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Tracking Ole Miss baseball draft signings: DeLucia and Dunhurst go pro

How much cash will it take to lure players away from Oxford?

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Oklahoma vs Ole Miss Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Seven Ole Miss baseball players were selected in the Major League draft earlier this week, but the signing of some of these players still awaits a decision for these players to return to Oxford or go professional.

Two of the seven draftees, Tim Elko and Justin Bench, are seniors though Bench does still in theory have a COVID year to play another season, it is very likely both players have played their last game in red and blue.

Additionally, junior pitcher Derek Diamond had already announced an intent to transfer from Ole Miss before being drafted in the sixth round (signing slot value $311,600) by the Pittsburgh Pirates. All signs point to him also not taking the mound for the Rebels next season as well.

There was also news this week that Florida transfer pitcher Nick Pogue officially signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Washington Nationals, so he will not be in Oxford next season as previously planned.

It’s important to note from a negotiation standpoint college players who still have remaining eligibility left have the ability to tell a pro team to kick rocks or pay them a higher signing bonus to get their signature. If a player only has one season of eligibility remaining and decides to come back, it is a massive roll of the dice to get drafted with a higher pick to earn significantly more money plus risk injury in another college season.

So here’s where the rest of the potential draft signees stand as of July 21:

  • Dylan DeLucia - The College World Series MVP was drafted in the sixth round by the Cleveland Guardians and stands to see a slot value signing of $284,200 per Spotrac. There are no reports that a deal has been struck, so there is still a chance the Friday stud starter comes back for a second verse in Oxford. Update 7/26 DeLucia signs with Cleveland with a $275K signing bonus (per Jim Callis @MLBPipeline)
  • Hayden Dunhurst - The junior catcher who hails from the Magnolia state was also drafted in the sixth round with a slot value close to $300,000. The Royals drafted the stout defensive catcher who was hit or miss offensively in 2022, but Dunhurst was the highest rated prospect off this team and most likely seen as a value pick in the sixth. Update 7/26 Dunhurst signs a deal with a $300K signing bonus (per Jim Callis @MLBPipeline)
  • Brandon Johnson - After a stint in junior college, Johnson arrived in Oxford and cemented himself as its closer and slammed the door shut on its first national championship in baseball in 2022. At 23, it is highly likely he is headed to the Royals with a ninth round pick with a slot value around $165K. Update 7/26 Johnson is headed to the pros with a $47,500 signing bonus (per Spotrac)
  • Kevin Graham - In the 14th round, Arizona took Graham who was a strong offensive piece of the puzzle for Ole Miss’ championship run. It was clear without Graham this team was not the same at all during his injury stint in March and April. At 22 years old, Graham does have eligibility left and would be a massive return for the program, but the Diamondbacks may offer enough to get him into its farm system. No contract has been signed, so keep close eyes on social media for any decision.
  • Drew McDaniel - the midweek starter has reportedly signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox according to The mid-week starter had his ups and downs in 2022, so it will be interesting to see how he fares at the next level.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it - it’s incredibly likely the four above players will all sign professional contracts and have played their last games at Ole Miss. It’s the nature of college baseball, but also if it were me, this is an opportunity to go out as a champion and make a significant payday in the process.

For the two highest drafted commits to Ole Miss, Roman Anthony and Jackson Ferris, neither has signed a deal as of July 26, though both went in the top 100 in the draft. They are likely to see high six figure or seven figure signing bonuses potentially, so it would be a tough deal to turn down at 18 years old.

It’s a tough call for these young men, but the Cup will continue to keep tabs on the situation and update as news develops.