After a season that saw them win regular season and conference tournament titles, TCU Baseball sent (potentially) six players to professional baseball, as Russell Smith, Johnny Ray, Phillip Sikes, Harrison Beethe, Marcelo Perez, and Haylen Green heard their names called across the 20 round MLB Draft this week.
Russell Smith was the first TCU player off the board, selected in the second round by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 51st pick overall. That would be it for Horned Frogs on day two, as the next player wouldn’t be called until round 12.
The next player may have been the most surprising, as right handed pitcher Johnny Ray went to the White Sox with the 365th pick. Ray came to Fort Worth with loads of potential, and started off his 2020 season strong. But struggles down the stretch in 2021 saw him lose his place in the rotation and be relegated to the bullpen across the last several weeks of the season. Ray, an Illinois native, is considered very signable though, and with a mid-90s fastball that’s capable of touching 98 and developable offspeed pitches, Ray is certainly worth the minimal risk for the Southsiders. It will be interesting to see what decision he makes: with Smith certainly turning pro but Austin Krob going undrafted and returning, the rotation will be centered around the sophomore lefty. Will Ray look to return and regain his form or take his talents to pro ball and see if he can regain his groove in the minor leagues?
Phillip Sikes was the next Frog to hear his name called; the outfielder with the streaky bat and good pop for his side is headed East. Sikes batted .329 with an OPS of 1.047, 19 doubles, and 11 home runs. Selected by Boston in the 18th round with the 526th overall pick, Sikes is another Frog with a choice to make: a fourth year senior, he is eligible to return to Fort Worth and could certainly raise his stock with another solid season. Should he leave, the Frogs are in really good shape in the outfield with rising sophomores Elijah Nunez and Luke Boyers and sophomore Porter Brown, who was arguably the Frogs’ MVP the last month of the season.
Another interesting selection Tuesday was Harrison Beethe, who was selected by Kansas City with the 529th pick (18th round). Beethe didn’t see the field much for the Frogs in 2021; selected in the 39th round after high school, Beethe spent two years North Iowa Area Community College before returning to his hometown of Fort Worth in 2020. This past season, the senior threw just over five innings across eight appearances, but at 6’5” with a fastball that can border on triple digits, he’s another project that has the stuff but needs to be able to place it more consistently.
Two TCU pitchers were selected in the draft’s final round, fourth year junior Marcelo Perez and senior Haylen Green, who served as the Frogs’ closer in 2021 after playing pretty much every role on the field across his career.
Perez is likely to return; the team’s closer as a true freshman, the Laredo, TX native became one of the Frogs’ most reliable middle reliever in 2021, going 1-0 across 13 appearances with a 4.15 ERA and 33 strikeouts. He found his footing across the last several weeks of the season, allowing just three runs across his final seven appearances after allowing at least a run in each of his first six. Perez’s last two outings were his best: against Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament, he struck out three while pitching 4.1 innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just two hits. He allowed just one hit in two innings of work against Oregon State in the Fort Worth Regional. Perez is expected to return to TCU Baseball as opposed to signing with the Angels, and has a chance to raise his stock considerably in 2022.
The latest player drafted out of Fort Worth might have made fans happiest, as Haylen Green went to the White Sox with the 605th pick. Not big (listed at 5’11”, 185) Green is all heart and attitude on the mound, with a funky delivery and a ball that is really hard for hitters to find in the box. Green has had a hell of a career for the Horned Frogs, going 11-7 in 4+ seasons of work, ending his time in Fort Worth with a 3.36 ERA, 13 saves (12 in 2021), and 176 strikeouts. The team’s leader both on and off the field, Green has been part of some of the biggest moments for TCU Baseball across the last five years. A five time Academic All Conference honoree, Green has an All Region and multiple time All American.
Though he had a couple of tough outings down the stretch, the man they call Haylo will forever be a Frog fan favorite. And he certainly has the moxie to go from 20th round pick to Big League pitcher — and nobody that watched him compete over the last five years will be surprised when he does.
Though the Frogs will lose some talented players to professional baseball, they were able to keep their core together. If Perez comes back, he has a chance to matriculate to the starting rotation alongside Austin Krob, who was ranked as a top 250 prospect but surprisingly went undrafted. TCU also only saw one 2021 signee have his name called, catcher Creed Willems out of Aledo. Should the Frogs bring in the bulk of their signees and get Perez and possibly Sikes back, that’s a solid lineup and much deeper rotation of talented and experienced arms heading into 2022. The future is bright in Funky Town, and with Kirk Saarloos at the helm, there’s reason to believe that TCU Baseball will be right back in the postseason mix.