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Van Horn expects draft-eligible players back

by Matt Jones | May 25, 2016 at 12:56 p.m.
Arkansas' Carson Shaddy (20) talks to Luke Bonfield (17) during the Razorbacks' game against Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

— Multiple draft-eligible players are expected to return to Arkansas next season, Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said Wednesday.

Van Horn said he expects outfielders Luke Bonfield and Carson Shaddy to return, and put a 70 percent chance on pitcher Dominic Taccolini coming back for the 2017 season. Taccolini and Shaddy are third-year players, while Bonfield is draft-eligible after two seasons because he will turn 21 in July.

The draft begins June 9 and drafted players have until July 15 to sign professionally or decide to come back to college.

"Luke knows he has two years of bargaining power," said Van Horn, referencing the leverage players have to negotiate with MLB teams when they have college eligibility remaining. "He's so much better than he was last year and if he makes that kind of jump again he'll be the kind of college hitter teams want early (in the draft)."

After struggling to fully recover from an ankle injury as a freshman, Bonfield raised his batting average from .177 to .304 as a sophomore. He led the team with 39 RBI and was tied for the team-lead with eight home runs.

But his defense as a corner outfielder has not matched his production at the plate. Van Horn indicated that his fielding needs work before teams are willing to take a chance with a high draft pick.

"He's an average outfielder that has gotten better," Van Horn said. "Corner outfielders are a dime a dozen, so it's hard to get money. If he can prove it one more year - they want to see a track record."

Bonfield was a top 100 prospect in high school after playing at IMG Academy in Florida. He wasn't drafted until the 21st round by the Mets because of the amount of money he told teams it would take to sign him early. Van Horn said Bonfield's asking price is still high, but did not disclose details.

Like Bonfield, Shaddy has two years of negotiating power because he redshirted his freshman season. Shaddy led the team with a .332 batting average this season and had 22 extra-base hits, including eight home runs.

Shaddy began the season as the team's starting third baseman, but struggled at the position and moved to center field during SEC play. The converted catcher committed a team-high 14 errors, which Van Horn attributed partially to the Tommy John surgery he underwent during the off-season.

Van Horn said Shaddy's pro position will likely be corner outfield or second base, and he may play one of the positions next season.

"His arm is still bothering him," Van Horn said. "It's never had a chance to heal properly. His plan is to stay here all summer and get on a throwing program."

Van Horn said Taccolini is leaning toward returning for his senior season, a rarity for college players. Taccolini started most of Arkansas' series openers, but struggled in conference play and ended the year with a 5-5 record and 5.75 ERA in 13 starts.

"He doesn't feel great about going out right now because he's not real confident," said Van Horn, who added he would put 70 percent odds on Taccolini returning. "He's looking forward to the next chapter and the next (pitching coach) coming in and working with him.

"He wants to go to professional baseball on an upswing. He knows that if he goes into pro ball after his senior year and does well, he'll make his money on his second contract."

Van Horn said he's unsure whether infielder/outfielder Clark Eagan will return for his senior season. He batted .298 with seven home runs and 37 RBI as a junior.

"I think if they give him X-amount of money - I kind of know what he wants and I don't know if he'll get that," Van Horn said. "He's not just gung-ho about signing.

"I don't think there's anything running him off. There's more calling him back."

Arkansas expects to lose junior pitcher Zach Jackson to the draft. Jackson is rated in Baseball America's top 100 prospects and could be taken as high as the second round.

The Razorbacks could lose several signees to the draft, including shortstop Cole Stobbe of Omaha, Nebraska, and catcher Ben Rortvedt of Verona, Wisconsin.

Van Horn said it's unclear whether junior James Teague will return to the program. Teague struggled with arm soreness and recorded a 6.82 ERA in 30 1/3 innings this season.


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