By MATTHEW STEVENS
Two Mississippi State seniors that were not taken in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft have earned professional contracts this week.
Bulldogs shortstop Jonathan Ogden and catcher Wes Thigpen have signed free agent deals with the Detroit Tigers franchise and will report to the organization’s training center in Lakeland, Fla.,
The duo is expected to get an opportunity to play for the Tigers Gulf Coast League on the spring training home for the Major League club.
Ogden hit .261 this season while drawing 61 starts at shortstop and tied for the team lead in eight home runs. The Cypress, Texas native that transferred to MSU from Blinn Community College, dealt with an abdomen injury throughout the 2010 campaign.
Thigpen drew 44 starts behind the plate and was the primary catcher from Southeastern Conference play throughout, where he led the SEC with seven pickoffs and compiled a .992 fielding percentage. He hit .237 with a team-best 10 sacrifice hits and 26 RBI.
The only other two Mississippi State players that were drafted but have failed to ink a professional deal are senior outfielder Jaron Shepherd and junior right-handed pitcher Devin Jones.
Shepherd, who was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 33rd round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft, told the Starkville Daily News that he hadn’t signed yet but would be sent to play for the Advanced-A level Tri-City Dust Devils located in Pasco, Wash.
Shepherd finished the 2011 season with a 289 average and was second on the team in stolen bases (12).
After being drafted four years ago in the 17th round selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Kilgore (Texas) High School, Shepherd was taken again after a single season at Navarro (Texas) Community College was a 44-round selection by the Cincinnati Reds. Last season, Shepherd went undrafted and now was taken after completing the 2011 season where the 6-foot-2 left-handed bat is hitting .295 and playing every day in right field at Mississippi State
"He really showed me that he's advanced his game and using all the athleticism and tools he has on a much more consistent basis," Rockies scout Damon Ianelli said. "Stuff like executing a hit-and-run at the plate by putting the ball right in the hole the shortstop was, going first to third on a single and playing great defense are things I saw a lot this year."
Jones is a more complicated case as the Eupora native has told the Starkville Daily News via text message he “isn’t close to making a decision” on whether he’ll sign with the Baltimore Orioles after they drafted him in the ninth round. The junior right-handed pitcher had his season-inning exit interview with MSU head coach John Cohen and has until Aug. 15 to sign before the franchise loses the opportunity to him.
“We had a great discussion yesterday and Devin enjoys being a part of our program at Mississippi State,” Cohen said. “It really depends on his personal financial situation and we’ll just wait and see how this unfolds.”