FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas pitcher Ryne Stanek was expecting to find out where his professional baseball career would begin early in the first round of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday night.
Stanek did get his answer. But it took much longer than anticipated.
Stanek was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 29th pick on Thursday, ending what turned into a three-hour wait. His slide was the most surprising of the first round considering Stanek was regarded as a top-15 prospect entering the draft after going 10-2 with a 1.39 earned run average with the Razorbacks in 2013.
Stanek — who said Wednesday he planned to watch the draft with a few teammates in the Arkansas locker room on Thursday night — was not available for comment after the selection. But he was eager to find out where he was heading Wednesday.
“It’s kind of something that has been on my mind for a little bit,” Stanek said before the draft. “I try not to think about it too much because you really don’t have too much control over what’s going to happen.
“So I’m going to go where I’m supposed to be. That’s the way that I’m looking at it.”
Stanek did became the first Razorback selected in the first round since Zack Cox was taken 25th by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010. He also became the seventh Arkansas player picked in the first round in school history and the highest Arkansas pitcher taken since Nick Schmidt in 2007 (No. 23 by the San Diego Padres).
It was the second time Stanek has been through the draft process after being picked in the third-round by the Seattle Mariners in 2010. He turned down a signing bonus of approximately $800,000 to play college baseball with the Razorbacks.
The move should prove to be a good one financially if Stanek agrees to terms with the Rays in the next few weeks. The MLB slot value for the 29th pick this season calls for a $1.758 million signing bonus, according to Baseball America.
But it could’ve been even more lucrative if Stanek had been selected 15th or higher as planned. The slot value for the 15th pick this season is $2.434 million.
Stanek became the 13th pitcher selected in the draft.
“This is a good value for the Rays,” Baseball America wrote in its summary of Stanek’s selection. “Not all scouts love Stanek’s mechanics or arm action, but the Rays are exceptional at developing pitchers and should be able to tune him up.”
Stanek, who allowed one earned run or less in 13 of his 16 starts last season, isn’t expected to return to Arkansas despite sliding to the back end of the first round.
He believes three years in the Southeastern Conference has helped him prepare for the next step even if it didn’t translate into becoming a top 15 pick in the draft.
“I feel like this has helped being here more than anything could’ve that I’m aware of,” Stanek said Wednesday. “It prepares you. It’s a man’s league here. To get you ready for pro ball, I don’t feel like there’s much better way.”
Stanek was the only player with Arkansas ties selected in the first round Thursday.
Teddy Stankiewicz, an Arkansas signee, was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the second round (No. 45 overall). It was the second straight year Stankiewicz was picked in the second round after going to the New York Mets with the 75th pick in 2012. Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said earlier Thursday he didn’t expect the pitcher to make it to campus after he opted to spend last year in junior college.
Other Razorbacks — like pitchers Colby Suggs, Barrett Astin, Randall Fant, Brandon Moore and Trent Daniel and infielder Dominic Ficociello — are expecting to be drafted during the three-day draft. So, too, will a handful of Arkansas signees.
Rounds 3 through 10 will be held today. Rounds 11 through 40 are Saturday.
“I think Saturday is going to be a day where a lot of guys are taken,” Van Horn said Thursday morning. “I hope guys in our program have that opportunity.”