Stephen Alemais and Jake Rogers left Tulane on Tuesday afternoon with a bittersweet send-off.
The two juniors cleared out their Green Wave locker, likely for the final time, sat in exit interviews with coaches and said farewell to teammates. Then Alemais and Rogers departed in opposite directions, to their individual hometowns, with the same plan.
Each will stay close to their phone and families as Major League Baseball’s draft begins Thursday at 2 p.m. and extends into the weekend. Both the shortstop (Alemais) and the catcher (Rogers) are ranked among Baseball America’s Top 120 prospects, meaning they’re overwhelmingly likely to sign with an MLB club rather than return to Tulane for a final season.
“Everyone kind of knows that there’s a very likely chance I’ll be leaving,” Rogers said. “I talked to coach (David Pierce) and he asked when I thought I was going to go and what teams I like. He’s been around, so he understands and he’s been really helpful with all of that stuff.
“The possibility of me not coming back is really sad, because I’ve had a wonderful time at Tulane and in New Orleans. I’m definitely going to miss it, if everything works out. But, it’s also exciting to be able to fulfill my dreams of becoming a professional baseball player.”
The pair helped Tulane earn its first conference championship since 2005 and made consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. Now they’ll likely be Tulane’s highest picked players since Rob Segedin was taken in the third round of 2010 draft.
Rogers said he’s letting his representation handle most of his projections, but Alemais is hopeful he’ll be taken as soon as the second or third round.
“Anything can happen though,” Alemais said. “You just have to be prepared for everything and anything, but we’ve been talking to teams all of the time. The word is as of now, teams are asking if I’m available in the second round or the third round, would I be interested in signing and that kind of questioning. We’ll see what happens.”
Neither was drafted out of high school, despite being well known prospects. Each flourished defensively during their time at Tulane, boosting their draft stock.
Rogers essentially thwarted opponents’ running games on his own, not only nabbing 27 of 43 stolen base attempts (63 percent), he forced typically aggressive teams to play station-to-station games for fear of losing runners on the basepaths.
Meanwhile, Alemais defensive strength was built on his range and ability to get in front of balls and steal would-be hits through the hole. Although he committed a team-high 16 errors, he also helped turn 31 double plays and made a variety of highlights that forced scouts to take notice.
But there are always concerns as well. Alemais totaled just 16 extra base hits and Rogers hit a team-low .200 against AAC competition.
“I’ve done all I can do and now I have to just wait and see,” Alemais said. “Everything is now out of my hands and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and the time to be with family. It’s going to be fun, but I just have to wait back and see what happens.”
They aren’t alone.
While Alemais and Rogers are the two most coveted Green Wave prospects, there are several Tulane players hoping to be selected at some point in the later rounds. Senior pitchers Emerson Gibbs and Alex Massey are chief among them after standing out in Tulane’s weekend rotation.
There’s also a possibility of other juniors being taken, including sluggers Hunter Hope, Lex Kaplan and Hunter Williams, but it’s likely all return for their final season at Tulane.
“This team was just incredible to be around every day,” Rogers said. “It’s hard to really describe it, but I think we’ll look back and realize just how special this season was. But we all have to move on at some point. I’m fortunate to be in the position I’m in.”