Alex Hickey/SEC Country
LSU baseball players Zach Watson (above) and Zack Hess are draft-eligible a year earlier than most college players.

Why LSU baseball sophomores Zach Watson and Zack Hess are eligible for MLB draft

Alex Hickey

SEC Country reporter Alex Hickey will answer your LSU Tigers sports queries each weekday in our LSU Question of the Day. Join the conversation by sending your questions via Twitter to @SECCountryLSU@bigahickey or by email to Alex at alex.hickey@coxinc.com.

Question of the Day: Tuesday, June 5

It’s that weird time of the year once again — the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

The draft is conducted with no consideration toward anything, really, and especially not college baseball. On Monday night, Florida third baseman Jonathan India was taken with the No. 5 overall pick while he was playing in a regional final.

So it’s pretty clear that this is a weird event that doesn’t make much sense. From LSU’s perspective, one situation in particular stands out as peculiar. Pitcher Zack Hess and center fielder Zach Watson are both draft-eligible despite being sophomores. Typically, players cannot leave college before their junior seasons unless they sign with an MLB team straight out of high school or junior college.

Multiple LSU baseball fans have asked some variation of the same question recently.

How are Zack Hess and Zach Watson able to be drafted as sophomores?

To the MLB rule book we go.

“Certain groups of players are ineligible for selection, generally because they are still in school. The basic categories of players eligible to be drafted are:

  • High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college;
  • College players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old; and
  • Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed.”

Zack Hess was born on Feb. 25, 1997 — thus making him 21 years old and eligible to be drafted. Watson does not turn 21 until June 25, but would appear to make the cut by merit of being 21 before the Aug. 15 deadline for drafted players to sign contracts.

But even though Zack and Zach are eligible to leave, there’s no guarantee that they will. Neither player was selected in the first four rounds of the draft, giving LSU fans some hope that the Tigers will be loaded for bear in 2019.

To see prior answers to our Question of the Day, we have you covered.