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Draft day dreaming: Gainesville's Hefflinger hoping to hear his name called

POSTED: June 15, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

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Robby Hefflinger hopes he gets drafted in the MLB amateur draft that starts today. The recent Gainesville High grad would love to have his name linked to the likes of Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Micah Owings, Braves minor league outfielder Jon Mark Owings, and Victor Menocal, who all got drafted following their senior season with the Red Elephants.

Hefflinger already knows there are teams interested in him. He tried out with the Cincinnati Reds on May 19 at Troup County High, and then with the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 26 at Georgia Perimeter College. He’s also aware that other teams may have sent scouts to see him play during the course of the season.

It’s a pretty exciting proposition to know he may be faced with a big league offer, but he isn’t about to throw away a baseball scholarship to Georgia just because he gets drafted.

"I know getting drafted into the major leagues is a big honor," Hefflinger said. "But I’m not going to make up my mind yet what I’m going to do."

Hefflinger’s strength with major league scouts is his versatility. He hits for power, has great pop on his fastball, a laserbeam of an arm behind the plate and has shown to be a good defensive player at third base. As a senior, he hit .476 with 8 home runs and 32 RBIs. His pitching numbers included a 6-2 record with 78 strikeouts and only 17 earned runs allowed.

"I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get drafted," former Gainesville High coach Wayne Vickery said. "I think he might be a corner man, but he’s also got a great arm behind the plate."

Even if Hefflinger gets picked in the two-day draft process he doesn’t necessarily plan on getting offered a lucrative signing bonus. With 50 rounds and around 1,400 players that get drafted annually, the seven-figure signing bonuses are primarily reserved for the first round and a select few taken in the second round.

Hefflinger knows he more than likely isn’t going to fit into that mix.

Left-handed pitcher David Price from Vanderbilt was the first overall pick in 2007 and walked away with a $5.6 million signing bonus from the Tampa Bay Rays. Only two players taken after the first round received a signing bonus of at least $1 million.

Hefflinger also has to weigh the fact that if he gets drafted and decides to go to Georgia, he would have to wait three years to get drafted again. A player drafted out of high school could conceivably be drafted three times.

Another aspect for Hefflinger to consider is the fact that players aren’t usually drafted as high their second time around. That was the case for Micah Owings, who dropped 33 spots in the 2005 draft when he was picked by the Diamondbacks (No. 83 overall) in the third round. He was a second round selection by the Colorado Rockies (No. 50 overall) out of high school.

Menocal also slipped in the draft from the sixth round (No. 191) out of Gainesville in 1998, to the 15th round (No. 449) by the Phillies after his senior season at Georgia Tech.

Hefflinger has already set a bar in his mind where he will consider talking about seriously signing with a major league team.

"If I get drafted in the 20th round or higher I will seriously consider going to play pro ball," Hefflinger said.

The versatile prospect feels he may have helped his chances by signing his scholarship last fall with Georgia. But he also has to consider the monetary value of his free college education and the possibility he could still improve his draft stock with a few years in Athens.

"You would have to look long and hard at your options before giving up a scholarship to play at Georgia," Vickery said. "It wouldn’t be a good idea to sign for $500 and a bus ticket."

The high school senior class is deep in Georgia this year. Griffin’s Tim Beckham is projected to be the top high school player picked and is projected by Baseball America to go No. 1 overall to the Tampa Bay Rays. Stephens County senior pitcher/infielder Ethan Martin is projected by the same publication to go No. 22 in the first round to the New York Mets.

Georgia football fans should watch with interest to see where Cedar Grove center fielder Xavier Avery is picked. The Bulldog football signee could possibly go as high as the second round in the draft, in which case he may opt out of playing football at Georgia.



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