Skip Johnson, head coach for the University of Oklahoma’s baseball team, talked before the start of the 2020 MLB Draft about how the changes Major League Baseball instituted this time around would affect the Sooners’ roster in 2021.
MLB cut the draft from its usual 40 rounds down to five, then determined that remaining eligible, undrafted players would be free to sign with any major league team, but for a maximum of $20,000.
Meanwhile, the NCAA decided to give an extra year of eligibility to those players whose 2020 season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide shutdown that ended play across the country in mid-March.
Would undrafted players, who could previously sign for as much as $125K take the $20K?
Would they attempt to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility? Would there be room on collegiate rosters with new recruits already signed, scholarship issues, and all the extra logistical issues such decisions could cause?
“Everything just depends on the draft itself,” Johnson said, as quoted by Vic Reynolds of the Oklahoman last week.
“If a player gets passed over, how many guys are going to go pro and how many are going to stay? Someone like (Brady) Lindsly might take that $20,000. You try to have a good perspective with it, but it’s too hard to get a perspective right now.”
Lindsly, a senior catcher with the Sooners, didn’t expect to get picked in the five rounds of the 2020 Draft, and therefore seemed a likely candidate to sign somewhere as a free agent in the free-for-all period that was set to begin 48 hours after the draft ended (Sunday, June 14th).
But then the 22-year-old backstop received a call on the second day of the draft. It was the Washington Nationals, letting the catcher know he was about to hear his name called as a 4th Round pick.
“I was just shocked, honestly. I thought I was looking at the free agent thing the whole way,” Lindsly told reporters after he was selected with the 123rd overall pick.
“When I got the call I was just speechless,” the catcher continued.
“I heard about it when they called and said they were going to take me, about seven picks before, and the draft has never moved slower. Oh my goodness.
“I was just [itching] to hear it. I just heard my name and just folded.”
Lindsly put up a .271 AVG, going 16 for 59 with two doubles, a triple, three home runs, 13 RBIs, six walks, and 10 runs scored in 14 games during his shortened senior season, and posted a combined .275/.360/.420 line over his four seasons with the Sooners.
He hit 26 doubles, six triples, and 10 home runs in his collegiate career, with eight of the 10 home runs in his final two seasons.
As noted on the MLB Network’s broadcast of Day 2 of the Draft, Lindsly wasn’t rated by the MLB.com scouts, and wasn’t even on Baseball America’s Top 500 prospect list for this year.
“I think this is kind of the typical senior sign that we would see on a normal Day 2 in Rounds 7-10,” MLB.com’s Jim Callis said.
“He’s a catch-and-throw guy. It seems like half the senior signs — they get taken as money savers in a typical draft — feel like they’re catch-and-throw guys who are seniors, good leadership, good makeup, can handle themselves behind the plate ...
“[Lindsly] hasn’t hit a ton at Oklahoma, probably projects more as a backup type, but he’s a type of guy who can come in and handle pitchers and you see where he goes and it looks to me like this is a money saver that they will use to afford the other players that they have taken in this draft.”
Lindsly was asked for his own take on the Nationals’ decision to select him.
“I’m extremely blessed and thankful and just, I just never expected it,” he said.
“Extremely happy with the Nationals, obviously, and the confidence that they have in me.
“I’m just speechless, honestly. I just never saw this coming and it’s a dream come true.”
“Lindsly is a left-handed hitting catcher,” Assistant GM and VP of Scouting Ops Kris Kline said when he spoke to reporters after Round 2.
“He’s an average receiver. He’s got a solid-average arm. It’s a loose, left-handed swing.
“Great makeup, character kid, strong body, and we’re glad to have him in the system as well.”
Lindsly, assuming he signs, joins the Nationals’ 2020 1st Round pick, fellow Sooners’ starter Cade Cavalli in the organization, and they’ll both be reunited with 2018 4th Round pick Jake Irvin, another Oklahoma alum.
“Our Midwest crosschecker Jimmy Gonzales has known Skip [Johnson] for a really long time,” Director of Scouting Eddie Longosz said when asked about taking Sooners twice during this year’s five-round draft.
“We have a great confidence-level — when Skip calls us on players, we’re very confident that we know what he’s talking about and that he’s not going to steer us in the wrong direction either. It’s a great relationship we’ve had for a long time, even when Skip was at Texas beforehand.”
“I’m extremely thankful to that entire [Sooners’] coaching staff,” Lindsly said.
“They made me so much better as a baseball player, and Skip, since my freshman year has really helped me on the defensive side, being able to work with pitchers and communicate with them and have a relationship with them.”
Though he didn’t work much with Cavalli this year, Lindsly said he was excited to get to be reunited in the organization with both of his teammates.
“[Cavalli] texted me immediately. I’m obviously super-excited to be with him and Jake Irvin as well,” the catcher said.
“I’ve caught both of them before, and it’s always nice to have some familiar faces where you’re going.
“Cavalli has just improved tremendously each year he’s been at the University of Oklahoma.”
Lindsly, one reporter noted, having said that he was blessed to get picked, and surprised he was selected, comes off as being really humble and down to earth, but he was clear that it’s not a sign of a lack of confidence in his own abilities.
“I feel like I’ve always been a pretty humble person. Not very cocky,” Lindsly said.
“I’m confident for sure, but I’m not very cocky in that way. I like to build other people up for sure, before myself. But, it’s just such a dream come true. It doesn’t even feel real. It’s just, I’m extremely blessed.”
The 123rd overall pick of the draft had a slot value of $464,500. If he’s a money-saver pick as MLB.com’s Callis suggested, which he would seem to be, he’ll still likely get significantly more than the $20K max he could have received as a undrafted free agent.