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How The Shortened MLB Draft Could Impact Clemson Baseball

Now that the MLB Draft has officially been shortened to just five rounds, college baseball players and coaches now have a better idea on what the future holds for themselves and their programs

The 2020 Major League Baseball Draft is now rapidly approaching. However, this years draft will be unlike any we have seen in years, which could be good news for college baseball fans. 

For weeks, there were rumors that the draft would be much shorter than what we've become accustomed to seeing. The uncertainty of it all left some players wondering about their futures, and coaches wondering about their rosters. 

On May 8, MLB officially confirmed this year's draft would indeed be shortened. Instead of the normal 40 rounds, this draft will consist of just five rounds. 

Many draft-eligible players, in high school and college, who might normally hear their names called, will not this year. That includes some players in the Clemson baseball program. 

Monte Lee thinks, though, that he has one guaranteed pick in this year's draft, shortened, or not. 

"We do think Sam Weatherly is going to get a chance to go this year," Lee told AllClemson.com in an exclusive interview. "Even in a five-round draft. I've been pretty outspoken about Sam, and how big a fan I am of him."

"I've had quite a few conversations with professional organizations about him. I get the sense he's going to go pretty good. I could see Sam going somewhere possibly in the second round, maybe the third round."

As a junior, Weatherly made four starts as the Friday night ace in 2020. To say he was dominant would be vastly underselling it, and his efforts did not go unrecognized as he was named a third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball. 

The hard-throwing lefty finished with a record of 2-0 and an ERA of just 0.79. In 22.2 innings pitched, he struck out 43 batters, and opponents hit just .096 against him. 

"He's tough as nails," Lee said. "He's super-athletic. He was dominant for us. I really hated that this happened. Because we didn't get a chance to see a true dominant Friday night starter and let Sam Weatherly do his thing for a whole season."

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"I think he's a first-round pick, but that's my opinion. I think he's a big leaguer."

Another junior on the team who Lee thinks could possibly be taken is starting pitcher Spencer Strider. After missing all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, Strider was still working his way back to full strength when the season was cut short. 

"Another guy in our program who could potentially be taken, and I've had a lot of conversations about, is Spencer Strider," Lee said. "It's a little up in the air whether Spencer will go or not. We're not quite sure yet."

Strider did make four starts in the shortened 2019 season but only threw 12 innings. Despite the fact that he was still trying to knock off some rust after having missed an entire year and build up his pitch count, he was able to strike out 19 batters. 

While Lee would be thrilled to see Strider taken in this year's draft, he knows what kind of impact he would have on the program if he were to come back to Clemson in 2020. 

"He came into the season only 12.5 months out of Tommy John," Lee said. "He wasn't even at full strength when the season started. Spencer could go, but we may be able to get Spencer back. If we do, we've got a potentially dominating Friday night starter for next year."

There's also one player in the Tigers 2020 recruiting class to keep an eye on. Lee doesn't like to discuss players who have yet to arrive at school and wouldn't mention Caden Grice by name, but he did say there had been some discussions about the incoming freshman being taken.  

"I don't like to speculate to much on the signees," Lee said. "We do have one young man who just won Gatorade State Player of the Year in our state of South Carolina, who I think is getting quite a good bit of pro attention. I think he values his education," Lee said. "I think he values the opportunity to play at Clemson. So we'll see how that goes. As we get a little closer, there could be some conversations as to whether he's going to be taken high enough to sign and forgo the opportunity to play at Clemson."

With such a shortened draft, many of those arms could be back playing college baseball again in 2020, and that can't be bad for the sport. 

"A lot of scouts think this draft, this year, is the deepest in pitching that it's been in the last decade. The consensus across the country is there's just a ton of really high-quality pitchers that are draft eligible this year. That could affect the draft market this year. On the high school side, and on the college side."