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2019 MLB Draft: Four Sooners drafted, plenty of talent to return

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Brylie Ware

Senior third baseman Brylie Ware rounds first base during the game against Texas May 17.

Four Sooners were chosen from the 2019 MLB Draft board June 3-5, including junior Nathan Wiles (8th round, Tampa Bay Rays), junior Jason Ruffcorn (18th round, Cincinatti Reds), redshirt sophomore Braidyn Fink (19th round, Los Angeles Dodgers) and senior Brylie Ware (23rd round, St. Louis Cardinals).

Having just ended his senior season, Ware will likely sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. Fink, meanwhile, missed the 2019 season with a UCL tear and announced Saturday he will return for what will likely be his redshirt junior season in 2020. Ruffcorn and Wiles have not decided whether or not they will return for their senior seasons in 2020.

With the draft completed, the 2020 Sooners roster is becoming clearer. Only three of the four most recent draftees found playing time in 2019 and all three of them played different roles on the team.

Head coach Skip Johnson made it clear in April that Ware was the team’s best hitter, and freshman Diego Muniz referred to Ware as “our leader” and a player the team wants up to the plate a “hundred times out of a hundred times.” The Sedgwick, Kansas, native hit .299 and had six homers to go with 35 RBIs.

Wiles, meanwhile, was Oklahoma’s Saturday afternoon starter before moving to the Friday night role when sophomore Cade Cavalli got injured in April. Wiles was a workhorse for the Sooners, leading the team with eight wins in 15 appearances, and his size and ability allowed him to pound the strike zone.

Ruffcorn, a transfer from Texas A&M, led the Big 12 with 11 saves despite not being declared eligible by the NCAA until the night before Oklahoma’s season opener on Feb. 15.

“I’m glad (Ruffcorn) is on our team because I’ve faced him and it’s not easy hitting off of him,” Muniz said. “He’s funky, he has a different slot, he throws about 95 miles per hour.”

The Sooners will not have to replace the same crop of talent they had to replace before the 2019 season. Nine Sooners went off the board in the 2018 draft, with all three starting outfielders going in the top ten rounds — highlighted by center fielder Kyler Murray going No. 9 overall — and six different pitchers falling between rounds four and 31. Johnson was also tasked with finding new starters at second and first base.

The 2020 roster will return both Justin Mitchell and Brady Lindsly at catcher, Tyler Hardman at first base, Conor McKenna at second base, Brandon Zaragoza at shortstop, everyone except for Blake Brewster in the outfield and every pitcher except for graduating senior Ryan Madden, Wiles and Ruffcorn, should the latter two decide to sign.

Muniz, Wyatt Olds, Ben Abram, Jaret Godman and Milan Walla all saw significant playing time as true freshmen and will have an entire offseason to develop.

Cavalli had a share of struggles in 2018 as a freshman but improved both at the mound and at the plate in 2019, matching a 3.28 ERA in 60.1 innings on the mound with a .319 batting average and 1.004 OPS at the plate. His exact role in 2020 remains a question heading into the offseason.

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