Cal faithful who were worried they had seen first baseman Chris Paul for the last time after the Bears’ season ended June 1 need worry no more.
Paul was drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 Major League Baseball amateur draft by the Minnesota Twins, making this the eighth consecutive year that a Cal baseball player has been drafted.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be drafted,” Paul told Cal Athletics. “Being rewarded for something that I have been working my whole life to achieve is awesome. I was on cloud nine, and it was almost surreal.”
The new Twin is the third Cal player that Minnesota has drafted in the last two seasons, after it drafted pitchers Trevor Hildenberger and Michael Theofanopoulos last year. Paul will hope to follow in the footsteps of other former Bears who were able to turn into solid players at the MLB level, such as Xavier Nady and Allen Craig.
For Paul to replicate these players’ success and make it to the majors, he will have to build upon a solid final act at Cal that saw him garner a selection to the All-Pac-12 First Team.
Paul, who had a huge breakout this season after struggling through his first three years at Cal, was one of Cal’s best players all season long. He will likely be joining the Twins’ organization at one of the corner outfield positions. As with most newly drafted players, Paul is likely to start his career in the minor leagues, where he’ll fight to eventually make it to the big leagues.
In the minor leagues, Paul will have a chance to improve his skills at his new position. Playing in the minor leagues will also give Paul an opportunity to make adjustments to the caliber of pitching he will face at the next level.
If Paul’s success at Cal is any sort of indicator, he will go into professional baseball with the ability to excel at both fielding and hitting. While he spent time primarily at first base during his senior year at UC Berkeley, Paul did prove himself to be adept on that side of the ball: He was selected to Pac-12 All-Defensive Team this season. And while the transition from first base to the outfield is not a simple one, Paul is athletic enough and has enough range that he should be able to handle the transition.
On the offensive end, Paul brings a good amount to the plate that should make him a solid contributor. Playing against a conference that features some of the nation’s best pitching, Paul still managed a strong .325 batting average, which was ninth best in the Pac-12. More importantly, he put up a .404 on-base percentage, which was second on the team among the players who started all season. This showcases the patience he possesses at the plate — a trait he will have to continue to flaunt at the next level.
The former Bear also exhibited a propensity to make pitchers pay for their mistakes. His .562 slugging percentage was first on the team. Fans of the MLB, who are used to seeing power hitters pop at least 35 homers per season, may not be impressed by Paul’s nine home runs this season, but that was still good for fourth in the Pac-12. And he made pitchers pay with more than just the simple home run: He was Cal’s leader in extra base hits with 25, which includes five triples that show Paul is more nimble than might be expected given his 6-foot-3, 210 pound frame.
With such a strong skill set on both sides of the ball, it is no wonder the Twins took a liking to Paul. Now it’s Paul’s job to continue growing these skills if he hopes to make a dent in the big leagues one day.
Hooman Yazdanian is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected].