CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It’s been a busy spring for Virginia baseball coach Brian O’Connor, even with all the games canceled due to the coronavirus, and his phone was ringing off the hook heading into Wednesday’s MLB Draft.
“I’ve spoken to more people in professional baseball this spring than I ever have leading into the draft," says O’Connor. "They’re making a large investment in these young people, and they need to get as much information as they possibly can. Without playing, and seeing them, they want to make sure they make the most informed decision when they make that investment.”
Virginia is only expected to have one or two players picked in this year’s truncated five-round draft, with pitchers Andrew Abbott and Griff McGarry the most likely selections.
O’Connor says, “Had it been a normal 40-round draft, we probably would have been somewhere in the range of six to nine of our players who would have been looking at that.”
Having that many players unexpectedly return has the possibility of creating roster problems, but O’Connor says they’re in good shape.
“The way this is playing out, with it only being five rounds, it lends itself to a majority of our third-year players being back next year," says O’Connor. "It’s not really impacting us, the changes of the draft. We’re at a really, really manageable number, and I believe it will work out for us to have a really excellent team on the field next year.”
The Major League Baseball Draft continues with Rounds 2-5 on Thursday at five o’clock.
The Cavaliers have had at least one player drafted in sixteen-straight seasons, starting when Brian O’Connor was hired in 2004.
Virginia baseball signee Nick Bitsko was picked in the First Round of the Major League Baseball Draft on Wednesday night.
Bitsko was selected by Tampa Rays with the 24th overall pick.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander has a fastball which touches 97 miles per hour, but he’s still just 17 years old, after reclassifying from the Class of 2021.
O’Connor says, “Nick Bitsko is a very, very talented right-handed pitcher. Some people feel he might be one of the top 2-or-3 pitchers in the draft this year for high school.”
The 24th overall selection carries a slot bonus value of $2.83 million, but Bitsko could still turn it down, and opt to spend the next three years pitching for the 'Hoos.
“I talked to Nick (Tuesday) night," says O’Connor. "We had a great conversation. I talked with him, and his parents. They’re certainly excited. Either way he’s going to have a difficult decision to make. Certainly, we would love to have his services, and love to have him in our uniform, but we’ll have to see how it plays out, in his best interest.”
The deadline for players to sign or return to school is August 1st this year.