Photo by Jim Marshall
By Greg Zumach / @IvyFutures
Two sport players are rare. The skills necessary to play demanding positions like quarterback and a hitter in baseball are even rarer. UCF fans are seeing this first-hand with John Rhys Plumlee. Scouting Plumlee on the baseball field is challenging because no player in college baseball handled a spring season like Plumlee had, balancing both football and baseball concurrently. The rigor of that balance makes it near impossible to see what he could be like only focusing on one sport. Added to that complexity is that scouts anticipate Plumlee will be back as QB this fall. While he’s draft eligible in baseball, will a major league team spend a pick knowing he may never commit to baseball?
The transfer to UCF has been good for Plumlee's baseball projection. After only hitting one home run during his previous seasons (2020-2021), he’s popped 10 so far this year. His production has been exceptional. His line as of May 23rd is a dynamic .284/.389/.514.
Where there is a concern is his strikeout rate. Currently, it sits at 25.5%. And that is a poor projection for his ability to handle professional pitching. Not everyone agrees that the high strikeouts are going to stay.
After all, Plumlee spends hours memorizing football plays. Would that high sports IQ translate to preparing to attack certain pitchers? Very possible.
The baseball draft is unique in the sense that it’s really two separate phases. The first phase (the first 10 rounds) gives teams a set amount of money they can spend. If they don’t sign a pick, they lose the assigned value of that selection. There are some restrictions, but mostly, teams can move money around in those 10 rounds. Rounds 11-20 allow teams to spend up to $150k on each player and if they have any rollover money from the first 10 rounds, they can use that for any dollar over $150k on a player. They do not lose any money if they cannot sign a player in rounds 11-20. To move money around in the first 10 rounds, teams will often take several “senior signs” where older players in their last year of college eligibility sign for well below the assigned value for that selection. The team then uses that money on higher ceiling players near the top of the draft.
This would be an interesting avenue for Plumlee where a team could sign him for well-below slot, save money to use elsewhere and potentially get a dynamic player if he commits to baseball. But Plumlee has to sign. Whether he actually plays this year for a pro team isn’t a requirement.
If I had to project where Plumlee ends up, it’s in next season’s draft, but we could see a team gamble on the athleticism in rounds 6-10 to save money or in rounds 11-20 this July.