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Unsigned players give teams more hope

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When Texas pitcher Cole Green was drafted in the fourth round by the Detroit Tigers, it almost was assumed he'd sign and waste no time starting his professional career.

Green had other plans. The Tigers didn't meet his demands and he decided to return to UT for his senior campaign, effectively giving the Longhorns one of the nation's top one-two punches going into next season with he and Taylor Jungmann.

Green leads the list of most important unsigned players.

Southern Mississippi got great news when ace pitcher Todd McInnis decided to return for another season, while the return of Steve Maxwell and Taylor Hill give TCU and Vanderbilt, respectively, excellent weekend rotations entering fall workouts.

Florida State is happy to have Mike McGee back for other reasons.

Besides his duties as an elite hitter, McGee also was a staple for the FSU bullpen last season. He recorded 13 saves in 20 appearances and gives the Seminoles experience that only a few relievers nationwide can boast.

The return of unsigned players could be the difference between Omaha or nothing for some.

MLB draft review: Most important unsigned college players

P Todd McInnis, Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles again found a way to reach an NCAA postseason last season with their ace pitcher leading the way. Many believed the Eagles would lose McInnis to the draft this summer, but the right-hander decided to return for his senior season after getting drafted in the 32nd round. McInnis compiled a 3.30 ERA in 95 1/3 innings last season. He also struck out 87 and walked 34 and limited teams to a .234 average. McInnis gives the Eagles a bona-fide ace entering the fall and 2011 season.

UT Mike McGee, Florida State: We're not surprised McGee chose to return to college after getting drafted in the 41st round. Chances are great he will improve his stock between now and next summer. Most importantly, his return is huge for the Seminoles. McGee is a two-way star that is integral to their success. He batted .328 with 15 doubles, 17 homers and 73 RBIs last season. He also recorded a .438 on-base percentage. On the mound, McGee recorded 13 saves in 20 appearances and had a 2.96 ERA in 27 1/3 innings. He also limited teams to a .160 average.

P Cole Green, Texas: When the Longhorns lost stud pitchers Chance Ruffin and Brandon Workman close to the deadline, all eyes turned to Green. He was drafted in the fourth round, but didn't receive the financial package he expected. Therefore, the right-handed pitcher is back for his senior season. The Longhorns couldn't be happier. Green had an amazing junior campaign last season, compiling an 11-2 record and a 2.74 ERA in 111 2/3 innings. He also struck out 75 and walked 27 and limited teams to a .218 average. Green teams up with Taylor Jungmann for one of the nation's best one-two punches.

P Steven Maxwell, TCU: The Horned Frogs again will have one of the nation's best weekend rotations next spring. The Frogs already had an excellent crop of starters returning in Matt Purke and Kyle Winkler. Maxwell, though, is the final piece to the puzzle after deciding to return for his senior season. He finished last season with a 2.70 ERA in 103 1/3 innings. He also struck out 93 and walked 34 and limited teams to a .239 average. Look for Maxwell to be extra motivated after finishing '10 on a sour note.

3B John Hinson, Clemson: Even without Kyle Parker and Mike Freeman – who signed this summer – the Tigers still will have a solid offensive lineup next spring with the return of Hinson, Brad Miller and Jeff Schaus. Hinson was a 13th-round pick, so his return to Clemson isn't surprising. The talented third baseman finished last season with a .351 average, nine doubles, 17 homers and 75 RBIs. He also slugged .598 and had a .410 OBP. The Tigers again have a chance to do something special when '11 arrives.

C Rob Kral, College of Charleston: The Cougars suffered some tough losses to the draft, but also received fantastic news when Kral decided to return for another campaign. He had a productive '10 season for the Cougars, who reached the Myrtle Beach Regional title game against Coastal Carolina. Kral was one of the Cougars' leading hitters, finishing the year with a .344 average, 11 doubles, 15 homers and 57 RBIs. He also slugged .614 and had a .482 OBP. The Cougars also welcome back his services behind the plate.

3B Garrett Buechele, Oklahoma: It shouldn't come as a surprise Buechele is returning for another season. He was drafted in just the 18th round and was a draft-eligible sophomore. Therefore, he will have as much leverage again next summer. Buechele's return is pivotal to OU's success. He had a fantastic year for the program, hitting a team-high .359 with 16 doubles, two triples, 17 homers and 65 RBIs. He also slugged .630 and had a .438 OBP. OU could return to Omaha next June with Buechele and others back.

P Taylor Hill, Vanderbilt: The Commodores already were in good shape on the mound entering fall workouts with the return of ace Sonny Gray and Jack Armstrong. But the program received more good news last week when Hill decided to return for his senior season. Hill gives the Commodores a very experienced weekend rotation. The right-hander started 17 games last season and had a 4.46 ERA in 107 innings. He also struck out 74 and walked 27 and limited teams to a .286 average.

P Randy Fontanez, South Florida: Will the Bulls finally make a statement and move forward in '11? They may or may not accomplish the goal, but it will be easier with Fontanez's return to the weekend rotation. The right-hander was drafted in the 23rd round this summer, but opted to head back to college for his senior campaign. He started 15 games last season and had a 3.59 ERA in 110 1/3 innings. He also struck out 105 and walked 28 and limited teams to a .241 average.

OF Collin Kuhn, Arkansas: The draft wasn't kind to the Razorbacks, who lost leading hitters Zack Cox, Andy Wilkins and Brett Eibner. However, they received a consolation prize when Kuhn decided to return for another year. The scrappy outfielder was drafted in the 15th round. He is coming off a productive year with the Hogs, where he batted .336 with 18 doubles, four triples, 16 homers and 52 RBIs. He also slugged .622 and had a .434 OBP. Kuhn must find a way to limit strikeouts between now and next spring.

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