CEDAR RAPIDS — Chad Christensen was asked Saturday if he’ll be playing professional baseball a month from now. He didn’t hesitate to answer.
“I hope so,” the former Cedar Rapids Washington all-stater said. “We’ll see what happens here Monday and Tuesday.”
Major League Baseball conducts its 2012 amateur draft tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday, with Christensen all but guaranteed to be picked. How high the University of Nebraska junior goes could determine if he stays a Cornhusker another year or heads to some exotic minor-league port of call like Fishkill, N.Y., or Pulaski, Va.
Perfect Game USA in Cedar Rapids projects Christensen to go somewhere between the fourth and 10th rounds. Though he has played shortstop almost exclusively in college, he said MLB clubs project him as an outfielder.
“He may be one of those players who ends up playing all over the field, depending on team need,” Perfect Game’s David Rawnsley wrote.“Although he has unconventional swing mechanics, Christensen has plenty of pop from the right side and been a consistent run-producer this spring … Christensen’s biggest asset in the minds of scouts may be his makeup. He is a tireless worker with a grinder approach who should maximize his physical tools.”
Christensen hit .311 in 57 games this spring for Nebraska, leading his club in home runs (10) and RBIs (48). To show you how serious he is about wanting to turn pro, he has secured Randy Rowley of Phoenix as an advisor.
Rowley is an agent for major league players Howie Kendrick of the Angels and Justin Masterson of the Indians, among others.
“I’ve talked to a lot of teams,” Christensen said. “Yeah, definitely I’d like to get (a contract) done. That’s what I’m hoping for. But I’m just taking this all in stride. Either way, I’ll be all right.”
Other draft possibilities include pitcher Dakota Freese, a former Washington teammate of Christensen’s who was selected by the White Sox in the 34th round last year but was never offered a contract. Freese attended a junior college in Louisiana this year but did not pitch and has committed to play junior college ball next year at DMACC.
The top Iowa preps available are considered to be righty pitchers Alec Rash of Adel ADM and Calvin Mathews of Davis County, who have signed collegiately with Missouri and Iowa, respectively. An outside draft possibility is pitcher Dakota Miller, a Cedar Rapids Kennedy graduate who has played summer amateur travel baseball the last two years in Minnesota instead of with the Cougars.
He is a Heartland Community College (Ill.) signee.
There are numerous changes to the draft this year, including a reduction in rounds from 50 to 40. The signing deadline has been moved up a month to July 13.
Rules to regulate signing bonuses also have been put into affect, with each club assigned a certain amount of pool money to sign all picks within the first 10 rounds, based on draft order and number of picks. Monetary penalties or loss of future draft picks would be incurred to organization’s not adhering to the new rules.