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Utah high school players await word from MLB draft

Published: Sunday, June 3 2012 10:56 p.m. MDT

Bingham/ Spanish Fork during prep baseball in Spanish Fork Thursday, March 29, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For three of the state's best high school baseball players, the next few days will be anxious times in their lives.

Spanish Fork's Kayden Porter and Bingham's Brady Lail and Connor Williams all have college scholarships waiting for them this fall, but they're all expected to be taken in this week's Major League Baseball draft.

Depending on what round they're drafted and what team selects them, the trio must then decide whether to turn pro or play college baseball.

"Right now I'm just going to sit back and enjoy it," said Lail.

The three-day MLB draft gets underway tonight at 5 p.m. with the first 60 picks — 31 first round picks and 29 compensation picks. Rounds 2 through 15 will be held on Tuesday, and then rounds 16 through 40 on Wednesday.

Not one Utah high school player was drafted last year, but that will definitely change this year. Even though Porter has committed to North Carolina, Lail to Arizona and Williams to Utah, all three are leaning toward turning pro if the draft goes as they hope.

The 10th round is regarded as a general cutoff for when a high schooler should turn pro or head to college. A seven-figure signing bonus usually accompanies players in the top 50 picks, and six-figure bonuses for the remaining taken in the first 10 rounds.

That guaranteed money is usually enough to sway a player to turn pro, especially when history has shown that a successful college career rarely improves a player's draft position.

Porter is expected to be the first of the three drafted, and he could go as early as today. An MLB mock draft has the Spanish Fork star going to the St. Louis Cardinals with the 23rd pick. Others don't have him being selected until the second day.

"I'm way excited, one way or another. Whether it be the draft and it works out the way I hope and people want, or whether I make my way out to North Carolina. I think either way I'm pretty set for a good time," said Porter.

If Porter is selected in the top 66 picks, he would become the highest position player from Utah ever drafted. That is, of course, if he even ends up playing first base. Despite setting a new state record with 33 career home runs, many scouts project Porter as a right-handed pitcher at the next level instead of a first baseman.

At 6-foot-5, 235 pounds, he'll be an intimidating presence either way.

Pine View shortstop Marcus Littlewood was drafted by the Seattle Mariners as the 67th pick in the 2010 MLB draft, and he ended up forgoing his scholarship to the University of San Diego to sign with the Seattle Mariners with a $900,000 signing bonus.

Lail figures to be the next Utahn off the MLB draft board this week, somewhere in the 8th to 12th round range. Lail's fastball is usually clocked in the upper 80s and lower 90s, and scouts really like his command.

"I'm in a wait and see mode. I'd love to have the opportunity to play professional as soon as possible. It would be a great career right off the bat for a 19-year-old kid. But if not, I have the best of both worlds that I can go play Arizona baseball, top 25 in the nation," said Lail, who said he's recently worked out for the St. Louis Cardinals. "I'm just waiting to see and crossing my fingers."

Williams is the biggest enigma in the draft. Even though virtually no mock drafts have him going in the first 10 rounds, one projection boldly claimed he'd be the first Utah high school player drafted.

It's further proof of his rising stock as a prospect. An outfielder throughout his young career, he didn't start pitching until last fall. He ended up having a fantastic season on the mound with Bingham this spring and his fastball has been clocked in the mid-90s.

"I started pitching in the fall, and then I started getting publicity," said Williams. "If everything works out for what I want in the draft, then I would really consider going to it right now. But right now I'm 100 percent committed to Utah."

The MLB Network and MLB.com will air the draft live beginning at 5 p.m. today.

Email: jedward@desnews.com

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