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Boston College Baseball: Natural Attrition Creates Fast-Approaching Future Challenges

The attrition to the Boston College baseball program is just beginning, and it's what you want to see happen. But it places an importance on the next steps to ensure the future sustainability of the team.

Courtesy BC Athletics

Justin Dunn is a member of the New York Mets organization. Nick Sciortino is a member of the Boston Red Sox organization. Mike King remains unsigned, but whether or not he comes back is dependent on an organization that drafted him in the 12th round of the MLB Draft.

Three Boston College Eagles with elgibility remaining received the call from Major League Baseball franchises. In addition, two seniors - Jesse Adams (14th round, Cincinnati Reds) and Joe Cronin (34th round, Minnesota Twins) - had similar experiences. And if that weren't enough, incoming freshman Dante Baldelli was picked in the 39th round by the Philadelphia Phillies.

It was a banner day for the Eagles baseball program, arguably the finest day in the MLB Draft in history. For BC, it was long overdue publicity, another wave of good vibrations that came with the fact that, for the first time ever, it was overshadowed by the fact that the team was still playing games. The draft happened with an overshadowing series against Miami, the first Super Regionals appearance for the team.

During the games, it was hard to look beyond the promise of what was ahead. The Eagles had a chance to make their first trip to Omaha since the Lyndon Johnson presidency, and they pushed the Hurricanes to the limit of the limit of a third game. In the process, the promise of their players' future went from an unknown to a virtual guarantee. The outlook ahead was bright, and it only served to heighten the happiness with which everyone appreciated the then-present.

Well the then-present is now the not-so-distant past, and the future is now the present. The reality is that when the season ended, the clock continued to roll. It's important to appreciate and enjoy what we witnessed, but dwelling too much on that one season stands to diminish being able to do it again in the coming years.

When a team like Boston College has a season like the one the Eagles had, there's a natural attrition that takes place when it's over. It begins with the players. The success of the team is the result of what the players do well, and that's something teams at the next level make sure to notice. When a team does well in college baseball, there's natural purge that happens when MLB franchises pillage rosters with draft selections and signing bonuses.

There was no question that Dunn was leaving. A first round draft selection is too much to pass up, and only 10 selections in the First Round, Competitive Balance, or Supplemental and Compensatory Draft Round choices since 2010 have chosen not to sign. It was just a matter of when he would sign and for how much, not a question of if he would sign.

For a player like Sciortino, there's a little bit more to it. Players taken inside of the 20th round need to balance if they can elevate their draft stock in the next year or if the signing bonus offer they receive isn't a good enough offer. It's a much more convoluted selection. Last season, for example, 37 players picked between rounds 11 and 20 didn't sign. That's seven picks every two rounds or one every eight draftees for a 12.3% percent rate.

Of that same rate, though, 71.4% of unsigned draft picks from the top 20 rounds of last years draft were high school athletes, meaning a college player chosen in that tier is more likely to sign. When talking about catchers, even though 9.5% of players chosen at that position between rounds 1-20 didn't sign, a college catcher is more likely to sign than a high school right handed pitcher.

So while statistically predictable, the Sciortino signing is a sign of how things work when your program is doing very well. Before the season, he wasn't even on high draft boards. As the season went on, he became a key component both at the plate and in the field for BC's success. He established himself as one of the best behind-the-plate arms in the draft. And he did so in a market where the home MLB team could watch him with relative ease. Given BC's success, he became more of a commodity in baseball circles, and now the Eagles enter next season without a returning catcher who likely would've been a Johnny Bench Award favorite.

When your team winds, you have to expect attrition like that all over the place, including on the coaching staff. If the BC pitching staff began the year as a hidden gem, the secret got out in a hurry down the end of the tournament. Much of the credit is going to pitching coach Jim Foster, himself a former head coach at the University of Rhode Island. As a result, there are unconfirmed rumors swirling that his name could come up for a juicy head coaching job at a number of non-Power Five schools. Although there's nothing that can be taken fully seriously yet, it's only a matter of time before teams look to poach successful programs of what they feel are a part of their success. That's what they do. After all, that's how coaching trees and draft traditions are created.

And there's no questioning that you want your program to be at that level. You want to see Scott Friedholm receive a head coaching job at UNC-Wilmington, and you want to be able to replace him with Jim Foster. If and when Jim Foster receives the call, you want to replace him with someone who can step right in and be a great assistant coach. When you lose guys like Chris Shaw, Justin Dunn, and Nick Sciortino, you want to be able to keep developing players.

That's where the true challenge resides. Boston College punched so far above its weight class this year that the rest of the nation, both inside the baseball community and throughout casual observers, noticed. They noticed the challenges the Eagles work up against, both in terms of geography and in terms of facilities (boy did they notice there). They noticed that the team did it without complaining.

They know that the school absolutely has to invest in the baseball program, and they know that there's an opportunity coming with the new baseball stadium. But that future, once in the promise of the distant, is fast looming as an oncoming present.  If you're not careful, you get caught living in the past too much, and the soon-to-be present winds up being pretty bad.

If BC isn't careful with its baseball team, the program will reboot right back to where it was in 2012. Mike Gambino was able to build an absolutely stellar team this year, but the future is murky if the status quo remains, something nobody can blame him for. BC can't plan to be a one-shot wonder in another seven years because there's no guarantee that 2023 will be like 2016 or 2009.

Once you're at or near the top, you can't be complacent. You have to find a way to take the next step, remaining at the top. Once you have one first round pick, you need to keep churning them out. For some odd, unknown reason, the Eagles did that over the past two years. The most ardent experts in college baseball, though, know this pace is unsustainable without preparations for the future.

We all enjoyed the run in 2016. We're all enjoying the end of the run by watching our guys move onto bigger and better things. The not-so-distant past was amazing, and the present still feels pretty good. But the future looms with a challenge to hopefully turn it from potentially murky to incredibly bright.