Gophers 2012 team takes a hit with recent MLB signings

Three players have signed professional contracts and several more draftees may sign before the deadline.

Samuel Gordon

For the second time in the last three years, six Gophers baseball players were drafted in the MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Draft picks will now have to decide whether to return to college or sign a pro contract, which some have already chosen to do.

âÄúIâÄôm happy for the student-athletes. ItâÄôs an opportunity obviously if they choose, especially those with eligibility left to pursue their professional baseball goals and dreams,âÄù head coach John Anderson said.

Shortstop AJ Pettersen, drafted in the 25th round by the Minnesota Twins, was the first to sign, inking a minor league deal with the Twins despite having a year of eligibility remaining.

âÄúIn professional baseball itâÄôs tough to get much of a chance once you get older and older every year. Once you get older, your opportunity gets smaller and smaller,âÄù he said.

âÄúBeing that IâÄôm 22 years old, as a 23-year-old I probably would have got less of an opportunity next year. IâÄôve decided that this year is my year. IâÄôm really shooting to make a career out of [baseball],âÄù he added.

 The likely replacement will be freshman Michael Handel, who was redshirted in preparation to take over for Pettersen, Anderson said.

âÄúWe feel like we have a player thatâÄôs going to be able to play at a high level in this program once he gets a little more experience,âÄù Anderson said. âÄúWe recruited a year ahead there.âÄù

Junior outfielder Justin Gominsky joined Pettersen in the professional rankings, signing a minor league contract with the Houston Astros, which drafted him in the 11th round.

Gominsky, who did not return multiple calls requesting comment, will join former Gopher Mike Kvasnicka in the Astros farm system.

Junior first baseman Nick OâÄôShea also followed suit and signed despite a year of eligibility remaining. Selected in the 24th round by the Cincinnati Reds, OâÄôShea reportedly received a $30,000 bonus upon signing.

OâÄôShea, who caught seven games this year, will be looked at as a catcher in the Reds organization, according to several sources.

Senior closer Scott Matyas, junior pitcher Austin Lubinsky, and sophomore pitcher TJ Oakes round out MinnesotaâÄôs 2011 draft class, none of whom have confirmed signing contracts.

Matyas was a 27th round pick of the Detroit Tigers, Lubinsky, a 36th round selection of the San Francisco Giants, and Oakes, a 41st round pick of the Twins.

The unsigned draftees will have until the August 15th deadline to sign a pro contract if they so choose.

âÄúSome may sign on August 15th for all we know,âÄù Anderson said. âÄú[The negotiating process] could go on all summer for some of them.âÄù

The widely held belief is that players who sign deals earlier can give their career a jumpstart by playing for some form of minor league affiliate during the summer, while other players may still be negotiating contracts.

The flip side of the argument is that players often receive more money as major league clubs become more eager to sign them as the deadline nears.

Teams lose the rights to players who have not been signed by the deadline, and those players are eligible to re-enter the draft the following year.

Check mndaily.com/sports for continued updates as players negotiate with teams up to the signing deadline.