It’s been a big month already for Heritage High School alum Cole Wilcox.
Just over a week after picking up Collegiate Baseball second team All-American honors, the University of Georgia sophomore pitcher was selected in the third round — No. 80 overall — by the San Diego Padres in last week’s Major League Baseball Draft.
Wilcox 3-2 with 4.07 ERA in 19 appearances to earned SEC All-Freshman honors with the Bulldogs, striking out 64 hitters and walking 38 in 59.2 innings as opposing teams hit .216 against him. However, he was 3-1 in SEC play with a 2.57 ERA in 35 innings pitched, while allowing just a .198 average to opposing hitters.
In the off-season, he made the 26-man roster for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and went 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in four appearances, including one start. He threw three scoreless innings and had three strikeouts in a win over Cuba and pitched 2.2 innings and fanned three in a combined one-hit shutout of Japan.
Building on that momentum, Wilcox had four starts for Georgia in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, but dominated by going 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA. He recorded 32 strikeouts and just two walks in 23 innings on the hill, allowing opponents to hit just .209.
Included in that was a three-hit, zero-walk, seven-inning performance against then-No. 17 Georgia Tech, which saw him set a career-high with 11 strikeouts. as the Bulldogs handed the Jackets a 12-0 loss.
Georgia was 14-4 overall and climbed as high as No. 2 in the USA Today rankings when the season was shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
As of press time, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-hander, with a fastball that has reached 100 mph, had not announced if he was accepting the Padres’ offer and forgoing his final three college seasons to turn pro.
The suggested slot value for the No. 80 pick is $767,800, but published reports say that San Diego may be willing to dip into its $10.67 million bonus pool and come up with enough money — potentially $3 million or more — to lure Wilcox away from Athens.
Last year, the Padres took high school standout Hudson Head in the third round (No. 84 overall) and gave him a $3 million signing bonus to forgo his college commitment to Oklahoma State.
San Diego scouting director Mark Conner told the San Diego Union-Tribune last week that they have liked what they have seen out of Wilcox since high school and that he was “pretty confident that (they would) get something done like (they) did last year.”
Being a draft-eligible sophomore though, Wilcox has the leverage to return to Georgia and wait to see if he warrants a higher draft pick a year or two down the road. He had been a projected possible first-round pick coming out of high school in 2018, but opted instead to honor his commitment to the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last Friday that “all signs point to (Wilcox) signing” with the club.
MLB teams have until Aug. 1 to sign players.