Soon after his high school baseball career was over, Turlock High senior shortstop Kevin Kramer was asked about his summer. He noted a few activities: competing for a summer baseball league in Modesto, visiting the lake with friends and playing some golf.
At the back of his mind: the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Though he has put some thought into it, Kramer isn’t “stressed out” about signing with an MLB team. He’s projected to be selected in the fifth round based on his talent potential, but he has other things to think about. He is, in fact, only 17.
“I have said all season, the worst possible thing that could happen is that I go to UCLA,” he explained.
So no, he’s not having a viewing party with family and friends when the three-day MLB draft begins on Monday in Secaucus, N.J., with the event broadcasted on MLB.com/LIVE. He plans to golf on the first day and hang out around his home during the ensuing days, spending time with his parents and watching some TV.
He’s the controller of his future. Kramer is scheduled to begin attending UCLA in September — a commitment he first made about midway through his junior year at Turlock High. If he gets drafted, he says he’ll demand a “hefty” signing bonus because of the sacrifice he would make to pull out from a well-respected college program. He has a figure in mind but didn’t go into specifics, only saying he expects “first-round money.”
According to mymlbdraft.com, the lowest signing bonus for an opening round selection from last year’s draft was $954,000, which was given to shortstop Cito Culver of the New York Yankees. Tommy Mendonca, a former Turlock High and Fresno State standout, reportedly agreed to the Texas Rangers organization in the vicinity of $590,000 after being picked in the second round of the 2009 MLB draft.
“I feel like guys can go to good schools and have good baseball careers,” Kramer said, “so I’m not too worried about the draft. Whatever happens, happens. But when it comes, I’ll sit down with my family and my friends and talk about the options and whatever team that I’m about to sign, that’s the one I’m going to go to.”
He has said it’s not so much about the money, but rather creating the best opportunity for his baseball career. He could be a higher selection, but he has repeatedly, with the support of his parents, Glenn and Maureen, told about 25 different teams — including about 10 that made home visits — that he wants to attend UCLA to continue his education and become bigger and stronger.
Kramer — a 6-foot-1, 195-pounder who gained attention after winning gold with the USA Baseball U-16 Team two summers ago — is in no rush. If he doesn’t sign, he’ll be eligible for the draft after his junior season (under NCAA Division I rule), when he undoubtedly becomes a more attractive prospect.
“He’s got a great second option,” Turlock coach Mark de la Motte said. “He’s going to continue to improve and he’s going to be a really good player for a lot of years.”
In his final high school season, he helped his Bulldogs to back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division I South runner-up finishes. Besides being a brick wall at shortstop with a fielding percentage of .923, opposing pitchers feared him. The No. 3 batter, for most of the season, he visited the plate 126 times with only 80 of them counted as at-bats. He was walked 33 times and finished with a .350 batting average with 28 hits, 39 runs and 30 RBIs.
Anyone who attended Turlock baseball games this season knows that he didn’t always get the best pitches. Pro scouts know this, too. They were seen at plenty of Turlock games with a stopwatch and a notepad in hand. Some of them ended up visiting the Kramer residence, talking about their respective organization and its minor league affiliates. And they usually got the same spiel: Kevin is not necessary ruling out the Majors, but UCLA is just too good to pass up.
“If he was a first-round player,” said his father, Glenn, “it’d be different. It’s not about the money. They deem him unsignable because he wants to go to college. That’s the way he gets the best of both worlds. He gets to grow bigger and become stronger and he gets to play for a good college.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.