I haven’t spoken to Tom Pannone since I heard the news about his baseball decision, nor have I spoken to anyone affiliated with the Hendricken baseball program about it.
This is honestly just one man’s opinion on what it looks like on the surface.
For reference, Pannone was an elite high school baseball player this past season, leading Hendricken to the state title and garnering MVP honors along the way. He was arguably the state’s top pitcher and most-feared hitter, which is no small feat.
WPRI-TV broke news a few days ago that Pannone, the recent Hendricken grad, will be going to the College of Southern Nevada to play ball for this upcoming season.
That, in and of itself, isn’t the most groundbreaking news of all time, but it’s quite a story considering that most people (myself included) thought that Pannone was deciding between attending the University of Miami on a baseball scholarship and signing with the Chicago Cubs, who took him in the 33rd round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft back in June.
Instead, he threw us a curveball – similar to the ones he baffled South Kingstown hitters with in the state finals – and it caught me off guard.
Now that I’ve had a chance to think about it, though, it makes sense, at least to me.
CSN is a junior college, which means that Pannone can go there for one season if he wants and try to improve his draft stock. While players at four-year colleges have to stay a minimum of three years before being drafted again, players at junior colleges have no such restraints.
They can play for a year, then test the waters again.
For someone who was drafted out of high school – and has obvious potential – but wasn’t drafted in an overly high spot, junior college is the perfect way to improve his stock without having to go through three years where other issues (playing time, injuries) could arise.
If the long-term dream is professional baseball, which I would assume it is, then trying to get drafted in a position higher than the 33rd round before signing makes sense from a monetary standpoint and from an exposure standpoint.
The monetary reasons are simple – generally speaking, the higher you get drafted the more money you sign for.
Exposure-wise, it comes down to the fact that the players drafted higher are valued more initially by the teams that draft them. If you are drafted in the fifth round, the team that took you is going to look at you differently than if you go somewhere in the 30th round. Now, that team’s perception of you can obviously change as time goes on and minor league performance gets factored in, but right off the bat, different values and expectations are placed on players who are drafted in different spots.
That means that, normally, a player drafted higher has a more defined path towards advancement in the minors.
Yet, even if being drafted higher doesn’t work out initially, Pannone would also have the option of transferring into a four-year college after a year or two at CSN.
Essentially, by attending junior college, it doesn’t seem like he’s closing any doors – just potentially opening new ones.
And by choosing CSN, Pannone isn’t just picking any junior college to try to put his name on the map – he’s choosing one with quite a reputation.
Washington Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, attended CSN when he was just 17 years old, and his time there secured his status as the most highly-regarded amateur player in the country.
In just two years since being drafted, Harper has flown through the minor leagues, joined the Nationals Major League roster, made the all-star team and become an impact player on one of the National League’s top teams. And he’s only 19 years old.
That isn’t to say that Pannone is going to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft then and be in the big leagues by this time in 2014, but it does show you how highly-regarded the school itself is.
If the school was good enough for the best prospect in the country to attend as a way to solidify his draft stock, it seems like it should be a pretty good choice for the best high school baseball player in the state of Rhode Island.
We’ll see how it goes.
Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.