Indians first-round pick Ethan Hankins (No. 35 overall) has just forced Cleveland’s hand.
The right-handed fireballer from Georgia signed with Chipola Community College in Florida to play baseball in 2018-19.
For high school pitchers signing with a JuCo isn’t necessarily an odd thing, but Hankins is a different case. The 6-6, 200-pounder was in contention to be the No. 1 overall pick, but a shoulder injury and diminished stuff after he came back forced him to fall in the draft.
Instead of going No. 1 overall, he went in the supplemental first round costing him around $4 million.
His loss was the Indians’ gain as Cleveland got a young man whose fastball has been clocked in the triple digits. His secondary stuff also has enormous potential.
However, because he fell in the draft and lost some money he signed with Chipola. This doesn’t mean he won’t sign with Cleveland, but it does have an interesting effect on both the Indians’ and Hankins’ futures.
Because Hankins has signed with a junior college it means he could re-enter the draft in 2019. Academic qualifiers can enter the MLB draft after one year out of junior college while four-year college athletes must wait three years to enter the draft, unless they’re draft-eligible sophomores like Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi.
If he is able to prove in his one year at Chipola his arm is back to where it was before his shoulder injury, he could again be in contention for the No. 1 overall pick.
However, he could still sign with the Indians if he so chooses, but if he wants to make a little more money, the junior college route may not be a bad decision.
Also, if he so chooses, he could stay at Chipola for two seasons, or even commit to a four-year college after one year as well. Either way, the Indians now have a battle on their hands.
Cleveland must decide whether they want to allocate more money to Hankins and commit to signing him. The team has not signed their other first-round pick Noah Naylor yet either, so if they commit more money to Hankins, they may miss out on signing Naylor.