The Major League Baseball amateur draft came and went June 3-5, and no Colorado Springs-area high school player was selected. Many area sports fans had assumed, based on the rankings of those who scout talent around our nation, that Pine Creek’s Riley Cornelio would be selected in the top five rounds. At least.
Cornelio, this year’s Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year with a 94 mph fastball, went undrafted through all 40 rounds and will likely play for Texas Christian University next season. He signed his national letter of intent with the Horned Frogs and said he plans to keep that commitment.
“Riley is really looking forward to playing for TCU,” said Gary Krug, Pine Creek assistant coach and former major leaguer. “He’s going to find that the level of baseball in college is very good.”
Cornelio going undrafted comes three years after Lewis-Palmer’s Paul Tillotson was also thought to be a sure-fire high-draft pick. Tillotson was the 2016 Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year and had already signed his letter of intent with Nebraska when the draft rolled around. The experts had Tillotson, also a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, going in the top five rounds, but he was never selected.
Tillotson recently completed his redshirt sophomore season with Nebraska.
Of the four major North American sports — baseball, football, basketball and hockey — baseball, by far, is considered the toughest sport to evaluate professional talent. Especially at the high school level.
According to a Wall Street Journal review of data from Baseball-Reference, of the 1,217 players taken this season, only about 24 percent of those drafted went straight from high school. That marked the seventh consecutive year there was a decrease in that category.
Only 19 percent of players taken in the first 10 rounds this season were high-schoolers. That is down from 46 percent in 1999, 34 percent in 2009 and 22 percent in 2016, the previous all-time low.
Two decades ago, about 40 percent of the players selected in the first 40 rounds came directly from high school.
Krug played in an era (the 1970s and early 1980s) when the draft was definitely much less of an exact science. He was drafted three times: out of Mitchell High School in June 1974 by the New York Mets in the 31st round; by the Mets again out of Lamar Community College in the second round of the 1975 January-Draft-Secondary Phase; and by the Chicago Cubs in 1977 out of the University of Oklahoma in the 29th round of the June draft.
“I had a great time playing in college,” Krug said. “I got to play in the College World Series with Oklahoma and still fondly remember that time.”
Krug spent five years in the Cubs’ organization. He appeared in seven major league games with six plate appearances for the Cubs in 1981. He was 2-for-5.
“If I had to do it again, I would do it again,” Krug said.
“There were a lot of players I played with at OU who were better than the guys I played with professionally, but we got that opportunity. If you try to figure this all out, you’ll drive yourself crazy.”