MLB Draft, transfer portal put UL baseball roster in flux
A shortened 2020 season and much uncertainty going forward leaves the UL baseball team with a roster in flux.
Part of it is because of what the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft may take from the Ragin’ Cajuns, including starting junior shortstop Hayden Cantrelle and senior starting pitcher Brandon Young.
Both have eligibility remaining.
And both Cantrelle and Young hope to get selected high enough that they can turn pro right away, but neither has ruled out a return to UL if things do not go their way.
“I have some tough decisions,” Young said in a telephone interview Friday.
“If the draft works out, then it works out and everything’s fine. But I’ve still entertained every idea and decision and situation. So I'm kind of just taking it day by day, and seeing how it is.
“I definitely want to play some pro ball,” added Young, who is on the draft board of multiple MLB organizations. “But playing for the Cajuns one more time is an awesome thing.”
Related:Cajuns southpaw Brock Batty enters NCAA transfer portal
More:Cajun arms getting it done as UL preps for road stretch
The other element factoring into the ever-changing UL roster:
Several more Cajuns in addition to previously reported pitcher Brock Batty have entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Three of them — third baseman/second baseman Jonathan Windham, outfielder/infielder Tremaine Spears and first baseman/pitcher Colton Frank — were frequent starters in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.
Entry into the portal by all four is confirmed by D1Baseball.com’s transfer tracker, as is that of two others who were on the Cajun roster this year.
Windham opened 12 of UL’s 17 games and hit .220 as a third-year sophomore, including 10 starts at third.
Although coming off a broken bone in his foot that cut his 2019 short, Windham — known for his standout glove work — was expected to be a key part of the Cajun infield this year.
Frequently switching between second and third depending on who was hitting, he finished the year on a five-game hit streak.
Frank started seven of his 14 games this year at first, hitting just .105 but developing into a defensive presence as a natural sophomore. He also made three appearances on the mound in 2020.
More:The dream comes true for UL's Frank with walk-off homer
Spears started eight of his 12 games while hitting .200. He graduated from UL last month but also has eligibility remaining.
UL coach Matt Deggs has declined multiple requests, made through a team spokesman, to comment on Cajuns who’ve entered the portal, a clearinghouse for all players who are considering transferring.
Just because the players are in the portal does not guarantee that they are leaving. They could be, or they could simply be exploring options.
Also among those graduating from UL this month was starting catcher Sebastian Toro, a former juco transfer who hit .293 — second-best average among all Cajuns — are threw out 12 would-be base-stealers in 2020.
Toro is not among Cajuns in the transfer portal, according to D1Baseball’s tracker.
But it nevertheless is unclear if Toro, who also has eligibility remaining, plans to play next season for UL, which has not yet released an early version of its 2021 roster.
Also unconfirmed by UL is which players will take advantage of an extra season of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More:Coronavirus prompts eligibility questions for many at UL
Related:Fiery Ragin' Cajuns catcher Toro hot with his arm, bat
The only one known to be returning, as of now: starting centerfielder Brennan Breaux, the St. Thomas More High product who began his career at LSU before transferring to UL.
Breaux hit a team-high .302 in the abbreviated 2020 season.
It’s also known that outfielder Gavin Bourgeois, who had UL’s second-highest batting average at .311 with 20 multi-hit games as a junior in 2018, does not intend to return.
Bourgeois, a Notre Dame High product, was limited by injury to 13 games when he was starting regularly in 2019, allowing him to take a medical redshirt and return in 2020.
If he were to have stayed, it would have been his sixth season.
Another senior who could return in 2021 is Young, who was to have moved into the Friday night starting spot had the season not been cut short.
Whether he or Cantrelle return depends on if — and, if so, how high — they’re selected in the abbreviated five-round MLB Draft scheduled for June 10-11.
Related:Coronavirus will impact MLB Draft-eligible Ragin' Cajuns
So Deggs — whose club was 8-9 when its 2020 season, Deggs’ first as head coach of the Cajuns, was halted in mid-March — must wait to see how that plays out.
“It’s tough to tell (what will happen),” Cantrelle said by phone last Wednesday.
“We (he and Deggs) talk a little bit from time to time. Most of the time he’s just been telling me ‘Good luck’ (and) if I ever need anything ever, call. That’s how it’s always been.”
Young said he speaks with Deggs “probably once a week.”
“He wants me to go play some pro ball,” Young said. “If that’s this year or next year, he wants me to go do it and get my shot.”
More:Deggs hopes his Cajuns can pick up where they left off
That uncertainty over who will go when leaves UL, which opened 2-8 but won six of their last seve, with question marks.
Two other Cajuns, meanwhile, eligible to return with an extra year granted for 2021 are pitchers Austin Bradford, a transfer from LSU-Eunice who was a fifth-year senior in 2020, and Jack Burke, who made just appearances this year because he was rehabbing from injury.
UL — which closed its season with wins over Michigan State, Troy and McNeese — has not yet said what Burke and Bradford plan to do.
Neither is known to be in the portal at this time.
But it is known that the portal is full of Cajuns.
According to D1Baseball’s portal tracker, juco-transfer utilityman Jeff Greene also is in it, as is pitcher David Williams, a transfer from Xavier.
Williams was on the roster but did not play for the Cajuns in 2020.
But Greene appeared in eight games, starting in four and hitting just .067 in 15 at-bats.
Also in the portal: pitcher Jake McDonald, a transfer from Texas Tech who, according to D1Baseball, is now transferring to Tulane.
McDonald did not make UL’s roster coming out of fall ball last year.
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