For the vast majority of able-bodied twenty-somethings, “getting drafted” is something to be feared. But for a small group of recent Penn baseball grads, being selected in this week’s draft will be the joyful culmination of years of hard work.
Major League Baseball’s amateur draft kicked off Monday night. With more than forty rounds taking place through Wednesday, over 1,200 aspiring big leaguers will be matched with the organization with which they will begin their professional careers. A handful of recent Penn grads hope their name will be among those selected.
Pitcher Jake Cousins and outfielder/catcher Tim Graul are the two most likely Quakers to be chosen. Graul followed up his Ivy League Player of the Year junior season with another first-team All-Ivy nod in 2017, while Cousins finished in the conference’s top five in wins, strikeouts and earned run average en route to joining Graul as a unanimous member of the league’s first team.
“I’ve basically just been working out, throwing,” Cousins said of his draft preparations. “And I’ve been invited to a few workouts with the [Chicago] Cubs, [Pittsburgh] Pirates and such.”
“I’ve talked to a couple teams throughout the year. I’m honestly not sure what they’re thinking,” Graul added. “But from the [potential draftees] I’ve talked to, most people don’t.”
Though neither Graul nor Cousins appear on Baseball America’s list of the draft’s Top 500 prospects — meaning they are unlikely to go in the draft’s top 15 or so rounds — both players are staying optimistic; Cousins figures he is “hovering right around” the 10th round.
Graul and Cousins are likely to have substantially lower signing bonuses than many of their future teammates; as graduated college seniors, they do not possess the leverage to re-enter the draft in future years; they must sign with the team that picks them or not sign at all.
“As a senior sign, you don’t get as much money,” Cousins acknowledged. “A lot of kids will make more money if they just go get a job right away. They want to make sure it’s a commitment for you.”
And though both players fully intend to commit to a pro career, both plan to spend their off-seasons working outside of baseball.
“I have an internship for the winter which starts in mid-September,” Cousins, who is recently engaged to be married, explained. “When baseball does end up ending, I’ll have a kick-start into my career.”
For Graul, a move to the professional ranks will require the Rhode Island native to hammer out his defensive position — after spending his first three seasons at Penn behind the plate, Graul spent most of his innings during his senior campaign in the outfield.
“They really don’t tell you what they’re thinking,” Graul said. “But most teams will probably take me as a utility guy, with the idea that I could play both [catcher and outfield.]”
Though Graul and Cousins are the two most likely Quakers to be drafted, their teammates — senior pitchers Mike Reitcheck and Adam Bleday or even draft-eligible junior Billy Lescher — may also hear their names called.
If and when they turn pro, the group will not be the only Penn alums in the minor leagues — 2015 graduates Austin Bossart and Ronnie Glenn are advancing through the Phillies and Angels organizations, respectively.
“I threw to [catcher] Bossart for two years and Ronnie and I were in the rotation together for two years as well,” Cousins said of his ex-teammates. “So there’s ongoing communication with those guys. We reach out to them for advice.”
And for the two seniors, the uncertainty of their future provides a chance to look back at their time in University City — and for both Cousins and Graul, their defining memory in a Penn uniform came this spring, when the Red and Blue took down Columbia in a one-game playoff for the Gehrig division title after losing a similar contest the two prior seasons
“I remember I had a big hit in the first inning to get us going,” Graul recalled. “It was a really nice feeling, to get past those guys.”
“My time at Penn really taught me how to be a leader, that’s for sure,” Cousins added.
“I learned how to bounce back from defeat. I learned how to be an adult.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.