St. Charles East graduate Wes Benjamin experienced the range of draft-day speculation before happily embracing reality.
The 6-foot-1, left-handed pitcher and Kansas junior originally figured he'd be lucky to be selected at all Friday, the second day of the three-day Major League Baseball draft that includes rounds 3 through 10. But when dialogue with a Texas Rangers representative indicated the Rangers were looking hard at Benjamin with their third-round pick, Benjamin got his hopes up – way up.
"I rushed home and looked at the computer for it … and when my name wasn't called I said 'Oh, great. Maybe I was getting too far ahead of myself,' " Benjamin said.
Not that far ahead of himself, as it turned out.
Two rounds later, the Rangers chose Benjamin in the fifth round with pick No. 156 overall. Benjamin said Friday evening that he intends to sign with Texas and expects the deal to go down quickly so he can begin rehabilitating his Tommy John surgery with the Rangers' medical staff.
Before the third-round false alarm, Benjamin would have been overjoyed to see his name on the board early Friday afternoon in Round 5.
"I didn't think ahead of time I would be even watching the draft this early," Benjamin said. "I was thinking I'd put it on 3 or 4 o'clock and hoping to be one of the later picks on the second day. I'm pleasantly surprised and couldn't be happier to start playing my future career."
Benjamin was drafted out of St. Charles East in the 48th round by the New York Yankees in 2011 but decided to follow through on his college plans at Kansas.
He was 4-0 for the Jayhawks as a junior with a 4.22 ERA before a torn ulnar collateral ligament in late March sidelined him, forcing surgery.
Benjamin would not be ready to pitch at the start of his senior season, anyway, making the decision to leave Kansas a year earlier and focus full-time on his rehab a somewhat easier decision.
The recommended signing value for his spot in the draft is $305,500 according to baseballamerica.com but Benjamin said he can't command that since he has a long rehab process ahead.
"I knew off the bat I wasn't going to be able to make the same amount of money as if I wasn't injured so I made that clear to teams," Benjamin said. "I said I'm looking hopefully to go somewhere in the top 10 [rounds] as a value pick where I could sign for less money than the assigned slot money for the actual pick in the draft. That's pretty much what's going to be happening for me now in the fifth round.
"They saved some money and they'll be able to to use that to maybe sign a high schooler who wants a little extra money or something along those lines."
Benjamin, home in St. Charles, followed the draft with his girlfriend and his father, Scott; he said his mother, Jan, was working. He said he was "pretty much a wreck" as the drama unfolded but is thrilled to land with the Rangers, who showed serious interest while meeting with Benjamin during the recent Big 12 Conference tournament.
Once his deal is finalized, Benjamin expects to rehabilitate with the Rangers at their spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz., for the rest of the season before returning home for a break during the winter.