Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas baseball signees undrafted through 2 days
An Arkansas hat and glove sit in the dugout prior to a game against Louisiana-Monroe on Wednesday, April 4, 2018, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE For the first time in recent memory, Arkansas did not have a signee or publicly committed player selected in the first 10 rounds of the MLB Draft.
That development increases the likelihood that the core of the Razorbacks' 2019 signing class, ranked 14th before the draft by Perfect Game, will remain largely intact for the 2020 season.
Signing bonuses after the 11th round cannot exceed $125,000 without a franchise incurring a financial penalty, minimizing the chances the money will be right for a high school player to opt for professional baseball over playing for a high-profile college team like Arkansas.
The Arkansas signee who was believed most likely to be drafted was outfielder Jason Hodges of Marist High School near Chicago. Hodges (6-3, 210 pounds) was ranked the No. 235 prospect in the draft by Baseball America, which equated to the eighth round.
It is unclear if Hodges was undrafted because of sign-ability concerns or other reasons, but oftentimes highly-rated players go undrafted because their asking price for a signing bonus exceeds what MLB teams are willing to pay.
Former Arkansas players Zack Cox (20th round out of high school), Keaton McKinney (21st round) and Andrew Benintendi (31st round) are examples of high-profile prospects who fell in the draft and chose to play for the Razorbacks when the professional money was not right out of high school.
Past Arkansas recruiting classes have been decimated by the draft. MLB players Brandon Nimmo, Chris Davis, Greg Bird and Michael Fulmer are among those who signed professionally after committing to the Razorbacks.
But the number of signees lost to the draft has minimized in recent years, due in part to MLB collective bargaining agreements that have put a cap on how much franchises can pay signees without incurring luxury taxes or the loss of pool money to sign top 10-round picks.
Former Arkansas assistant coach Tony Vitello, who helped assemble the 2019 class before being hired away as Tennessee's head coach, said two years ago that the Razorbacks had taken fewer commitments from players who are draft risks out of high school or junior college, and focused on committing players who will reach their draft ceiling while on campus.
In the 2019 class, the Razorbacks appear to have a strong group of players who could blossom into solid draft picks while in college. Among those who have received the best reviews are Hodges; pitchers Blake Adams, Zack Morris, Kevin Heinrich and Evan Gray; infielders Jesse Pierce and Noah Wosman; catcher Cason Tollett; and Nate Stevens, who can play outfield or catcher.
Adams (Springdale Har-Ber), Morris (Cabot) and Tollett (Little Rock Christian) are all from Arkansas.
It is still possible some signees could turn pro if they are drafted Wednesday and the money is right. Wade Beasley, a right-handed pitcher from Horatio, was drafted in the 24th round of last year's draft, but signed for $257,500, well over the norm for that slot in the draft.
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