Heading into the second weekend of the college baseball season, Oregon State senior lefthander Ben Wetzler remains in limbo, waiting for the NCAA to rule on his eligibility. Until he is cleared, he cannot play.
Several sources have confirmed to Baseball America that the Phillies, who drafted Wetzler in the fifth round last June but did not sign him, told the NCAA in November that Wetzler violated the NCAA's "no agent" rule. That rule is widely disregarded by baseball prospects, whose advisers routinely negotiate with teams on players' behalf, against NCAA rules—because that is the industry norm. As an American League scouting director told Baseball America in 2008, "Every single player that we deal with—I don't care what round you're talking about—has representation, has an agent."
And every year, some players drafted inside the top 10 rounds elect not to sign pro contracts, often drawing the ire of the clubs that drafted them. But major league teams almost never attempt to contact the NCAA in order to report potential violations. The Phillies, according to sources, did just that with two players they drafted last year: Wetzler and sixth-round pick Jason Monda, who opted to return to Washington State for his senior year. Monda was cleared to play by the NCAA last Thursday, the day before the college season began.
When asked about the Wetzler situation Wednesday, Phillies scouting director Marti Wolever told Baseball America, "I have no comment."
It is worth noting that just because the Phillies accused Wetzler and Monda of rules violations, that doesn't necessarily mean they violated those rules. Until the NCAA issues its verdict on Wetzler's status, we won't know all the details of this story. Sources expect a ruling to come down by the end of this week, but the NCAA has already dragged its feet for three months, so it's anyone's guess how much longer the nation's No. 2 team will have to wait to find out whether or not its senior ace will be able to pitch this season.