The Arizona Wildcats' top recruit for 2014 isn't a high school or junior college player.
He's a guy that most UA fans are already pretty well acquainted with.
Right-handed pitcher James Farris, drafted in the 15th round by the Houston Astros in last month's Major League Baseball draft, will return for his senior season with the Wildcats.
Friday marked the deadline for drafted players to sign; Farris, a key part of the Wildcats' 2012 College World Series championship team, told the Astros no thank you.
Instead, he'll spend his final season in Tucson pursuing an environmental studies degree and will likely be the anchor of the UA's pitching staff.
"He will be a tremendous boost for our rotation," UA coach Andy Lopez said. "He felt like he had some unfinished business here and really wants to get his degree.
"He'll be our Friday night guy, and we are very excited about that."
The Gilbert native was an integral part of the 2012 team, serving as the Sunday starter and getting the nod in the team's title-clinching game over South Carolina.
However, as a junior, Farris went 5-5 with a 4.18 ERA in 15 starts as the No. 2 starter, and the Wildcats missed out on the NCAA tournament.
"I didn't want to go out like that," Farris said.
The senior-to-be will headline a staff that will include lefties Tyler Crawford and Cody Moffett and righties Mat Troupe and Tyger Talley, among others.
Lopez also will have the services of right-hander Morgan Earman, who was drafted in the 21st round by the New York Mets but also chose not to sign.
But, Farris will be the headliner and the pacesetter.
The Star chatted with Farris about his decision, getting his degree and playing for Lopez for one more season.
On his decision to return for another season: "It was an honor to be drafted. The decision was not about the money. It's about me getting a degree and getting another year of experience. After this last year, I feel like I had responsibility to come back as a senior and lead the team better than I did this last year. Maybe that's my pride talking. It's really what I want to do. The degree part is a big deal. If I don't make it in baseball or if I'm not as successful as I want to be, I don't want to be left without a degree."
On turning down the Astros: " It wasn't an easy decision. I always wanted to play professionally in baseball. I've never been drafted before this year. When they called my name, I couldn't think straight. I took a couple of days and thought about what's best for me and my family and my future. It was a hard decision. There was a lot of going back and forth and talking to a lot of people."
On Lopez's reaction to his return: "He was thrilled to hear it. But, if you know 'Lopes,' the first thing he says to me is, 'All right, well, we have to get better, and we have to start working hard. You have to try to improve you as much as you can; the only guy that can do that is you. But, I'll do all I can do to help with the draft stock and to become a better person.' He was excited for me to come back and get my degree. He's a real big advocate about getting your degree."
On wanting to be the team's Friday night starter: "That's definitely one of the main reasons I wanted to come back. I don't want to be entitled to that spot. I want to earn it. If I do get that spot, I'll take that as a big accomplishment on my part. Setting the tone and being a leader for the team is a big deal. Watched (Kurt) Heyer do it, and he was one of the best at it. Hopefully, I can do it like he did."
On wanting to be a leader as a senior: "There's a lot to be said from last year. The standards slipped last year, and everyone knows that. I can do a lot to change that. The guys coming in and coming back are going to have to buy into the program and the standards that 'Lopes' sets. Everyone knows what they are. We really lacked some leadership last year. I'm not saying the guys were bad or anything, it just wasn't there like it was two years ago when we won it."
On what he wants to improve on as a senior: "I would really like to see more consistency out of me. I thought I was pretty inconsistent. To be a Friday night guy in the Pac-12, there's no room for error. I also want to gain some more poise. There were games last year where I lost some poise on the mound. I believe I have the skill. I have to work on the other things like poise and handling my emotions. Once you get that down, everything falls into place."
to sign or not to sign
Six members of the Arizona Wildcats recruiting class were selected in last month's Major League Baseball draft. Three have decided to fulfill their commitments to the UA, and three others signed their first professional contracts. Here's a closer look.
Heading to Tucson
Name Position Hometown Round drafted
Willie Calhoun 2B Benicia, Calif. 17th by the Tampa Bay Rays
Morgan Earman RHP Bermuda Dunes, Calif. 21st by the New York Mets
Kenny Meimerstorf OF Las Vegas 40th by the Milwaukee Brewers
Name Position Hometown Round drafted
Chris Freudenberg LHP Phoenix 8th by the Chicago White Sox
Thomas Pannone LHP Providence, R.I. 9th by the Cleveland Indians
Billy Roth RHP Oceanside, Calif. 16th by the Pittsburgh Pirates
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at email@example.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk