Sunday , June 03, 2018 - 5:30 AM
WEST HAVEN — On Friday, Jan. 12, the Fremont High boys basketball team played a region game at Clearfield High. The Silver Wolves won 69-40 and Kyler Bush totaled 10 points and five rebounds in the win.
The next day he was in Arizona, warming up his pitching arm in a bullpen for a baseball prospect showcase. While he was warming up, scouts from Major League Baseball teams walked up and started talking to him.
Bush told himself to throw hard and throw strikes.
“They were asking me questions like, ‘Do you play basketball?’ and I’m still pitching and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I play basketball,’” Bush said. “And I didn’t throw a strike the whole time.
“In the game, I threw really well but I was kind of in disbelief that they were all there for me.”
The disbelief has since come to the brink of a crazy reality.
That reality is that Bush, a left-handed pitcher from Fremont High, could be selected in this week’s Major League Baseball Draft, which begins Monday, June 4.
He was hardly on scouts’ radars six months ago. But now, Perfect Game USA — which bills itself as the “world’s largest baseball scouting service” — ranks Bush as the 340th-best draft prospect in this year’s class.
If he were drafted exactly at the 340th pick, it places him late in the 11th round, which is the first round of the draft’s third day.
There’s a dilemma if he gets drafted: Does Bush take a potential six-figure signing bonus and head to the minor leagues?
Or does he play college baseball — he’s signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Washington State — for at least three years, trying to improve and potentially move up draft boards to get a higher signing bonus?
He’s leaning toward the big leagues, he told the Standard-Examiner in an interview Thursday — but that’s only if the money makes it worth it to skip college, which is one of the biggest things high school draft prospects have to weigh.
“I’d rather sign. That’s the dream is to make the MLB,” he said. “If the money’s right and all that kind of stuff, if things line up, I’d love to sign, but if the money isn’t there and it just doesn’t feel right, then college.”
Scouts attended all but one of his eight starts this season, a year in which he compiled a 5-2 record with a 2.51 ERA, 57 strikeouts and 19 walks in 39 innings pitched.
Several scouts, who spoke to the Standard-Examiner on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss their teams’ draft strategies, said they see good potential in Bush.
He’s 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, pitches left-handed and his fastball has touched 91 mph this season. Those measurables are the main reason scouts came to see him in Northern Utah.
“There’s something there, I don’t know what, but there’s something,” one scout said during Fremont’s March 30 game against Northridge.
Jason Bush, Kyler’s father, says scouts have told the family that with a proper training and coaching regimen, they see Kyler getting bigger and stronger, paving the way for significant improvement.
That would add velocity to a fastball that sat between 87-89 mph and routinely hit 90-91 mph a handful of times each game.
Several teams sent scouts to watch Bush, but the Kansas City Royals, Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles scouted him most.
Bush and his parents went to a pre-draft workout in Kansas City in the final weekend of May, said Shelly Bush, Kyler’s mother.
A pre-draft workout invite doesn’t necessarily mean a team is set on drafting a player. But, the Royals do have the highest bonus pool in this year’s draft, which is the amount of money teams can award in signing bonuses to draft picks.
KC’s bonus pool in this year’s draft: $12,781,900. Baltimore has $8,754,400 and Washington has $5,603,800.
As such, the Royals are the team most likely to have a little extra financial muscle to offer a pick in Bush’s projected range, which could benefit Bush if that’s when he’s picked. Significant signing bonuses typically go to picks taken in the first 10 rounds.
This is all new territory for Bush and his parents, who navigated the college recruiting spectrum before entering the complicated world of MLB scouting.
“The whole time as a parent you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, throw strikes, be perfect, do everything right’ and then when (scouts) sit in your house and they’re like, ‘Hey we’ve watched so much more and we follow so much more than just him as an athlete,’” Shelly Bush said.
To help with the process, the family has a major league adviser who acts as sort of a liaison between Bush and MLB teams, and would become Bush’s agent should he sign a major-league contract. Nobody knew about that when the scouting process started.
“So (the scouts are) like ‘Have you had an adviser?’...we’re like ‘We don’t know what an adviser is, we don’t know what we need to do,’” Kyler Bush said. “We got one and scouts just kept coming. Here we are now. It came up quick.”
Five prep baseball players have been drafted directly out of high school from Weber or Davis County since 2000, according to Baseball-Reference:
Weber pitcher Nicholas Abbott (New York Mets, 2007, 25th round), Viewmont shortstop Cole Miles (Atlanta Braves, 2005, 19th round), Northridge third baseman Frans Meyer (Texas Rangers, 2002, 36th round), Davis pitcher Jeff Tibbs (Los Angeles Dodgers, 2000, third round) and Bountiful pitcher Michael Gleason (Texas Rangers, 2000, 21st round).
Bush verbally committed to Washington State nearly two years ago and his heart has been set on heading to Pullman, Washington, this fall to start his collegiate baseball career.
But if an MLB team selects Bush this week (likely Tuesday or Wednesday), he’ll be faced with one of the biggest decisions of his life.
Bush says he’s ready should his name get called.
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