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Right-handed pitcher Cole Wilcox from Heritage High in Ringgold, Ga., was one of the top 20 MLB draft prospects for 2018, but he's chosen to play for UGA instead of heading to the pros.

Star high school pitcher Cole Wilcox chooses Georgia over MLB

Cy Brown

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Cole Wilcox picks Bulldogs over big leagues

Two Georgia baseball players were drafted in the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft this week — we’ll get to them in a moment — but more important to the program is who wasn’t drafted.

Right-handed pitcher Cole Wilcox is a top-20 prospect from Heritage High School in Ringgold, Ga., and a longtime Georgia commit. Although he signed in November, there was never any guarantee he’d ever end up in Athens. High school players who stand 6-foot-5 and can throw heat like Wilcox are highly coveted by MLB clubs. He has all the measurables you look for in a big-league pitcher.

Wilcox projected into the first round, but clubs were reportedly turned off by his asking price of a $3 million signing bonus. He went untouched in the first two rounds Monday, and on Tuesday morning, he announced via Twitter he was passing up pro ball for the time being in favor of settling some “unfinished business” with the Georgia Bulldogs.

“Thank you to all the teams who showed interest in me, but I’ve decided to go home,” Wilcox wrote. “We have some unfinished business to take care of in Athens.  #GoDawgs!!!”

This is major news for the Diamond Dogs. Wilcox will assume a spot at the top of the rotation the moment he sets foot in Athens. A true ace is something the program hasn’t had in quite some time — and something it needs to earn a trip to the College World Series. After working as Georgia’s top starter for two or three years — he’ll be draft eligible again in 2020 — Wilcox will take another shot at the pros. And there’s a strong chance he’ll go in the top 10 and receive at least that $3 million signing bonus.

Here’s a short scouting report of Wilcox from Tori McElhaney of MLB.com:

Wilcox has a fastball that already sits at 91-94 mph, reaching the plate with heavy sink and the promise of more velocity once he fills out his athletic 6-foot-5 frame. His 81-84 mph changeup is equally effective, featuring fading action and often bottoming out at the plate. He’ll also flash a plus slider in the low 80s, though it’s not quite as consistent as his other two offerings.

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Draft Dawgs: MLB edition

Wilcox’s decision wasn’t the only UGA news to come out of the first two days of the MLB draft. As I mentioned above, two Georgia Bulldogs were dealt their tickets to the pros Tuesday.

First up was junior left-handed pitcher Kevin Smith, who was selected by the New York Mets in the seventh round. Smith was one of Georgia’s best pitchers this season, holding an 8-1 record and 3.69 ERA in 22 appearances, including 7 starts. He also led the team in strikeouts (79) and held opposing hitters to a .233 batting average. Smith is 18-7 with a 4.17 ERA in 55 games, including 26 starts in his UGA career.

The other Dawg to come off the board Tuesday was the club’s best hitter, senior outfielder Keegan McGovern, who was picked by the Seattle Mariners in the ninth round. McGovern was named a third-team All-American by Baseball America this season when he batted .319 with a team-high 18 home runs and 50 RBI.

Georgia signee Cabera Weaver of South Gwinnett High was also picked Tuesday. Weaver, a speedy outfielder, was taken in the seventh round by the Chicago White Sox. We’ll have to wait and see whether he decides to give college ball a try or head to the pros.

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