The annual Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is an exciting and tense time for players and coaches alike.
University of Maine baseball coach Steve Trimper is a bit anxious heading into the draft, especially with four of his players likely to be getting a look by big-league organizations.
The Black Bears could have as many as four players selected in the draft, including two players now on the roster and two others who have committed to attend UMaine in the fall.
“We’ll find out Thursday and Friday where they go,” Trimper said of the potential UMaine picks.
The group consists of junior pitcher Brad Hertzler, junior infielder Curt Smith, and incoming freshman pitchers Kyle Benoit and Kyle Slate.
Hertzler is the player most likely to sign a pro contract. The lefthander is coming off a solid season during which he posted a 4-5 record with 3.58 earned run average.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder struck out 71 batters in 73 innings and held opponents to a .245 batting average.
“I really think Hertzler’s going to get a good shot to sign,” Trimper said.
Hertzler was drafted out of East Providence (R.I.) High School in 2004. He was taken in the 32nd round by the Boston Red Sox and then played two years of junior college ball before attending UMaine.
Smith has been a fixture on the left side of the Bears’ infield for the last three seasons. The 5-10, 208-pounder from Willemstad, Curacao, ranked second on the team this season with a .351 batting average. He led UMaine with eight home runs and 48 runs batted in.
Smith said after the America East tournament that he would be returning for his senior season in 2008.
“With Curt, it’s going to take a little more from the financial side of things,” said Trimper, who explained Smith’s international status would make it hard for him to sign then come back and finish school later.
Both Hertzler and Smith were All-America East second-team picks this spring.
Benoit is a hard-throwing righthander who is ranked among the top 10 Canadian draft prospects. However, he has only dedicated himself to baseball during the last year and immediately caught the eye of pro scouts.
Benoit also has indicated he does not intend to sign.
“I think he thinks it’s a good idea to go to school and mature a little bit,” said Trimper, who plans to spend time with Benoit in Brampton, Ontario, during the early rounds of the draft.
Slate is a 6-5 righty from New Jersey who throws in the low 90s [mph] and features an outstanding changeup and a nasty split-fingered fastball. His emergence as a senior has significantly boosted his stock.
“I’m pretty confident he will come [to UMaine],” Trimper said. “He’s really blossomed a year earlier than I thought. He’s getting a lot of looks all of a sudden.”
Trimper said the challenge is to sell players on the advantages of getting college experience and earning a degree as they try to prepare for a possible pro career.