CARY, N.C. – Don’t get Ethan Hankins wrong, he was happy to see that the top three picks in this year’s MLB Draft were from the high school ranks, the first time that’s happened since 1990. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t impact him deciding to either honor his commitment and play at Vanderbilt after his senior year or enter next year’s draft.
“Not one bit,” he said.
Hankins’ sentiments were shared by most of the players at the Tournament of Stars, who maintained that the ultimate decision is largely situational and always personal.
“Obviously, we all look at the draft this year and think about it,” said Hankins, a right-handed pitcher at Forsyth Central (Cumming, Ga.) who is ranked No. 5 overall in the Perfect Game 500. “But I don’t look at it and say ‘OK, that’s what I’m gonna do now.’ Things change year-to-year and it’s gotta be the right move for you individually. That’s a big decision.”
Massive, especially from a financial perspective.
Royce Lewis, this year’s No. 1 overall pick, will receive a reported $6.725 million signing bonus with the Minnesota Twins after he passes his physical; a record for a high school player.
On the flipside, if a player opts to go to a four-year college instead of entering the draft, they have to wait until June of their junior year or the first June after they’ve turned 21 to enter the draft.
North Oconee (Bogart, Ga.) pitcher Kumar Rocker is the top-ranked player in the Perfect Game Top 500 and said that he only took this year’s draft as “something cool to witness.”
“It won’t affect me in any way,” said Rocker, a right-handed pitcher who is committed to Vanderbilt. “That decision has a lot to do with your background and your environment, but, when that time comes, I’ll make the best decision for me.”
Will Banfield said he has “every intention” to go to Vanderbilt next season, but would be open if teams expressed interest at the time.
“Not just because the top three were high school guys this year,” said Banfield, a catcher at Brookwood (Lawrenceville, Ga.) who is ranked No. 6 overall in the Perfect Game 500. “I don’t look at it like that. If I’m blessed with the opportunity to make that decision, that’s awesome; but I’m not planning on it even if guys in my position did it the year before.”
Still, not everyone was totally noncommittal, Hattiesburg (Miss) outfielder Joe Gray Jr. said that if he was guaranteed to be in the Top 10, he’d “have to take advantage of that opportunity.”
“Seeing the draft this year makes the possibility of us achieving our dreams even more real,” said Gray, who is ranked No. 4 overall in the Perfect Game 500. “If I’m in the top 10, call it. I want to be at Ole Miss next year, right in the middle of Swayze Field, but if it’s a life-changing situation you have to take that.”
Santiago (Corona, Calif.) infielder Brice Turang said he’s “not thinking too deep” into the draft and quickly added that the “college experience is awesome.”
“I had four sisters who all went to college and they loved it,” said Turang who is ranked No. 2 overall in the Perfect Game 500. “I’m happy for all of those guys in this year’s draft, but I’m gonna focus on doing my thing and focus on that. When that time comes for me, whatever happens, happens.”
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