FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will lose plenty of veterans from its 2013 team after an NCAA-leading 11 players were selected in last week’s Major League Baseball Draft.
But it appears as if the Razorbacks will get one returning starter back next season.
Arkansas catcher Jake Wise appears set to return to the program after going undrafted last week. Wise wasn’t selected in the 40-round draft after suffering an elbow injury in the NCAA Tournament that required Tommy John surgery.
Infielder Dominic Ficociello said Monday he has spoken with Wise about his plans after the catcher underwent surgery late last week.
“Definitely not the scenario he figured, planned on, but he’s hanging in there,” Ficociello said. “I think, in a way, he’s looking at things on the bright side. He knows as a senior catcher he’ll come back and he’ll do just fine. He’s already the best defensive catcher in the country. This just gives him a chance to come back and prove himself offensively. He knows how the program is run.
“He’ll be a captain of this team next year. No doubt about it.”
Wise started 101 of Arkansas’ 129 games the past two seasons.
His didn’t have a great year offensively after hitting .212 in 2013, but Wise’s leadership was evident behind the plate. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said the staff trusted Wise to call pitches as the 2013 season wore on.
Wise could be just as valuable in 2013. The Tommy John surgery will likely have him sidelined until March, leaving redshirt freshman Blake Baxendale as the probable starter early on. But pitcher Brandon Moore said Wise will be valuable for a young catcher and inexperienced pitching staff no matter how much he’s one the field.
“It’s unfortunate he got hurt,” Moore said. “But he’ll do great with another year here. It’s good for (the team) to have a catcher who’s proven himself. He can teach the younger guys like Baxendale, and whoever is coming in ...
“He’ll be a plus to the organization.”
Arkansas has three catchers in its 2013 signing class. One of them, Jon Denney, isn’t likely to make it to campus after the Boston Red Sox selected him in the third-round of the MLB Draft last week. Fayetteville High’s Carson Shaddy, the state’s Gatorade Player the Year, and North Little Rock’s Alex Gosser also have signed with the Hogs.
Redshirt freshman Jean Ramirez was the second-team catcher last season, but probably won’t be back for 2013 with Wise’s return and Baxendale’s availability after redshirting 2012 following Tommy John surgery. Van Horn said Ramirez would most likely look to transfer elsewhere in search of playing time.
“He's a redshirt freshman going into his sophomore year, and he wants to catch every day, and I don't blame him,” Van Horn said of Ramirez. “We had a good talk. He's a great kid. He did everything we asked him to do, but that’s kind of TBA.”
Ficociello said Wise has remained positive through the injury, which kept him out of Arkansas’ season-ending loss to Kansas State. He may not have been drafted in 2013, but Ficociello is confident the catcher will hear his name called next season.
“We always joked around saying we’ll get drafted by the same team,” said Ficociello, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers. “I guess he’ll just have to wait another year for the Tigers to pick him up. I think he’ll come back even stronger than before. I look forward to keeping tabs on him and watching him lead this team next year.”
Ficociello and Moore didn’t close the door on possible returns to Arkansas in 2013.
Ficociello was selected in the 12th round, but his draft stock slid after hitting just .247 as a junior. His goal is to sign with the organization, but said he’ll know more about his plans after negotiating with the Tigers.
“Since I’m outside of the top 10 rounds, I’m waiting to see which of those top 10 round guys go,” Ficociello said. “So if some of them don’t sign, that kind of opens up money. The whole negotiating process for me right now is just waiting it out, seeing if they don’t sign some of their other guys so that maybe some of the money opens up and I squeeze out a little bit more for myself.”
The Milwaukee Brewers selected Moore in the 17th round he went 1-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 25 appearances. The Van Buren native also hopes to finalize plans as soon as possible because “it’s a little weird not knowing what you’ll do in the future.”
“I’m not sure what I’ll do,” Moore said. “It’s a process. Depending how things work out. I want to sign, but it also would be really cool to play here another year.”
The deadline for players to sign with their teams is July 12.
Astin Signs With Brewers
Several players began signing with the teams that drafted them Monday.
The group included Arkansas pitcher Barrett Astin, who signed with the Milwaukee Brewers according to Baseball America. Astin – who was selected in the third round Friday – reportedly signed for the recommended slot value of $584,300.
He was one of 11 Razorbacks selected in the 40-round draft.
Astin will report to the Helena Brewers in Montana. Helena is Milwaukee's rookie league team.
Arkansas signee Teddy Stankiewicz also agreed to terms with the Boston Red Sox, according to WEEI.com. Stankiewicz — who signed with Arkansas in 2012, too, but opted to play at a junior college last season to be eligible for the draft again this summer — was selected in the second round on Thursday night.
The signing was no surprise. Van Horn wasn’t expecting Stankiewicz on campus.
Arkansas announced that 21 players will be participating in summer collegiate baseball leagues the next two months.
Eight Razorbacks will play in the Cape Cod League. This list includes: first basemen Eric Fisher and Willie Schwanke, pitchers Jalen Beeks, Chris Oliver, Michael Gunn and Trey Killian, and outfielders Tyler Spoon and Brian Anderson.
Nine players — Brett McAfee, Landon Simpson, Colin Poche, Jordan Farris, Isaac Hellbusch, Joe Serrano, Adam Meyer, Jackson Lowery and Garrett Rucker — will spend the summer in the Northwoods League.
Ramirez and Mike Sisco will play in the California Collegiate League. Josh Alberius and Clayton Booth are playing in the Coastal Plain League.