Rhett Wiseman didn’t sign when he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs out of a Cambridge, Massachusetts high school in 2012. Instead, he attended Vanderbilt University. The reasons were twofold. Education was a priority — he’s since completed his studies and earned a business degree — and the new-at-the-time CBA had squelched any chances of his being coerced with a well-over-slot offer. As I wrote in the hours following that draft, Wiseman was viewed a second-to-fourth-round talent, and fell to the 25th round for just those reasons.
While signing was never a viable option, Wiseman did engage in dialogue with the Theo Epstein-led Cubs.
“We talked a little bit,” Wiseman told me recently. “I spoke to Theo, who I respect greatly, but just like the article you wrote at the time said, it was a situation where teams couldn’t come remotely close to the number that it would have taken to pull me away from the commitment to Vanderbilt. Looking back, I’m glad the slotting system changed in the way that it did, because it made my decision easy.”
The 24-year-old outfielder considers the three years he spent at Vandy “the experience of a lifetime,” but there were still dreams to chase. One year after being part of a team that won the 2014 College World Series, he was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the third round. This time he signed.
Pro ball has proven to be a challenge. Wiseman raked during his final collegiate season — 15 jacks and a .980 OPS — but he hasn’t come close to those numbers in the minors. There have been hot stretches, including this past April when he earned Eastern League player-of-the-month honors, but sustained success has eluded him. Even with his scalding start, he’s slashing .237/.325/.479 in the current campaign.
Wiseman knows as well as anyone that he needs to up his game if he hopes to reach the pinnacle of his profession. Baseball is, after all, a business. If you don’t perform, you’ll all too soon find yourself behind a desk, staring at a computer screen rather than at a man holding a baseball, 60 feet, six inches away.
In terms of truly understanding the ins and outs of the professional game, Wiseman might as well have been a million miles away when he turned down his first chance to sign.
“When you’re in high school, and looking at this whole process, it so isn’t what it seems,” said Wiseman. “You’re living at home and not playing every day. You have school commitments and are thinking about college. You’re still coming into full maturity. So even if you think you know what it’s like, you really don’t. It’s not until you’re in pro ball that you really understand how much of a business this is. It’s a livelihood, and it’s treated as such.” Read the rest of this entry »