play a role in when he is selected. “Sometimes it comes down to one scout seeing you at the perfect time,” said Reames. “There’s no doubt that a player can be in the right place at the right time, and what Joe did all season but especially in the tournament had to open a few more eyes.”