BASEBALL: TC shortstop Stephenson not taken in MLB Draft; Temple grad Rumfield selected by Phillies
By GREG WILLE
After being rated the fastest runner and the No. 199 overall prospect in Major League Baseball's 2021 amateur draft, Temple College standout shortstop Seth Stephenson unexpectedly was not selected in the 20-round event that concluded Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Temple High School graduate TJ Rumfield saw his name called when the Philadelphia Phillies picked the current Virginia Tech slugging first baseman Tuesday in Round 12 of the three-day draft.
The 20-year-old Stephenson, a second-year freshman, was voted Hitter of the Year in the Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference after helping lead TC to a 39-16 record. Coach Craig McMurtry's Leopards reached the championship round of the NJCAA Region V North Tournament before they were eliminated by rival and eventual national champion McLennan.
The 5-foot-10, 165-pound Stephenson, a Buda Hays graduate, was watched closely by professional scouts throughout this past season. He batted .383 with nine home runs, 47 runs batted in and a .674 slugging percentage, hit 13 doubles and eight triples, stole 31 bases and scored 54 runs.
As the draft's No. 199 prospect according to MLB.com, Stephenson was projected to be taken in approximately the eighth round. The 199nd pick carries with it a suggested “slot” signing bonus of $233,000. The fact that Stephenson was not drafted likely came down to signability factors, and he wasn't alone. Thirty-seven draft-eligible players ranked highter than Stephenson also were not selected.
In November 2020 he signed an NCAA Division I letter of intent with Tennessee, which advanced to the College World Series last month. When Stephenson spoke with interested major league teams leading up the draft, he had the bargaining power of being prepared to transfer and play one or multiple seasons for the Volunteers in the Southeastern Conference, college baseball's premier league.
In the end, joining Tennessee's powerful program for this upcoming fall will be the road taken by Stephenson after he couldn't come to a pre-draft agreement with any club on a signing bonus that would persuade him to enter professional ball instead of continuing his college career with the Vols.
“Thank you to every scout that took the time to watch me play and build a relationship this season,” Stephenson wrote on his Twitter feed Tuesday after the draft ended. “I would also like to thank the teams that called me and gave me an opportunity to join their organization over the past few days. God's plan over mine! @Vol_Baseball let's work!”
Stephenson was projected to be Temple College's first player selected in the draft since right-handed pitcher and Belton product Tyler Vail, the Atlanta Braves' 20th-round pick in 2013.
Rumfield graduated from Temple in 2018 following a stellar four-year varsity career playing for his father, Toby, then the Wildcats' head coach. Also a quarterback who was a skilled pocket passer, TJ Rumfield helped Temple's football team go 10-4 and reach the Class 5A Division I Region III final in 2017, his only season as a starter.
Rumfield spent his first two college baseball seasons at Texas Tech, where he redshirted in 2019 and played in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic halted that season. The 6-5, 225-pound infielder and left-handed hitter then decided to transfer to Virginia Tech for the 2021 season.
In his first year with the Hokies in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Rumfield batted .315 with seven homers and 37 RBI (tied for the team lead) while starting all 52 of Virginia Tech's games. He added 12 doubles, compiled a .402 on-base percentage and walked more times (26) than he struck out (23).
Rumfield, who turned 21 in May, was the draft's 355th overall pick. Now he will have to decide whether to sign a pro contract with the Phillies or return for another season with the Hokies in Blacksburg.