Kopps drafted 99th overall, 7 others with Arkansas ties selected on Day 2

By: Matt Jones Matt Jones's Twitter account
Published: Monday, July 12, 2021
Arkansas Kevin Kopps (45) throws against North Carolina State during an NCAA college baseball super regional game Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
Arkansas Kevin Kopps (45) throws against North Carolina State during an NCAA college baseball super regional game Sunday, June 13, 2021, in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Kevin Kopps was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the MLB Draft on Monday.

Kopps was the 99th player chosen in the draft and the fourth player drafted by the Padres. The suggested signing bonus for Kopps’ slot in the draft is $587,400.

Kopps, 24, has a year of eligibility remaining at Arkansas, but might not command the full signing bonus due to his older age. The majority of players drafted are 21 and younger.

Kopps is coming off one of the greatest individual seasons ever by a Razorback. He was the first relief pitcher to win the Dick Howser Trophy as national player of the year after recording a 12-1 record with 11 saves and a nation-best 0.90 ERA.

Kopps is one of eight players with Arkansas ties who were selected on the second day of the draft. Outfield signee Jordan Viars of Frisco (Texas) Reed was drafted 84th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies and outfielder/pitcher signee Drew Gray of Swansea, Ill., was drafted 93rd overall by the Chicago Cubs.

Gray, who played at IMG Academy in Florida, is the younger brother of Arkansas pitcher Evan Gray. He was drafted as an outfielder.

Viars and Gray join shortstop Max Muncy as Razorback signees who have been drafted. Muncy was selected 25th overall by the Oakland Athletics in the first round, a pick that has a suggested value of more than $2.7 million.

Drafted Razorbacks

Name, Pos., Team, Round (Overall)

*Max Muncy, SS, Athletics, 1 (25)

*Jordan Viars, OF, Phillies, 3 (84)

*Drew Gray, OF, Cubs, 3 (93)

Kevin Kopps, RHP, Padres, 3 (99)

Christian Franklin, OF, Cubs, 4 (123)

Ryan Costeiu, RHP, Angels, 7 (201)

Casey Opitz, C, Cubs, 8 (244)

Patrick Wicklander, LHP, Rays, 8 (251)

Lael Lockhart, LHP, Dodgers, 9 (282)

* - Denotes player was high school signee

The Cubs also drafted Arkansas junior outfielder Christian Franklin 123rd overall in the fourth round and junior catcher Casey Opitz 244th overall in the eighth round.

Right-handed relief pitcher Ryan Costeiu was drafted 201st overall by the Los Angeles Angels in the seventh round, left-handed starting pitcher Patrick Wicklander was drafted 251st overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth round and left-handed starting pitcher Lael Lockhart was drafted 282nd overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ninth round.

The slot value for Viars’ slot in the draft is $721,900 and the slot value for Gray’s slot is $627,900.

Slot values for the other drafted Razorbacks are $464,500 for Franklin, $229,700 for Costeiu, $168,500 for Opitz, $163,400 for Wicklander and $149,800 for Lockhart.

Lockhart is the only of Arkansas' drafted players without eligibility remaining, though all players drafted Monday are likely to sign professionally. Lockhart's signing bonus could be well below the suggested value for his spot in the draft due to his lack of negotiating leverage.

Franklin was Arkansas' top-rated player in the draft, ranked 57th by Baseball America. He was a first-round prospect a year ago, but a high strikeout total — he led the Razorbacks with 78 strikeouts in 215 at bats this year — caused his stock to fall.

Franklin is considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the draft. He also has the ability to hit for power and is a quality base stealer.

Franklin hit .274 with an OPS of .964 as a junior at Arkansas. He hit 13 home runs, was second on the team with 54 RBI and was successful in 11 of 14 stolen-base attempts.

Costeiu pitched 30 innings and had a 5.30 ERA in his only season at Arkansas. A native of Clayton, Calif., Costeiu transferred to the Razorbacks after two seasons at Sacramento City College in his home state.

In 26 relief appearances, Costeiu had an 8-3 record, struck out 40 and walked 15. He allowed three home runs over the course of four at bats in his final outing on June 12, a 6-5 loss to North Carolina State that forced a winner-take-all game in the NCAA Fayetteville Super Regional.

Opitz has been an anchor on Arkansas' past three teams. He started 125 games and played in 148 over a four-year career that included one season as a backup and one season that was cut short due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Opitz was routinely one of the best defensive catchers in college baseball. He was expected to turn pro last season, but did not receive an attractive offer in a five-round draft and opted to return to college.

Wicklander was Arkansas' ace starter this season and had a record of 7-1 with a 2.09 ERA. Wicklander began the season as a relief pitcher, but worked his way into the starting rotation for the third year in a row and thrived in his first season pitching with diagnosed Type 1 diabetes.

Lockhart transferred to Arkansas as a graduate from Houston prior to the season. He went 3-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 16 appearances, including 14 starts.

On May 26, Lockhart came within one out of throwing a seven-inning perfect game against Georgia at the SEC Tournament.

As newsworthy Monday were the players who weren't drafted.

Shortstop Peyton Stovall of Haughton, La., announced Monday he was pulling his name out of the draft just before the beginning of the second round. Stovall was the Razorbacks’ top-rated signee, ranked 33rd by Baseball America.

Arkansas first baseman Brady Slavens also also announced he will return to Arkansas for the 2022 season. Slavens hit .284 with an OPS of .907 in his first season after transferring from Johnson County (Kan.) Community College.

Slavens hit 14 home runs and led the Razorbacks with 63 RBI. He was draft eligible this year, but will maintain draft leverage in 2022 because he has two seasons of college eligibility remaining.

Arkansas shortstop Jalen Battles went undrafted, potentially increasing the likelihood he will return to the Razorbacks for another season. Battles, who has two seasons of eligibility remaining, was ranked the 359th-best prospect in the draft by Baseball America.

Braylon Bishop, an outfield signee from Texarkana, was also undrafted. Bishop was ranked as the Razorbacks' third-best prospect by Baseball America, 88th overall.

Bishop, Stovall and the three signees who have been drafted were among 10 Arkansas signees who were ranked in Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects.

The likelihood of one of Arkansas' high school signees being drafted diminishes greatly between the 10th and 11th rounds, but is still possible. MLB rules include financial penalties for teams that sign picks for more than $125,000 after the start of the 11th round.

The final day of the 20-round draft is scheduled to begin Tuesday at 11 a.m.

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