In the aftermath of the America East championship baseball game on the last Sunday in May, as Binghamton University looked forward to an NCAA Regional appearance and Maine to a long bus ride back to Orono from Kingston, R.I., Binghamton coach Tim Sinicki bade a fond farewell to Black Bears senior shortstop Michael Fransoso.
“He is as good a Player of the Year as there’s been in this conference in quite some time,” Sinicki said. “It’s been a pleasure to watch him play but I’m happy to see him go and I wish him well in his next step, because he’s been a tough one for us to contain and to figure out for so many years.”
Fransoso’s next step is likely to come Friday or Saturday, in the annual Major League baseball draft. It’s a three-day event that begins Thursday night with the first two rounds plus several “competitive balance” selections that will result in a total of 73 selections.
The draft continues Friday afternoon for rounds 3 through 10 and wraps up Saturday afternoon with rounds 11 through 40.
“I grew up a Red Sox fan, but I don’t really have a favorite right now,” Fransoso said after playing a round of golf near his home in Portsmouth, N.H., earlier this week. “It would just be a dream to have it happen. I’ll be excited about (any team).”
A senior shortstop, Fransoso recently learned he had been selected as a third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. He is only the 11th Black Bear to achieve All-America status and first since Chad White of Brewer in 1993.
Maine teammates Tommy Lawrence — the America East Pitcher of the Year — and Mike Connolly — a first-team all-conference selection as a catcher and second-team choice as a pitcher — are also possible draft choices, although each has a year of collegiate eligibility remaining.
“It’s always been my dream to get drafted,” Lawrence said. “But if it doesn’t happen, I don’t mind going back to school because we’ll have a good team again.”
If he doesn’t turn pro, Lawrence said he plans to play for Chatham in the Cape Cod League this summer.
Connolly, meanwhile, plans to join teammates Alex Calbick and Luke Morrill in the Pacific Northwest playing for a summer team in Bellingham, Wash. Unless, of course, his name gets called Friday or Saturday.
“That’s every kid’s dream, to play pro ball,” Connolly said. “I’ll just go with the flow and see what happens.”
The University of Southern Maine, national runner-up in Division III, also has several prospects who have drawn professional interest, including Forrest Chadwick, Tucker White and possibly Logan Carman. Another possibility is Bowdoin senior Oliver Van Zant.
“There’s some very good talent that develops late and it just goes unnoticed by the pro scouts,” said UMaine coach Steve Trimper, “just because it’s Division III.”
Baseball’s most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement included several changes to the draft, most notably to signing bonuses. Each club may spend a certain amount of money, determined by draft order and picks available, on players selected in rounds 1 through 10.
For example, Houston, picking first, may spend up to roughly $11.7 million on its 10 selections but Washington, picking last and already having given up its first-rounder to sign free agent Rafael Soriano, has a pool of only about $2.7 million for its nine selections.
Any bonus money paid in excess of $100,000 to a player chosen in rounds 11 through 40 also counts toward a team’s bonus pool, and there are increasingly harsh penalties for teams that spend over their allotment, including taxes and forfeiture of future picks.
Trimper views the draft in both positive and negative lights. He certainly hates to lose good players with eligibility remaining, but he also understands the recruiting value of having players who get drafted.
In recent days, he has driven across Quebec to see a couple of junior college players in case Lawrence and Connolly turn pro.
“It’s certainly not easy to find a replacement for Tommy Lawrence,” Trimper said. “But there’s still a lot of good talent out there.”
Trimper said a recent study showed that only 3.5 percent of players drafted eventually reach the major leagues.
“The majority of of the kids who are drafted don’t sign for big money,” he said, “and they’re released within a year or two.”
Two Maine players have been drafted in each of the past two years. Last year, Jeff Gibbs went in the ninth round to Arizona and Steve Perakslis in the 21st to the Cubs. In 2011, Pittsburgh picked Taylor Lewis in the ninth round and San Francisco selected Keith Bilodeau in the 24th.
Bilodeau and Gibbs have since been released.
Fransoso said he hasn’t yet considered a Plan B.
“I’m hoping Plan A works out,” he said. “When it’s all said and done and baseball is over, I’ll stay in the game and probably end up coaching somewhere. It’s just in my blood.”