If what Sam Stafford had to say the day the New York Yankees made him the 88th player selected in the First-Year Player Draft was any indication, there was no way the junior left-hander was coming back to Austin for one final season.
“Who wouldn’t want to be drafted by the Yankees?” Stafford said on June 7. “To go from the University of Texas to New York is awesome. I couldn’t imagine myself going to a better ballclub.”
Alas, the August 15 deadline to sign draft picks came and passed, and Stafford was no Yankee, as the two sides had come to an impasse in their negotiations: New York, worried about possible arm damage, didn’t come through with an offer Stafford would have liked.
So now the 21-year-old from Spring, Texas, looks like the best unofficial member of Texas 2011 baseball recruiting class. Last season, he finished second on the team among starting pitchers with a 1.77 ERA, and picked up six wins. Bounced around at times by the Texas coaches, Stafford saw work as a weekend starter, as a weekday starter against sub-par opponents, and even came out of the bullpen once.
But he’s at his best in big games. In three postseason games (excluding the Big 12 Tournament), he gave up just four earned runs in four appearances and started Texas’ Regional- and Super Regional-clinching games.
He’ll enter 2012 as the staff ace, one with tremendous confidence and pitching ability and the psyche that goes with carrying a pitching rotation. And if Stafford can carry the way he finished last season into next spring, he could pitch himself into first-round territory.
Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: After failing to sign with Yanks, Stafford back for final year.