FanPost

Diamond Dogs in the Draft: 2016 Edition

This is former Dawg Justin Grimm signing autographs. Because our database has no photos of Josh Fields in a throwback rainbow Astros jersey. - Jeffrey Phelps/Getty Images

Last week was a pretty good one for a number of Georgia baseball players. Six players who wore the red and black last season heard their names called in the 2016 MLB Draft, which took place from Thursday the 9th through Saturday the 11th. Three high schoolers who had committed to play for the Dawgs in November also received some welcome phone calls over the weekend.

Let's take a look at the former Diamond Dogs who will be playing professional baseball this summer and beyond.

Robert Tyler, RHP, 1st Round Supplemental (38th overall), Colorado Rockies

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I'll hold off on offering too much analysis since Macon Dawg did most of the heavy lifting on Friday. What I will say, though, is Robert Tyler was the gem of Foley Field over the past couple of seasons, and we all knew he was going to get drafted early this year. Going into the season in February, some scouts even had the fireballer from Cordele going as high as the middle of the first round, even in a draft loaded with pitching talent. I think this speaks to the incredible potential Robert Tyler possesses as a professional hurler, and I would not be surprised to see him in a Colorado uniform in a few short seasons.

Stephen Wrenn, CF, 6th Round (187th overall), Houston Astros

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Junior outfielder Stephen Wrenn was another guy we could almost guarantee would get drafted relatively early this year. The Marietta native leaves UGA with a career .292 batting average with 13 home runs and 74 RBI. Not only was Wrenn impressive at the plate, he could get it done on the base paths with 56 stolen bases to his credit. The Houston Astros are also getting a stellar defensive outfielder who leaves the Classic City with a career .994 fielding percentage.

Wrenn's junior season was one to remember as he hit .297 with an impressive array of extra-base hits (six doubles, four triples and five home runs) and 26 RBI. He also stole 12 bases in 2016. Remember when Georgia took a series from No. 2 South Carolina back in April? Stephen Wrenn certainly had a say in the outcome that weekend, hitting .500 with a home runs and three RBI.

Connor Jones, LHP, 11th Round (338th overall), New York Yankees

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Joining last year's draftee David Sosebee in the Yankees' future pitching plans is junior Connor Jones out of Johns Creek. Jones split his UGA career between the relief corps and starting rotation, making the jump to starter for the entirety of the 2016 season. He leaves UGA with a career record of 5-8 with a 5.13 ERA and one save over 31 games (87.2 IP). He struck out 84 opposing batters and walked 58.

As a junior in 2016, Connor Jones pitched a team-high 75.1 innings with 74 strikeouts and 37 walks, yielding a .242 opponent batting average. Among the highlights of the season was a 6.2-IP performance against No. 2 South Carolina on 16 April in which he allowed only four hits and one run in the 13-4 win. He also had a gutsy performance in an impressive win over No. 21 Alabama on 2 April.

Jones was also a three-year member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll throughout his time at UGA.

Bo Tucker, LHP, 12th Round (366th overall), Los Angeles Angels

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Bo Tucker will likely be leaving the Classic City after only two seasons in which he pitched well in a couple of different roles for the Dawgs. The lefty out of Rome posted a 4-5 career win-loss record with a 3.09 ERA over 38 games (84.1 IP) with 79 strikeouts and 39 walks. He also posted four saves and made four starts for Georgia, so the Angels are getting a versatile pitcher who can perform well in a number of situations.

As a sophomore in 2016, Tucker went 3-4 with a 3.71 ERA and three saves over 19 appearances (four of them starts). Among his season highlights was an outstanding relief effort against Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament, striking out four over 3.2 scoreless innings. He had pitched well against those same Rebels in May, pitching five innings of two-hit scoreless ball with four strikeouts and a walk. Also among Bo Tucker's highlights as a reliever were a two-inning save to clinch a road series against Missouri on 15 May. As a starter, Tucker pitched well against Tennessee, getting the no-decision in a late-May 10-8 victory. He also went six innings against No. 2 South Carolina on 16 April, giving up seven hits and three runs while striking out five and walking three against the potent Gamecock lineup.

Skyler Weber, C/OF, 18th Round (532nd overall), Oakland A's

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Also likely headed west is Skyler Weber, who can swing a hot bat and play good defense at a couple of positions. Weber leaves the sometimes-friendly confines of Foley Field with a .279 career batting average with seven home runs, 81 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He also posted a career .982 fielding percentage, which is not too shabby, especially considering his split time in the outfield and behind the plate.

In 2016, the reliable and versatile native of Gainesville started all 57 games (42 in RF, 14 at C, 1 at DH) and led the team in batting with a .314 average and 77 hits, 13 doubles, four home runs and 33 RBI. He also swiped 13 bases this season. Weber posted a team-high 21 multi-hit games and eight multi-RBI games, also enjoying a 13-game hitting streak. Refusing to shy away from the spotlight, Weber was at his best against Georgia's toughest foes, batting .429 with five RBI in a series win against No. 21 Alabama and .500 with two doubles against No. 6 Vanderbilt. Defensively, he registered 10 putouts in a single game against Georgia Tech last month, the most putouts by a Georgia outfielder in over 12 years.

Heath Holder, RHP/OF, 25th Round (740th overall), Colorado Rockies

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Speaking of versatile Georgia baseball players, Heath Holder was the last current Dawg to get drafted by an MLB team, going to Colorado in the 25th round. Holder played a bit of outfield in his Georgia career, finishing college ball with a .224 batting average and 11 RBI in 53 games. As a pitcher, the big man from Loganville went 4-7 with a 4.52 ERA in 38 appearances, including 11 starts.

The redshirt senior was sidelined by Tommy John surgery in 2015, but bounced back quite nicely in 2016. Holder finished the year with a 4-5 record, one save and a team-best 3.68 ERA in 19 appearances. Of those 19, 11 were starts. One stat that certainly caught the eye of Rockies scouts was that Holder led the SEC in lowest opponent batting average (.174 or 43 hits over 71 IP). He also had a knack for being on the mound for some impressive victories this season: in relief against No. 2 Florida and No. 2 South Carolina and in the tournament-clinching win over Tennessee as well as starting in wins over No. 7 Ole Miss and No. 25 Georgia Tech. Against Cincinnati on 27 February, Holder fanned nine batters in only four innings and almost pitched a no-hitter against Lipscomb on 12 March.

Signees

As I explained in my draft recap last season, the MLB draft works differently from that of the NFL, for example. A player can be drafted by a team, but not sign in the hopes of a higher pick (and signing bonus) the following season. This Braves post from Tomahawk Take does a great job of explaining how the money works on the professional clubs' side, so give it a click if you are interested.

Three of the 14 players signed by Georgia for the 2017 season heard their name called last weekend, but this doesn't necessarily mean that Coach Stricklin's class has been reduced to 11. That said, keep an eye on these guys as the signing deadline of 15 July draws near. In the meantime, I'll tell you why you should be hoping they all decide to hone their craft in the Classic City rather than at the lower levels of the minor leagues.

Justin Glover, LHP, 26th Round (780th overall), Tampa Bay Rays

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The star of the Buford High School mound figures to be a key player in Scott Stricklin's attempt to rebuild the Georgia pitching staff after losing so much star power to this year's draft. Justin Glover has been a force throughout his high school career and appeared on virtually everyone's recruiting radars after posting a 2-0 record with a 0.39 ERA as a junior in 2015. Glover built on that success in this 2016 senior season, carrying the Wolves deep into the GHSA playoffs and blowing opposing hitters away at every opportunity. Among Glover's highlights in the playoffs was his third no-hitter of the season against Bainbridge, which Buford won 15-0 and in which the young fireballer fanned eight batters. In attendance at this game was Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin, who sees Glover as the heir apparent to Robert Tyler as the ace of his staff.

Though we have to wait until mid-July at the latest to pop the cork on celebrating the arrival of such a phenomenal young pitcher, most signs point to Justin Glover being on the mound for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2017. On signing day in November of last year, Glover, whose Twitter profile features a shot of Foley Field, had this to say:

"I’ve always been a fan of UGA, and the coaching staff made me feel like I was at home," Glover said. "I knew the first time I stepped on campus that UGA was where I wanted to spend the next four years."

Sounds like a guy who is serious about pitching for Georgia, at least until his draft stock shoots through the roof. Will we see Glover in Athens or Princeton (the Rays' Rookie affiliate) in 2017? It sounds like an easy decision to me, but stay tuned.

Cam Shepherd, SS, 29th Round (868th overall), Boston Red Sox

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As exciting as Justin Glover promises to be on the mound for Georgia, infielder Cam Shepherd holds the same promise at the plate. In his senior season at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Shepherd slashed .440/.520/.702. Not only can this kid hit, he has incredible discipline at the plate, striking out only four times in 84 at-bats (one strikeout per 21 at-bats). For comparison, the 2016 Diamond Dogs racked up 360 strikeouts in 1,476 at-bats (one strikeout per 4.1 at-bats).

Cam Shepherd is just the kind of hitter Georgia needs next season, and I'm willing to bet we'll see him in red and black for at least a season or two. He was projected to be drafted as early as the third round this year, so not only is a 29th-round pick far below his potential, Shepherd, who said Coach Stricklin's offer last year was "what [his] heart wanted," seems eager to help get Georgia back to the top of the SEC in 2017. He's a born competitor and after having played for some subpar Peachtree Ridge teams the past couple of seasons, look for Shepherd to come to Athens hungry and ready to leave his mark on a program that is in desperate need of some excitement at the plate.

Zac Kristofak, RHP, 37th Round (1,099th overall), Atlanta Braves

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As Macon Dawg said in his analysis of the Robert Tyler draft pick, Georgia will be in serious need of some quality pitchers in 2017. Walton righty Zac Kristofak will almost certainly be a large part of the rebuild. The Marietta native put his team on his back as a junior in 2015, going 11-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 80 strikeouts over 77 innings pitched. The Raiders would finish that season 30-7, falling to Parkview in the state championship game. Kristofak used that loss as motivation to carry his team to the 2016 state championship, being named Region 5-AAAAAA Pitcher of the Year and all-region First Team in the process.

For a pitcher with as much potential as Kristofak, I don't think signing with the Braves as a 37th-rounder would be the best idea. Coach Stricklin had been recruiting Zac since he arrived in Athens in 2013, and has constantly been amazed by his "bulldog" (pun sort of intended) mentality on the mound, natural talent and desire to win. This is the kind of player who would certainly benefit from some seasoning against the quality opposition to be found in the SEC, so look for Kristofak to be a serious piece of the puzzle for the Dawgs in 2017.

Coach Stricklin has come under some criticism over the past year, but give the man some credit for securing commitments from three of the state's top prospects this year. Regardless of how slowly it's happening, the Diamond Dogs are trending upward, and expect all three of these guys to contribute in a major way in 2017. Good luck to all pro-bound Dawgs!

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