More Spartans selected in 2016 MLB draft
And it's one, two, three stars who are out of MSU to try to play the old ball game on the grandest stage. Cam Vieaux, Dakota Mekkes, and and Jordan Zimmerman all actualized their childhood dreams of playing professional baseball when all reached contractual agreements to join MLB organizations.
Vieaux was selected in the sixth round by the Pirates, Zimmerman was taken in the seventh round by the Angels, and Mekkes was drafted in the tenth round by the Cubs. From the formalization of their contract agreements, they will be reassigned to minor league affiliates or summer league squads and have the opportunity to work up to the majors.
"I think that's definitely a point of pride when we recruit guys and when we recruit them with the idea that they're not only going to haver the opportunity to get better but play pro baseball," MSU baseball head coach Jake Boss Jr. said regarding the school record four underclassmen selected in the MLB draft. "You know, everybody who plays at this level I think has dreams and aspirations of playing at the next level. It's definitely a point of pride for our program and I think it speaks to again the recruiting trail, where Michigan State's a place where you're going to come to get better and going to earn the opportunity to play pro baseball."
The Spartans' final draftee, catcher and 24th-round pick Matt Byars, decided to extend his stay at MSU for his senior season, spurning the Minnesota Twins' offer to send him to the Gulf Coast League.
Congrats to Matt Byars!— Michigan St Baseball (@statebaseball) June 11, 2016
Selected by MIN in the 24th round, No. 723 overall. pic.twitter.com/RUyquhzeOC
"When you look at it from a financial standpoint, Mekkes, Zimmerman, Vieaux all made wise decisions, and I think Matt's decision was a wise one as well. The amount of money he was offered from the Twins wasn't what he was looking for," Boss said about Byars' contract offer, adding that it always took the right coalition of money, fit, and timing to pull someone away from MSU. "Those factors, they just didn't outweigh the fact that he loves playing for Michigan State... Matt and all our guys, they love playing for Michigan State and pulling on the green and white and competing every day."
Both Zimmerman and Vieaux were very content with their draft positions, Boss stated, and their elevated draft positions portended the whole dotted line, ballpoint pen scenario from the start. Vieaux had previously been drafted in both the 17th and 19th rounds, but his decision to return for his redshirt junior year earned him an additional $100,000 compared to the previous offers, rewarding him for his prior restraint. For Zimmerman, his rapid ascension from Mesa Community College standout to one of the Big Ten's best batters made the decision simple.
For Mekkes, the decision was slightly more complicated. The Cubs organization, however, gave him a quite appeasing salary figure and a welcoming situation, and it was the right time for the redshirt sophomore closer to go, according to Boss, despite having two years remaining of "leverage" to improve his stock.
"He's going to get an amount significant amount above the slot in the tenth round. They've agreed to terms, and the number they agreed to was very, very close to the number he was looking for," Boss said about Mekkes, the Big Ten leader in ERA.
"At the same time, there's a role of the dice there (if you stay). If you come back and you get hurt, if you come back and you don't throw well, then you slide in the draft and anything can happen. So if you're a top-ten rounder and the organization comes backs with the number you're looking for, we told Dakota, 'Go with our blessing and realize that dream.' When you get to the big leagues and earn a bunch of money and give a bunch back, we'll name a building after you and go from there."
While Boss knows that the voids will be hard to fill, he views it as a welcome part of his job. In his opinion, outputting pros is a sign of success for a college baseball team, and it leads to a positive feedback loop of bringing in winning calibre players who see their chance for advancement.
"If you're recruiting the types of guys who are going to help you win, you have to accept that pro ball is a reality. And I think you have to embrace that," Boss said. "Beginning even freshman year, we educate our guys on what is pro baseball and what it takes to lure you. And that number is significantly different for each guy."
Boss has been in steady communication with his players since draft day and says the Michigan State baseball program thanks all of them for their contributions.
"You look at a kid like Cam Vieaux, and a kid who came here as a walk-on, redshirted his freshman year and kept improving and improving. He's as good of a left-hander as we've had in a long time," Boss said, tributing each of the departing trio. "Zimmerman, you know, even though it was a one-year thing, as good as a hitter as we've had in a long time. And again, Mekkes is a guy who we redshirted early, worked hard, and I think it's really a testament to what can happen when you work hard.
All three guys, I'm really proud of all of them. They're very important for the program and the successes we had last year and the successes in the future, as well."