In another year, Owasso’s Nate Wohlgemuth might be on pins and needles waiting to hear his name called in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.
But this isn’t another year. It’s the year of COVID-19 and MLB hasn’t even decided if it’s going to have a season as owners and players continue to squabble.
To save money, the owners have changed the rules for their annual selection show, set to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN.
And those rules don’t favor prospects like Wohlgemuth, a pitching standout who also holds a scholarship to the University of Arkansas.
Previous drafts have run 40 rounds with more than 1,200 players chosen. But this year’s draft will be only be five rounds with a total of 160 selections, counting supplemental rounds and compensation picks.
Wohlgemuth rates 178th overall by MLB.com, which means it is likely he would fall just outside the top 160.
The maximum signing bonus allowed this year for an undrafted free agent is $20,000. That likely won’t be enough to dissuade Wohlgemuth from taking advantage of a lucrative college offer.
Books, board and out-of-state tuition at the University of Arkansas adds up to about $40,000 per year, according to a UA website.
“It would take a lot of money for me to give up on my dream of playing at Arkansas,” said Wohlgemuth, a powerful right-hander who helped pitched the Rams to the 6A state tournament in each of his first three seasons.
Many seniors are determined to play pro baseball straight out of high school, but Wohlgemuth says he isn’t that guy.
“I have plans for life and I’ve got the best of both worlds,” he said. “I’ll have my school paid for and if it doesn’t work out in this year’s draft, I’ll still have three more times that I can be drafted.”
When a player enters a four-year program, he is eligible to be drafted again after his junior or senior seasons or when he turns 21.
It isn’t entirely out of the question that Wohlgemuth could go higher than expected and land in one of the top five rounds. If that happens, he will have more lucrative options. The lowest signing bonus allowed this year is $324,100 for the Houston Astros, who have the 160th and last pick.
But other Oklahomans are likely to fare better. Former Bixby standout Cade Cavalli, a 6-foot-4 right-hander for the University of Oklahoma, is rated 22nd overall by MLB.com and projects as a mid- to late first-round pick.
OU signees Dax Fulton of Mustang, Cade Horton of Norman and Jace Bohrofen of Westmoore are rated 43rd, 47th and 93rd overall by MLB.com.
The first 37 picks will be shown Wednesday, covering the first round and competitive balance round A. The draft continues at 4 p.m. Thursday on ESPN2 with the final four rounds and 123 picks.
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