Baron Radcliff and shortstop Luke Waddell appear to be the two most likely Yellow Jackets players to be selected in the 160-player draft, shortened from 40 rounds to five this year as a cost-saving measure for major-league teams.
Radcliff and/or Waddell would extend to 40 the number of consecutive years that a Tech player has been selected and add to coach Danny Hall’s total of 126 drafted players at Tech.
“It’s almost like the day before school (starts),” Vic Radcliff said. “You’re anticipating something happening, and you’re excited to go and see what happens. But we will stay a little low key.”
Father and son were to spend Wednesday night in a fitting manner. Vic, a youth baseball coach and trainer and former minor league player, is the coach for a 7-under team and is assisted by Baron.
Vic said he has preached to Baron that “even though he’s going to be a professional, he’s still going to be able to give back because he was once in that position himself.”
Radcliff, a second-team All-ACC pick last season after hitting 12 home runs with a slugging percentage of .503, is rated the No. 227 prospect in the draft by Baseball America. The outlet wrote of Radcliff that there are questions about his high rate of strikeouts, but also that he has “plus-plus raw power that wows scouts.”
“He’s ready to be a pro,” Vic Radcliff said of his son.
Waddell, who hit .322 with a .436 on-base percentage in 2019, is ranked the No. 116 draft prospect by Baseball America and No. 125 by MLB.com. Baseball America raised questions about his size (5-foot-9, 180 pounds), but praised his versatility and work ethic and projected him as a “super-utility type player who can fill in at shortstop in a pinch if necessary.”
Besides Waddell and Radcliff, three other Jackets players ranked in Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects are pitcher Brant Hurter (No. 290), outfielder Michael Guldberg (No. 310) and pitcher Andy Archer (No. 392).
All five were juniors this past season. For players who aren’t drafted, they can be offered a maximum signing bonus of $20,000. It’s likely that they would return to Tech under those circumstances.
Senior pitcher Jonathan Hughes is another candidate, one whose draft candidacy likely would have been helped by a full season of play this year, as he had started promisingly before the coronavirus pandemic suspended play in mid-March.
While many of Tech’s draft hopefuls would seem outside of the range of prospects likely to be taken in the 160-player draft, draft rankings can be valued only so much. In last year’s fifth round, for instance, 13 of the 30 prospects selected were ranked outside MLB.com’s pre-draft top 200. Five were not included among Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects.
The most likely member of Hall’s incoming freshman class to be drafted is catcher Kevin Parada from Los Angeles. Parada is ranked the No. 48 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com and “widely considered one of the best prep hitters in the class,” according to the former. He is the No. 3 high-school catching prospect, according to the Perfect Game scouting service.
Tech coaches are hopeful that he’ll stand firm in his decision to attend Tech and follow Tech catching greats such as Joey Bart, Matt Wieters and Jason Varitek. However, he would be in position to receive a healthy signing bonus if drafted in the neighborhood of his ranking. The slot value for the No. 48 pick is $1,543,600.