If you weren’t able to tune in to the first night of the 2019 MLB Draft Monday evening, no hard feelings. MLB Network isn’t the most accessible of channels for the masses, after all, and maybe one day we’ll be lucky enough to see it on ESPN.
But, in the event that the opening rounds the draft completely bypassed you and there’s not a chance that you can name newest member or two of your favorite team — or even if you just simply love the Big 12 with all of your heart — buddy, we have some important catching up to do.
Has 2019 been a good one for the Big 12 on the baseball diamond? Well, that’s up for you to decide. Four member schools ended the regular season in the D1Baseball.com top 25, and all but one Big 12 school finished an overall .500 or better. Baylor and West Virginia put together some their best campaigns in recent memory. And TCU against, all odds, found a way to sneak into the NCAA tournament as one of the last four teams in the field.
Granted, only two Big 12 teams are left in the NCAA tournament, and the conference will soon cannibalize itself to just one team remaining as Texas Tech and Oklahoma State embark on their super regional showdown. But hey, that means another year of a Big 12 team appearing in the College World Series, which is a win for all of us.
But let’s talk about the draft. That is what we are here for after all.
We can chat all we want about Nick Lodolo — who has now etched himself in TCU baseball lore as the highest-drafted player in program history. One fantastic college career and, now, a fat paycheck later, he’s off to Cincinnati as the No. 7 overall pick and the first pitcher off the board. If you’re counting, yes — that also makes him the highest Big 12 player drafted since 2013. Every ounce of celebration here is warranted — a nice change of pace considering TCU’s season came to an end in Fayetteville less than 24 hours before Lodolo’s name was announced by Rob Manfred. But you probably already knew all about that.
One pick later — yes, Lodolo was that close to eyeing a professional career just some 15 miles east of Fort Worth — the Texas Rangers decided to make two Big 12 studs in a row with the selection of Texas Tech third-baseman and 2019 Co-Big 12 Player of the Year Josh Jung. And rivalries aside, yes: All you Rangers fans should be very excited about what the 21-year-old from San Antonio can do for a franchise that has somehow found a way to be above .500 in June amid a “rebuilding season.”
And good on the Braves for making it a Big 12 trifecta at No. 9, taking Baylor catcher and former Keller High Schools star Shea Langeliers. He just happened to set an NCAA tournament single game RBI record over the weekend in the Los Angeles regional, if you missed it.
Three familiar Big 12 faces, all drafted in consecutive order within the top 10, giving the Big 12 the most top 10 picks of any conference this year. It was that close to being four, as West Virginia RHP Alek Manoah was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays at No. 11. The San Francisco Giants had one job, but we’ll forgive them considering Hunter Bishop attended the same high school and college as the games all-time home run king (I do not expect him to topple Barry Bonds’ mark, for the record). If you wish, you can also factor in Colleyville Heritage star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. — an Oklahoma signee — who was taken No. 2 overall by the Kansas City Royals.
None of that, however, takes away from just important this draft was for the Big 12 — one that featured five first found picks (Baylor 3B Davis Wendzel was later selected at No. 41 overall). Never before had the Big 12 produced four picks in the top-11. Never before had Baylor — we will give credit where credit is due — produced multiple first round draft picks. Brandon Williamson’s 2nd round selection by the Seattle Mariners (No. 59 overall) only further strengthened an all-around solid night for the conference.
Related: The door is still wide open. We still have two more days to go in the draft, so this party for the Big 12 is far from being over. Or so we can only hope.
We can’t perfectly forecast the future for the Big 12 — I mean who would have guessed Texas would finish the way it did this spring — but what we can tell you is that big things are happening for a conference that has already had its fair share of success over the years. College World Series appearances and all are great, but Monday’s message was crystal clear: If you come to the Big 12, the path is there for you to become one of the hottest commodities in the world of rising baseball talent.
And folks, there isn’t a greater recruiting tool than that. Good thing the Horned Frogs have 5 trips to Omaha since 2010 alongside that when it comes to selling recruits, for that matter.
Cheers to you, Big 12 baseball. It’s a great day to be alive.