By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — Dave Van Horn is still unsure of exactly who he will or won’t have in 2023, though some decisions have been made by those taken last week in the MLB Draft.
The ace of the staff, right-handed pitcher Connor Noland, was taken in the ninth round with the No. 263 pick by the Chicago Cubs. The slot value for that pick was $164,600, but Noland has inked for $200,000. Despite being a senior, Noland still had his COVID season remaining at Arkansas to use as leverage in negotiations with the Cubs. Van Horn had hoped Noland would return, but it’s not surprising he is headed to the Cubs after four years in college.
Van Horn also now is awaiting word on one of the pitchers who might be in a position to take Noland’s spot in the rotation. South Carolina transfer Julian Bosnic is a lefty who was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in Round 14 and pick No. 410. Bosnic and others have until August 1 to decide if they will accept an offer and begin their professional careers or return to college. Bosnic has battled injuries while with the Gamecocks. His one healthy season was 2021 when he posted a 2.78 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .133 batting average across 22 appearances.
As expected, Boerne (Texas) right-handed pitcher Cole Phillips, who was taken in the second round with the 57th pick, has signed with the Atlanta Braves. Phillips got a $1.497,500 million signing bonus, which was above the slot value of $1,307,300.
The three other Razorbacks taken in the second round are still in negotiations with the teams that drafted them. Third baseman Cayden Wallace (Kansas City Royals), right-handed pitcher Peyton Pallette (Chicago White Sox) and shortstop Robert Moore (Milwaukee Brewers) are all expected to sign, but haven’t yet.
It would be a surprise, but the one Arkansas might have at least some slight hope of returning is Pallette. But the $1,158,600 slot value for the No. 62 pick in second round would be difficult to turn down. If Pallette had not missed the 2022 season due to Tommy John surgery the Benton native could have gone much higher. Pallette, if he returned to Arkansas and had a healthy season in 2023, could very likely go in the first round a year from now. He would be the ace of the staff, taking Noland’s spot as the Friday starter.
Former UC Santa Barbara shortstop Jordan Sprinkle was drafted by the White Sox in the fourth round with pick No. 131. Van Horn was counting on him replacing Jalen Battles, but the likelihood of him coming to Fayetteville now isn’t that high. Battles was taken in the fifth round by Tampa Bay Rays and is expected to sign with them.
Lefty Evan Taylor was taken in the ninth round with pick No. 262, one spot ahead of Noland, by the Miami Marlins. Taylor has signed with the Marlins for $140,000 which was below the slot of value of $165,300.
The Razorbacks got some very good news when the Cincinnati Reds took Las Vegas (Nev.) Basic center fielders Mason Neville in the 18th round with pick No. 543. Neville announced almost immediately he will instead head to Arkansas. He could be Braydon Webb’s replacement in center field. Neville was ranked the No. 86 recruit in the nation.
First baseman, designated hitter Brady Slavens wasn’t drafted and will return to Arkansas. Slavens not being drafted was a mild surprise, but gives Van Horn a second starter to return in 2023. Peyton Stovall was thought to be the only returning starter this season.
Left-handed pitcher Zack Morris also wasn’t drafted and will return to Arkansas. Talented infielder Jayson Jones also wasn’t drafted and is headed to the Razorbacks where he could play shortstop or third base. Jones was thought to be a first-round pick when he committed to Arkansas, but he had his mind set on coming to Arkansas unless blown away by an offer too good to turn down. Junior college standout first baseman, third baseman Harold Coll also wasn’t drafted which is huge for the Hogs.
In some good news, pitcher Kole Ramage and outfielder Chris Lanzilli went undrafted, but both signed with the Chicago White Sox and will get a chance to play professionally.
Russellville right-handed pitcher Colton Sims was slated to be a Razorback but instead has signed with Crowder College in Neosho, Mo. Crowder is a junior college.