On June 9, Major League Baseball will be holding its 2016 draft. Spanning 40 rounds over three days, multiple Bears will be vying for a shot to take their game to the next level. Three Bears in particular, however, hope to turn some heads.
Daulton Jefferies (RHP)
Junior Daulton Jefferies not only brought poise every time he took the mound, but also tons of Major League scouts. At least half a dozen radar guns found themselves behind home plate at Evans Diamond during Jefferies’ starts, followed by the sound of scribbling pencils documenting how opponent bats seemed to miss anything Jefferies threw.
Jefferies owns a low 90s fastball with good accuracy but can hit 95 on occasion. He also possesses a strong changeup with a devastating slider used to generate swing-and-misses outside the strike zone. Jefferies’ command has only improved with the Bears since his freshman year, as a junior, recording career lows in walks and hits per innings pitched (0.84 WHIP) and a career high in strikeouts (9.54 K/9) with a 1.08 ERA.
Originally slated as a first round pick, Jefferies went down with an injury on April 1 and remained out for more than a month. Although he managed to throw well in his final two outings, the time he missed obviously damages his chance of getting chosen with one of the first 34 picks. Still, Jefferies’ three strong years at Cal will ensure he’s not on the board long.
Projection — Lottery Round A to 2nd round
Brett Cumberland (C)
Next on the list is Jefferies’ main catcher, Brett Cumberland. Although he is a sophomore, Cumberland is draft eligible and will likely be chosen early on. The switch-hitter led the Bears offense in almost every category, including batting average (.344), on-base percentage (.480), slugging (.678) and home runs (16) en route to being named Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Cumberland’s power and patience at the plate are definitely his best tools, earning him a nice No. 69 spot on MLB.com’s 2016 draft prospect watch. His ability to draw walks and hit homers will be the determining factor in his draft stock. But like most young catchers in the draft, what comes into question is whether or not he can retain his power while also being able to provide adequate defense at a professional level. While a position shift to first base or the outfield could be a possibility down the line, a team that believes in Cumberland sticking behind the plate will definitely give up an early-round pick for him.
Projection — 2nd to 3rd round
Devin Pearson (OF)
Deciding to commit to Cal rather than joining the Toronto Blue Jays in the 30th round of the 2012 draft seems to have worked out for Devin Pearson. At least in proving that the outfielder could continue to hit against tougher competition. Now, Pearson will look to use his increased stock after a productive college career and climb up the draft ranks.
Pearson batted .284/.378/.404 in his four years wearing the blue and gold, with his best season coming in 2015. During his junior year, he batted .355/.413/.558 with four home runs in 38 games. Although this might have just been a “lucky season” due to his incredibly high BABIP — batted at balls in play — of .405, Pearson followed up the 2015 season with another solid year (.277/.384/.420) with a BABIP closer to his four-year average (.320). At 5-foot-11, Pearson has doubles power and the ability to send mistake pitches into the seats for easy home runs.
Projection — 10th round to 15th round
A handful of Cal players should also find themselves drafted by the end of the three-day event. Most likely to be drafted are third baseman/utilityman Mitchell Kranson, first baseman Nick Halamandaris and pitcher Ryan Mason.
Chris Tril covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].