College or Pro? How the Decision Just Became More Complicated
In light of the MLB Draft, a prospect’s decision on whether to enter the MLB Draft has gotten more complicated. This comes as a result of the NCAA’s NIL (Name, Image and Likeness) rule change. Under the new rule, college athletes can accept compensation from businesses in exchange for appearing advertisements or selling products. This opens up many opportunities for college athletes to capitalize on their fame.
The SEC Player of the Year, Tanner Allen, recently cashed in on his college fame. One of the hero’s of Mississippi State’s National Championship team set up his own website, TannerAllen5.com. Allen is selling his own autographed baseball cards and t-shirts. He’s also sending a portion of proceeds back to the Mississippi State Foundation. The outfielder was recently drafted in the 4th Round by the Miami Marlins.
Alternatively, if you look at the first 30 picks of the MLB Draft, 16 of them were prep players. In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. Take the #3 overall pick, Jackson Jobe, who went to the Tigers. According to MLB’s allotted slot value, Jobe could make as much as a $7.2 million signing bonus. The Tigers are expected to seek a bargain on his signing bonus, however, he will still likely do very well. Assuming it takes the young pitcher 3-4 seasons to get to the big leagues, he guarantees himself a nice cushion in the mean time. Seven million is likely a lot more than he would make on endorsement deals while pitching at Ole Miss (where he had committed).
The College Experience
Tanner Allen, on the other hand, has a slotted signing bonus of nearly $488,000. While the money is nothing to scoff at, Tanner’s fame as a Mississippi State star may help him earn that amount (or more) over the next few years. Allen was drafted in the 36th Round (of 40) in 2017, but instead opted to play for the Bulldogs.
Allen’s decision proved to be a winning decision in a number of ways. First, he was able to play four years in front of arguably the best fan base in College Baseball. Most minor league teams (particularly at the lower levels) are lucky to draw more than a thousand (or two) fans per game. Allen played many of his games at Mississippi State in front of crowds as large as 10,000-15,000 at the legendary Dudy Noble Field.
There are considerable incentives for top high school prospects to forgo a college scholarship and sign with the MLB franchise that drafts them. However, this primarily applies to a small group of elite players who can secure a sizable signing bonus. For the vast majority of talented prospects (in the US), taking a College Baseball scholarship will be the route they choose. It will likely become even more attractive due to the NIL ruling.
How this impacts the MLB Draft in the years to come remains to be seen. Yet, it’s hard to imagine this won’t bring greater attention and more top tier prospects into College Baseball.
**Picture from the Jackson Free Press**