The way Kyler Murray did the Oakland A’s dirty has made MLB teams cautious to draft a two-sport star in the first round.
Ole Miss five-star recruit running back and Baseball America Top 100 outfield prospect Jerrion Ealy did not have his name called on Monday’s first day of the 2019 MLB Draft. 78 picks were made and Ealy surprisingly wasn’t one of them.
The two-sport phenom can probably thank Arizona Cardinals No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray for his MLB Draft day snub.
Since his junior year in high school, Ealy was being touted as a definite early first-round selection in the 2019 MLB Draft, but the threat of his football prowess interfering with his MLB future prevailed over his potential.
Circumstances like this will forever be known as the “Kyler Murray Flex.” MLB teams are not going to waste a high first-round draft pick on a player whose heart is in another sport unless he’s projected to be the next Ken Griffey Jr. They don’t want to be left with egg on their faces again.
— 247Sports (@247Sports) June 4, 2019
As guaranteed money drops significantly for the rest of the MLB Draft this week, Ealy’s decision has already been made for him by the teams that didn’t pick him in the first two rounds. He will now probably embark on a potential dual-sport career in college and let the chips fall where they may over the next few seasons.
While Murray was a QB, the 5-foot-11, 208-pound Ealy has a much shorter life expectancy in the NFL, with more risk of brain damage and injury as a running back. The circumstances are a bit different, but the premise is the same as far as MLB owners are concerned. “If you don’t commit to the diamond then we’re not hiring.”
In this age of analytics, the margin of error is smaller and teams are definitely not trying to blow a first-round pick on a maybe again.
Ealy was the highest-rated commitment in Ole Miss’ 2019 football signing class. He chose the Rebels over Clemson, Alabama and a host of other Power 5 schools. He was the MVP of 2019 Under Armour All-American Game after rushing for a game-record 116 yards and two touchdowns. He racked up 1,526 yards (8.9 yards per carry) with 24 touchdowns as a senior out of Fleetwood (Miss.) Jackson Prep.
He’s considered to have big-time NFL upside.
Despite his football prowess, according to reports from just a few months ago, the five-star running back and speedy outfielder was thought to be a top-10 pick and a “shoe-in” for NOT showing up on campus.
Apparently, other developing factors made it easier for MLB execs to pass on Ealy on Day 1.
His batting prowess is still in the early stages of development. Despite his 6.13 time in the 60-yard dash and producing flashes of potential with six home runs and 22 stolen bases in his senior year at Jackson Prep, by the time Draft night hit, Ealy was no longer considered the MLB-ready baller that scouts predicted a year earlier.
Here’s what Baseball America had to say about him:
For all of Ealy’s tools and athleticism, however, the industry has soured on him this spring as he’s struggled offensively against below-average Mississippi competition.
While Ealy does have impressive hand-eye coordination and solid pure bat-to-ball skills, he has long needed refinement in his plate discipline, approach and mechanical setup at the plate—which is mostly to be expected from a two-sport athlete at his level.
However, scouts thought he would hit much better this spring and have been disappointed with the lack of progress he has shown in the batter’s box. Given Ealy’s upside on the gridiron and underwhelming performance this spring, he figures to be a tough sign out of Mississippi. He no longer projects as a first-round talent—like he did last summer—but still has tremendous upside if he ever focuses exclusively on baseball.
When he remade Kyler Murray’s remake of the classic Bo Jackson photo, I think that was a bit much for MLB execs to take. The Murray situation was all bad for baseball.
Back when Ealy committed to Ole Miss on National Signing Day and he was interviewed on ESPN, he said, “I love both sports but baseball has my heart,” and that his decision was going to be based on how the MLB Draft transpired.
However, the evaluation of Ealy’s baseball skills was at an all-time low during the weeks preceding Monday’s Draft.
“His stock has dropped a little,” one National League scout who has followed Ealy’s career closely told Bleacher Report. “He’s a tremendous athlete, but my assessment is football comes easier to him than baseball. In the first game this year, he struck out to start the inning and then when his team batted around, he struck out again. That stuck with me.”
Ealy arrived on the Ole Miss campus Sunday afternoon to begin his football career with the Rebels. It was pretty clear that he had gotten word that he wouldn’t be a first-round MLB Draft pick.
Securing a million dollar bag with MLB was supposed to lock in Ealy’s decision to leave Ole Miss for pro baseball, but the bag isn’t coming right now.
MLB wasn’t trying to end up in another situation where they are begging for Ealy’s services and he’s burning the candle on both ends trying to squeeze more money out of the team that drafted him, with no intention of ever joining an MLB club.
That was as much a factor in him nor being a Top 30 selection as the sudden disenchantment with his hitting ability.