Baseball America's draft content is powered by

College Baseball Headlines, Surprises From MLB Draft Signing Deadline


Image credit: Tanner Witt (Eddie Kelly)

 The signing deadline for draft picks passed Tuesday afternoon. There were few surprises at the deadline as nearly every college player who was drafted ended up signing.

In the end, there were nine Division I players who went unsigned. UC Irvine outfielder Caden Kendle, who was picked in the 10th round by the Cardinals, was the highest-drafted player not to sign. That the signings went so according to script is a surprise, as in each of the last two years two college players drafted in the top-100 picks did not sign. While there were a few candidates to continue that streak going into Tuesday, ultimately the deals got done.

Still, those few players who opted for a return to school could make a big impact on next season. Last year at this time, Florida’s Brandon Sproat, Miami’s Andrew Walters and Stanford’s Quinn Mathews all opted to return to school instead of signing. Walters and Mathews went on to produce All-American seasons, while Sproat was the No. 1 starter for the national runner-up.

While this year’s group of unsigned draft picks doesn’t appear to have quite that much star power, there are still several intriguing college baseball storylines coming out of Tuesday’s deadline.

LSU Stays Hot

The Tigers were winners in the immediate aftermath of the draft and they still very much look like winners after the deadline. They lead all programs with three drafted recruits coming to campus, as lefthanders Cameron Johnson (No. 43 on the BA 500, which accounts for all draft-eligible players) and Jake Brown (118) and outfielder Ashton Larson (272) all unsurprisingly opted not to sign after being picked in the final five rounds.

Those three players not signing played out as expected and in a 20-round draft having the most drafted recruits getting to campus doesn’t mean the same thing it did five years ago when MLB teams mostly spent the final 15 rounds picking either college seniors or high school players they had no realistic chance of signing. But it’s still a welcome development for the Tigers, especially landing Johnson, who is the third-highest ranked player to make it to campus.

The real win for LSU at the deadline was that lefthander Javen Coleman and righthander Christian Little did not sign. Coleman was drafted in the 16th round by the Dodgers and while he’s thrown just 20 innings over the last two years due to injury, he could pitch in a significant role in 2024 if he’s able to recapture his prior form as he gets further away from Tommy John surgery. Little struggled in his first season in Baton Rouge after transferring from Vanderbilt and went 2-2, 7.79 with 42 strikeouts and 29 walks in 34.2 innings. But he still offers upside and opted to come back to school after being drafted in the 19th round by the Mets.

LSU in 2024 will have a new-look pitching staff following the departures of righthanders Paul Skenes and Ty Floyd and lefthander Riley Cooper. But adding Brown and Johnson (as well as lefthander Kade Anderson, who formally removed himself from the draft) and holding on to Coleman and Little will be a boost for the Tigers. That group joins righthanders Gavin Guidry and Thatcher Hurd and lefthanders Nate Ackenhausen, Grant Herring, Gage Jump and Justin Loer, and LSU is still heavily in the mix for righthander Luke Holman, who is transferring from Alabama. Even after losing its 1-2 punch of Skenes and Floyd and Cooper, who became the team’s relief ace in Omaha, LSU has reloaded on the mound.

DBU Gets Pair Of Draftees To Campus

Dallas Baptist has long punched above its weight on the diamond, as Dan Heefner has built a program that is consistently in the NCAA Tournament mix and knocks on the door of the College World Series. While that rise initially began with more blue collar recruits than blue chips, the Patriots have in recent years been flexing their muscles more and more in recruiting.

The latest example of that is DBU this year being one of five programs that will bring multiple drafted recruits to campus, joining Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. The Patriots, who are coming off a Conference USA title in their first season in the league, will have a recruiting class headlined by prep righthander James Ellwanger and prep outfielder Dylan Schlaegel.

Ellwanger, who was drafted in the 19th round by the Nationals, was ranked No. 173 on the BA 500. He’s listed at 6-foot-5, 195 pounds and has a mid-90s fastball. Schlaegel was drafted in the 17th round by the Red Sox and is a plus runner with a quick righthanded bat. He profiles in center field.

Caden Kendle Returns To UC Irvine

Kendle was drafted in the 10th round by the Cardinals after hitting .335/.434/.535 with 16 doubles for the Anteaters this spring. The outfielder earned all-Big West honors for the second straight year and appeared to be on his way to pro ball until a change of heart last week.

In a tweet, Kendle announced he would return for his senior season at UCI.

“For those that know me best, I am an all-in guy,” he wrote. “It is not right for the Cardinals to have my body and mind but not my heart and soul.”

With Kendle back in the fold, UCI now will return all of its regulars from a team that went 38-17 and was arguably the biggest snub from the NCAA Tournament. The Anteaters will also get back infielder Woody Hadeen, who missed the 2023 season due to injury. UCI had the highest-scoring offense in the Big West, averaging 8.11 runs per game, and should again have the league’s best lineup. UCI will need some new pitchers to step up, but the Anteaters again look like they’ll be dangerous in the Big West and beyond in 2024.

Tanner Witt Returns To Texas

Witt not signing at the deadline was no surprise. He wasn’t drafted until the Orioles picked him in the 18th round after missing nearly all of the season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, an instant indication that he was likely to be back in Austin in 2024. Then, a day after the draft, he tweeted that he intended to return to Texas, saying he had unfinished business with the Longhorns.

Still, Witt is this year’s most notable unsigned drafted college player. He was voted a Preseason All-American by MLB scouting directors and while his stuff wasn’t quite the same in his initial return to the mound, with six more months of recovery from surgery, he should be ready to lead the Texas rotation.

The Longhorns should have one of the best 1-2 punches at the top of their rotation with Witt and righthander Lebarron Johnson Jr. Texas this spring went 42-22, won the Big 12 and was a win away from the CWS. With those righthanders at the front of the rotation in 2024, the Longhorns look like they’ll again be primed for a big season.

Download our app

Read the newest magazine issue right on your phone