Unless something bizarre happens, Ryan Hancock won't throw any more passes for BYU.
Hancock, the two-sport star who led the Cougar football team to seven wins in eight starts, is expected to go high in Thursday's baseball draft. Two other BYU players - outfielder Brian Banks, who hit .394 with 19 home runs and 71 RBI in the regular season, and third baseman Dave Madsen of Murray, .422, 15 HR, 60 RBI - are also promising draft prospects, but the focus is definitely on Hancock, who could be BYU's highest baseball draftee ever."There are several teams, like the Angels and Braves, that told me they'd take me if I was still around in the second round," Hancock said. "I know I won't go any later than the first couple of picks in the second round."
There's a chance, Hancock added, that he could go in the first round, depending on who goes ahead of him, team priorities, and all the usual draft factors. "The earliest I'll go," he said, "will be the second half of the first round."
Assuming Hancock's confidence is well-founded, the only obstacle to a professional baseball career for the stocky righthander is a contract. Hancock says that typical signing bonuses for second-round picks range from $90,000 to $200,000-plus, and he expects to be on the high end of that spectrum.
"If they got upset about something and pulled out, I don't know what I'd do," he said. "I've been thinking about football, but there's the risk factor."
Six months ago, the first round appeared to be little more than a fantasy. Late in a BYU football victory over Utah, the one-time third-string quarterback was hit from behind and suffered a major knee injury. Doctors predicted a ninemonth rehab project, but Hancock defied the predictions and pitched for the Cougar baseball team midway through the just-completed season.
In his early outings, however, Hancock didn't look sharp. His fastball wasn't as fast, and in seven regular-season appearances he compiled an 8.66 ERA. In the WAC playoffs against Fresno State, though, Hancock struck out seven of the 10 batters he faced and allowed just one hit. Radar guns clocked him "around 90." Scouts took notice.
"Some teams told me they wish I hadn't pitched so well at Fresno," Hancock said.
Even if he agrees to a contract, Hancock said he might not throw a pitch in a live game this summer. A few teams have indicated they are still concerned about the knee, and they'd rather have him put more time into rehab than rush it and ruin it.
"They don't realize how well my knee has come along," he said. "But they're also real cautious."
Thursday should mark Hancock's second draft selection. He was picked by the California Angels out of high school in Cupertino, Calif., and offered a $100,000 bonus. In light of what happened to his knee, does he regret that he didn't take the money and run? Nope.
"I had experiences in college I couldn't have had elsewhere," he said. "It was far too valuable to put a price on."
Even the injury, he said, proved to be a positive experience. "I'm going to be a better all-around player because of it. It taught me how to work for something. It made me mature."