The MLB Draft is just a day away. Most of the high school and college players that are going to go in the first two rounds are household names at this point. But what about the diamonds in the rough? What about the Division II and Division III players that may be looking for their big break?
Last season saw 84 Division II athletes get taken in the draft, while 11 hailed from Division III. Who are some of the names that could go relatively early in this season’s MLB Draft?
Lake Bachar, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (DIII)
Bachar heads into the MLB Draft with some championships to his name. He earned them, however, as the kicker and punter for the back-to-back Warhawks’ National Champion football teams. Bachar didn’t even take the mound in college until 2015, and by this season, he was part of the rotation that lead UWW to DIII Baseball Championship tournament, their version of the College World Series.
Bachar showed improvement in an expanded role in his senior season. Last year, he posted an impressive 7-1 record over 10 appearances and seven starts, striking out 46 and walking just nine in 60.1 innings of work while posting a 2.24 ERA. All eyes were on Bachar entering 2016, especially after capturing the top prospect award in the Northwoods summer league.
This season, behind a four-pitch arsenal featuring a mid-90s fastball, he became a strikeout artist, punching out 103 in 92.2 innings while walking just 20.
He has the build, standing at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, and though he may not add more to his frame, he could add more to his stuff simply by now focusing on one sport and maturing into his role. One other thing attractive about Bachar is that unlike other 21-year old pitchers in the draft, his arm doesn’t have a lot of innings on it.
Tyson Miller, Cal Baptist (DII)
Cal Baptist has become somewhat of a pitching factory under head coach Gary Adcock’s tenure. The past few seasons have seen a few of their pitchers drafted and already reach Double-A like the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Trevor Oaks and Caleb Dirks, while 2015’s ace Adam Hofacket is in High-A. Tyson Miller should be the next to join them, likely going in the early rounds of the draft.
Miller was a Preseason Golden Spikes candidate, and while he didn’t have that standout senior season that many expected after a stellar summer on the Cape, he still showed improvement to keep scouts excited about the possibilities.
“Tyson has a solid 4-pitch mix: fastball, slider, curveball, change,” Adcock said earlier in the season. “Tyson has a huge upside. His velocity has increased, off-speed pitches have improved, and he has mentally sharpened. He has put on 25 pounds since high school and has the frame to put on even more. Velocity is only part of the equation for Tyson, his fastball command is equally as impressive averaging about 2.5 walks per nine innings while at CBU.”
Miller — who stands at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds — has the frame to succeed at the next level, especially if he is able to add a few pounds under a professional training regimen. He finished 9-3 on the season, with a 92-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 107 innings pitched, with a 2.27 ERA. He even picked up a save.
“I feel that my fastball is my best pitch,” Miller said in February. “After that a strikeout pitch I can locate is my slider, and then my changeup is starting to develop as well. I’m trying to develop my secondary pitches. My goal is to try to get in a lot of innings and not a lot of walks.”
Miller’s arsenal and upside, as well as the aforementioned amazing summer in the Cape Cod League against DI competition, should see Miller go in the first five rounds, making him the earliest of the Cal Baptist pitchers to go.
Brandon Miller, Millersville (DII)
This Miller was the ace of the Millersville staff that went all the way to the National Championship series, before falling to eventual DII Champions, Nova Southeastern. He had a sensational season in 2015 as co-ace of the Marauders staff alongside Chris Murphy, who was drafted in the 24th round of the 2015 draft by the Houston Astros. Miller is going to go way before that.
“Some people look at humility as a weakness, but his humility is actually his biggest strength,” head coach Jon Shehan said of his ace back in March. “He comes to the ballpark every day acting like he’s a redshirt freshman. You would think that a guy that has 50 strikeouts and two walks going back to the Cape summer would start to get to a point where he thinks he’s better than everybody else. But his work ethic is unbelievable. I think it’s a hunger for wanting to pitch in the big leagues, his priorities are as straight as anyone I have ever coached. His maturity is beyond his years.”
Miller improved on his superb junior season (12-2, 2.48 ERA, 85 strikeouts and 13 walks in 87 innings pitched) by capitalizing on an All-Star summer in the Cape Cod League where he went 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA striking out 27 and walking one. He put it all together in his senior season, becoming one of the most dominating pitchers in DII, posting a 12-2 record behind a 1.42 ERA and a spectacular 115-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 107.2 innings.
Miller has the frame scouts desire — standing at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds — as well as a smooth delivery and impeccable command. While he may not project to be a top-end of the rotation arm, Miller certainly has the talent to be a successful pitcher at the next level.
Middle round names to keep an eye on:
C: Will Albertson, Catawba (DII)
The Second Team All-American couldn’t live up to the lofty standards he set in his junior year when he transferred into DII from DI Campbell, but few could. He led the nation in batting in 2015 (.467) was third in home runs (26) and second in RBI (91). He parlayed that into a run to the National Championship that saw his Indians finish as National Runners-Up and Albertson being named the DII Position Player of the Year Award and being selected in the 40th round of the MLB Draft by the New York Yankees.
After not being tendered a contract, Albertson came back for one more run. This year he batted .404, with 15 home runs and 59 RBI, while improving his play behind the plate and thus improving his position come draft day this year.
“I think a reason I was taken late last year was my defense,” Albertson admitted in March. “Not being as polished as I could have been. But I feel like I have gotten better behind the plate. I started throwing better, control the run game more and working real hard on my receiving skills. I’m working hard to prove that I can catch.”
Look for someone to take a flier on Albertson’s bat, with the hopes that he can stick behind the plate somewhere in the middle rounds.
UTL: Reese Gregory, St. Cloud (DII)
The First Team All-American will likely get drafted by someone simply because of his athleticism. As a starting pitcher Gregory went 5-0, posting a team best 1.94 ERA and striking out 50 over 51 innings this season. As the designated hitter and first baseman, Gregory batted .414 with 21 home runs and 66 RBI. Oh yeah, and as a freshman he also set the St. Cloud single-season record for saves.
A four-time All-American and SCSU’s greatest player, someone will take a flier on Gregory to see if his skills can develop at the next level either as a reliever or a hitter.
P: Pablo Torres, Tusculum & Colin McKee, Mercyhurst
Two of the best strikeout artists in DII will likely see someone take a shot on their arms somewhere in the middle of the draft, but definitely by the end.
Colin McKee went 11-2 with a 1.84 ERA, but those strikeouts were big time. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds with a mid-90s fastball and a nasty slider, McKee punched out 141 batters in just 94 innings pitched.
Torres — who stands at just 5-foot-11 — burst onto the scene with a sensational season, going 11-0 with a 0.70 ERA and 162 strikeouts and just 24 walks in 116 innings. He may project as more of a reliever, but with strikeout numbers like that, someone will take a chance at some point in the draft.
3B: Daniel Zardon, Nova Southeastern (DII)
Zardon was part of the LSU team that went to the College World Series in 2015 before winning a National Championship with Nova Southeastern this season. Zardon is a sharp hitter who plays stout defense at third with a great arm.
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