Here, there and everywhere with the Razorbacks

By Otis Kirk
on 2024-05-10 07:49 AM

FAYETTEVILLE — ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel has released a mini-mock draft for baseball and Hagen Smith has seen him name projected to go very early.

In McDaniel’s rankings, he has Smith the No. 4 prospect, but predicts the talented lefty goes fifth in the draft to the Chicago White Sox due to team needs. Smith, Arkansas’ ace pitcher, has a record of 9-0 on the season with a 1.36 ERA. He has pitched 66 innings, struck out 125 and walked 25. He has been outstanding all season after his first start didn’t go well in extremely cold conditions. Since then he has dominated many of college baseball’s best hitters.

The top five in McDaniel’s rankings are all familiar to Razorback fans. He has Georgia third baseman Charlie Condon No. 1, Oregon State second baseman Travis Bazzona second, Texas A&M right fielder Braden Montgomery No. 3 and Florida first baseman, left-handed pitcher Jac Caglianone No. 5.

On February 23 in Arlington, Arkansas and Smith defeated Oregon State 5-4. In that game, Bazzana had one hit in four at bats. He struck out three times. On April 26 Smith and the Hogs downed Caglianone and the Gators 2-1. Caglianone also had one hit in four at bats. Smith and the Hogs will take on Montgomery’s Aggies Thursday in the first game of the series at College Station.

Smith spent time both starting and in relief last season, but all 12 of his appearances in 2024 have been in as a starter. Most consider him the best pitcher in college baseball.

Several Arkansas recruits are in McDaniel’s Top 154 and it also includes two other current players. Second baseman Peyton Stovall is No. 119 and right-handed pitcher Brady Tygart comes in at No. 123.

8 or 9?

In a recent podcast new Arkansas Coach John Calipari said he may stop at eight or nine signees in the recruiting class.

A school is allowed 13 players on scholarship. Arkansas currently has seven players signed and are expected to gain a signature from former Kentucky guard DJ Wagner this weekend. That would get Calipari to eight current players plus walk-on Lawson Blake.

Calipari is right in that the ones at end of bench are going to hit the transfer portal following the season if they don’t play. That is just the nature of college sports now. Gone are the days of developing a player, the younger one learning from an older one and then taking over later in his career.

But it would seem maybe 10 would be a better place to cut if off since injuries hit. Ask Eric Musselman about the year Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile both went down. Injuries are part of the game and teams that avoid them are lucky and fortunate.

Calipari is a great coach he has Arkansas fans excited and rightfully so. The thing about his seven players he has on board and Wagner are they can all play. So if he stopped at eight and this group stayed healthy the plan would certainly work.

Just my opinion, but hopefully he opts to add another pair of players after he gets Wagner and opens with 10 scholarship players. One thing is certain this will be one of the more talented teams at Arkansas. Eddie Sutton, Nolan Richardson, Mike Anderson and Musselman put some talented teams out there, but this one will be another great group.

Should be a fun basketball season at Arkansas after last season was pretty miserable for all involved. There isn’t a better recruiter in the nation than Calipari and the talent will show on the court.

Professional Baseball to Razorbacks

There was some confusion when Monte Harrison opted to join the Razorback football team after previously playing professional baseball.

Some felt it has something to do with NIL or a new rule allowing such a thing to happen. Neither is true. It has nothing to do with NIL and Harrison being allowed to play a college sport different than the one he played professionally isn’t new at all.

Arkansas has had former professional baseball players join the football team several times in the past. Quarterback Robby Hampton is probably the most familiar name who had the most success. Hampton lettered at Arkansas in 1999 and 2000. At Arkansas in 17 games, Hampton completed 170 of 306 passes for 1,815 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

D’Vone McClure lettered at Arkansas in 2016 and 2018-19. Vincent Bradford lettered with the Hogs from 1993-1996.

What happens is athletes such as Harrison have leverage when they come out of high school. He was a four-star recruit who was signed to play football at Nebraska. Milwaukee Brewers drafted him in second round and wanted Harrison in their organization. So in the contract it’s written they will pay for his college education if he leaves baseball. He had the threat of going to college and playing football or even baseball.

Harrison is 28 and for some odd reason people consider that old. The truth is at age 28 most athletes are in their prime. Obviously not playing football in so many years he will have some rust and need time. But Arkansas is getting a former standout on the gridiron and it isn’t costing them a scholarship. Harrison is getting a chance to start a second career and the Hogs are getting a wide receiver. It’s a win-win for everyone, but not the rarity some think.

(Last updated: 2024-05-10 07:49 AM)