For the second time in his baseball career, Kansas University sophomore Tanner Poppe has been picked in the 37th round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft.
Poppe, a hard-throwing, 6-foot-5, right-handed pitcher from Girard, became the third KU pitcher selected in this year’s draft on Wednesday, when Tampa Bay grabbed him with the 1,140th pick overall.
Two years ago, out of high school, Kansas City made Poppe their 37th-round selection. Instead of signing, he elected to go to college. All indications point to him following the same path this year.
“He’ll definitely be back,” KU coach Ritch Price said. “I think being drafted speaks volumes for his potential, but he needs to continue to develop. He’s not ready to go play professional baseball yet and, you know what, Tanner knows it.”
For the most part, the 50-round draft, which concluded Wednesday afternoon, was made up of high school seniors and college juniors or seniors. NCAA rules dictate that players who enroll at a university are not eligible to be drafted until after their junior year. There are exceptions, however, and Poppe was one of them. He became draft eligible after his sophomore season at KU because of a clause that allows 21-year-old non-juniors to be selected. Poppe turned 21 last summer.
Poppe, a physical therapy major who owns a 3.9 GPA, started 13 games this season and finished 3-6 with a 3.66 ERA. He was second on the team in innings pitched (71 1⁄3) and strikeouts (47). Despite putting up solid numbers in his first year as a full-time starter, Price said Poppe was focused on continuing to improve in college.
“When he goes out, he wants to be ready to be a guy who has a career, not just a guy who signs and plays two years and he’s done,” Price said.
Poppe became the third right-handed pitcher selected from KU’s 2011 roster, joining junior Colton Murray (13th round by the Philadelphia) and senior T.J. Walz (15th round by Oakland), who were both taken Tuesday.
In addition, four high school prospects who signed with KU last fall also were selected in this year’s draft, with Free State High standout, Cody Kukuk, a seventh-round by Boston, being taken highest of them all.