Five current players and six incoming players associated with the Crimson Tide baseball program were selected in the 2018 MLB draft held on June 4th, 5th, and 6th. The decisions that many of them make will make an impact on the look of future Bama teams.
Arkansas high school outfielder P.J. Hilson was the first one chosen, in the sixth round, number 166 overall by the San Fransisco Giants. Hilson is a much needed piece for coach Brad Bohannon and the Tide in 2019, but may be hard pressed to turn down the money, (slot for that pick is right at $300,000.)
Catcher-infielder Bryan Lavastida, a junior college product expected to compete for playing time next season, was next, picked in the 15th round (460 overall) by the Cleveland Indians. Lavastida is out of Hillsborough Community College in Florida. Most expect him to sign and begin his pro career.
Incoming freshman right handed pitcher Dylan Smith was taken by San Diego in the 18th round, number 531 overall. Smith is a tall, thin, very athletic, player who also plays outfield. He has the frame to add weight and strength, and would seemingly benefit from the college experience. Smith comes from an education-first family and plans on majoring in engineering. That being said, it will likely be touch and go on getting him to campus, and it may be close to the deadline in late July before a decision is made.
High school pitcher Taylor Ras, out of New Jersey was expected to be a fairly high draft pick, but fell to the 33rd round. The Chicago Cubs took Ras with the 998th pick. Ras has let the Cubs know he appreciated being drafted, but he will be enrolling at Alabama, which is a huge get for coach Brad Bohannon and the Tide.
Junior college RHP Will Freeman was the next player with Alabama ties picked, in the 36th round by the San Diego Padres with the 1071st pick. It appears that Freeman will wait until closer to the deadline to make a decision.
The last player selected was junior college catcher-infielder Brett Auerbach by Colorado in the 40th round, with pick number 1206. Speculation is that Auerbach will be in a Tide uniform come next season.
The first current Tide player taken was senior right handed pitcher Jake Walters, who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the ninth round, number 267 overall. Walters was a stalwart for four seasons for the Tide, and leaves the Capstone with his degree and several places in the record book. The Maylene native is tied for first all time in school history in games started with 52, and his third in strikeouts, fourth in innings pitched, and fourth in batters faced.
Junior outfielder Chandler Taylor was the next Tide player off the board, going to the World Champion Houston Astros in the 10th round, number 312 overall. Taylor is eighth in career home runs at Bama with 38. Taylor struggled at times this year and finished with a .223 batting average and 13 home runs. After his sophomore campaign in which he hit .285 with 16 home runs, Taylor was chosen by the Minnesota Twins in the 27th round, but opted to return to school for his junior year. The slot he was chosen this time has a value of around $140,000. Taylor is expected to sign, and begin his professional career within the next couple of weeks.
Fan favorite and team MVP Cobie Vance was picked in the 18th round, number 533, by the Oakland A’s. Vance had a very good junior season moving to third base after playing second base his first two seasons. The Fayetteville, NC native hit .293 with six home runs this past season. The versatile athlete can play third, second or shortstop, and there has even been talk of moving him to catcher. Vance was a 16th round pick of the Cleveland Indians coming out of high school. There is very little chance that Vance will return to Tuscaloosa for his senior year. Very, very little.
Junior shortstop Jett Manning was drafted in the 20th round by the San Fransisco Giants as the 586th player taken. Manning played only one season at Alabama, and had an up and down year. The Virginia native hit .251 and made 16 errors this season.
Senior infielder Chandler Avant went to the New York Mets in the 30th round, number 890 overall. He was a four year starter for the Tide and led the team with a .295 average in 2018. Avant ended his career in the top 10 all time in doubles, at bats, and assists.
All in all things went pretty well for the Tide. Several players that were thought to be on the fence were either not drafted or were picked later that expected. Many times that is because the player lets it be known they are set on going to school, or have a big money number that it will take to sign professional. Most around the Tide had expected junior outfielders Keith Holcombe and Jeaux Breaux to be drafted, but neither were.
Coach Bohannon is ready to flush his first season, 27-29, 8-22 in the SEC, and start building for the future. With the returning guys and the incoming crop of new players, next season should show a big improvement. The big step should come in 2020 and forward.
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