I hope you have your “old timey news guy” voice ready to go because its time for This Week in Husker Baseball to update you on how the offseason is progressing. It’s always a big deal when the draft comes around, because unlike other sports, players can still return, or new players can join the program after being drafted. That by itself provides a lot of storylines. But other movement in the program has provided us some news to update you on as well. So let's get to it!
The biggest storyline going into the draft was how high Spencer Schwellenbach would go. Some prognosticators had him projected to be the first Nebraska player to go in the first round since Alex Gordon in 2005 (or Joba in the supplemental first round in ‘06). That didn’t end up happening, but he did get selected in the 2nd round at number 59 overall by the Atlanta Braves, the team that had shown the most interest in him in the draft process.
That put Schwellenbach as the highest drafted Husker since Ryan Boldt went in the second round at #53 overall to the Rays. As for what the best 2-way player in the country will play, the Braves started looking at him as a pure position player, but his dominance on the mound down the stretch, combined with his progressively longer outings, have them looking at starting him out on the mound in the minors.
The next Husker expected to be taken off the board was 1st Team All Big Ten pitcher, Cade Povich. And the wait wasn’t long, as Povich was taken in the 3rd round by the Twins. He became the highest drafted Nebraska starting pitcher since Aaron Pribanic was also taken with the 98th pick in 2008. Povich was in the middle of a run on Big Ten aces being drafted on Day 2 of the draft (rounds 2-10). 11 of the 13 Big Ten players taken that day were pitchers, if you include Schwellenbach.
Now that the draft has been shortened to 20 rounds instead of the 50 round monster it used to be, the prospect for another Husker to be drafted was up in the air, with a few names being on the bubble. Only one more actually ended up getting the call, as Cam Wynn was taken in the final round by the Phillies.
Wynne wasted little time in committing to the Phillies. The Lincoln High grad had already spent 4 years in college between Johnson County CC, Texas A&M, and Nebraska, and capitalized on a strong finish to year after some rocky outings early on in the season.
Cam Wynne tells me he will sign with the Philadelphia Phillies and begin his professional career. At 22 years old and already with four years of college behind him, that's a decision that makes a lot of sense. #Huskers— Chris Basnett (@HuskerExtraCB) July 13, 2021
Jaxon Hallmark had received interest from teams and was considered having a possibility of being drafted. He has yet to report if any free agent offers have come his way. Look for an update here if he releases any news.
Luke Roskam is also trying to work his way onto a major league franchise’s watch list by competing for the Grand Junction Rockies. They are in the Pioneer League, which isn’t an official minor league, but is partnered with the MLB. He is leading the team hitting .346 and has 8 HRs and 8 doubles. Both of those are tops on the team since joining, and he is only a couple behind the team leaders for the entire season, who have almost 100 more at bats than he did, since their season started halfway through the college baseball season. Roskam started his season there with a 2 HR game, and has hit a walk-off pinch hit HR in his short time with the team.
The draft provided news on another front for Nebraska Baseball, in that none of the Huskers incoming recruits were drafted. The new trend in professional baseball seems to be taking college players, as 80% of the first 10 rounds were players from some level of college. They usually have to pay the college players less money out of their allotted signing bonus money, since they have less leverage on turning down contracts. That combined with only 20 rounds, means more top recruits are likely to make it to campus in the coming years.
A few Huskers didn’t even wait for the final 10 rounds to complete as they announced they will not be pursuing a professional career before day 3 of the draft even started. The biggest name to do so was Nebraska Gatorade Player of the Year, Drew Christo, seen by some outlets as the top recruit coming into the entire Big Ten conference. How good is Christo? He beat out Thomas Fidone and 5 star Gonzaga commit, Hunter Sallis for the Omaha Sports Commission Athlete of the Year.
Wanted to say a huge thanks to all the scouts who took valued time to come and evaluate me and pursue relationships; however, going to school is the right choice for me at this point. Thank you again! Let’s work, Lincoln! #BoltEra #GBR— Drew Christo (@drewachristo) July 13, 2021
Christo, was joined by another player from the state of Nebraska in Norris pitcher, and Husker Baseball legacy, CJ Hood. The younger brother of Byron is a hard throwing RH and was the #2 recruit in Nebraska.
The 3rd member of the class that was getting a fair amount of draft buzz was Chase Mason. He is primarily a OF, but will also potentially be looked upon to pitch as well. He was the number 1 ranked player in South Dakota, and did not pull his name out of day 3 of the draft or even right away in the free agency process. But he has now announced that he too will be attending Nebraska, meaning the entire 15 person class will make it to campus.
Getting the Band Back Together
The first big news of the baseball offseason was Will Bolt getting his much deserved contract extension. The coach added an extra year to his contract, which now runs through 2026, and added an extra $100,000 per year in salary, increasing him to $400,000 per year. This makes him the 2nd highest paid coach in the Big Ten, behind Erik Backich who makes over $800,000.
Bolt wasted little time in making his first move after re-signing. That was bringing his former coach and mentor, Rob Childress, back into the Husker Baseball Offices, as Director of Player Development. Childress was let go by Texas A&M after 16 seasons with 5 conference championships and 2 College World Series appearances. He returns to the dugout where he was viewed as perhaps the best pitching coach in the country during his previous tenure in Lincoln. He will be a major asset to pitching coach Jeff Christy, as Nebraska has to replace 2/3rds of its starting rotation and its workhorse closer.
The Portal Giveth, and the Portal Taketh Away
Nebraska got right to it, in pulling a former Aggie to join Childress, and a promising young pitcher at that.
Mason Ornelas is coming to NU after a solid Freshman season in which he made 18 appearances and threw 37 innings, striking out 42 and walking 12, while posting an ERA of 5.11 in the baseball power conference of the SEC. He should figure prominently in the weekend plans for the Huskers, as he made the commitment partially due to being told he will have every opportunity to compete for a starting spot. He also joins his brother Mitch up here, who works in the NU athletics social media department. So thanks for the recruiting help, Mitch!
The portal also provided an opportunity for a former Husker to move on. Sayer Diederich announced he would be continuing on with Southern Nevada. An Elkhorn South graduate, Diederich made 3 appearances on the season, with his best outing coming in the series finale of the Purdue series in which he relieved his high school teammate Jake Bunz and struck out 2 in 1 inning of work.