The Cal baseball team’s 2017 roster will look very different next year, after seven players — including four juniors and one sophomore — were chosen during the 2016 Major League Baseball draft.
The anticipation of the selection of pitcher Daulton Jefferies finally came to an end when the Oakland Athletics selected the former Cal ace with the 37th overall pick in the draft. Though there were some red flags surrounding Jefferies’ size and injury history, the A’s have not been shy when it comes to drafting risky prospects, especially pitchers. Oakland drafted Sonny Gray (5 feet 10 inches and 190 pounds) in the first round of the 2011 draft and Dillon Overton (Tommy John surgery) in the second round of the 2013 draft, and both pitchers have found success so far in their young careers.
Jefferies was one of five pitchers selected by the A’s with their first six picks, suggesting that Oakland sees the Atwater, California, native as a potential member of a future rotation resurgence.
Sophomore sensation Brett Cumberland was next off the board, selected by the Atlanta Braves with the 76th overall pick during the second lottery round. The Pac-12 Player of the Year will get the opportunity to ascend Atlanta’s farm system if he continues to put up the same numbers that he did with the Bears, as the Braves’ minor league system is incredibly thin at catcher, and the team doesn’t have a current long-term solution behind the plate.
“You hear all kinds of stories about getting drafted,” Cumberland said to Cal Athletics. “But when it finally happens it’s a feeling of euphoria I can’t explain.”
The Braves can only hope that Cumberland molds into the form of another catcher they drafted in the second round back in 2002 — Brian McCann. Both Cumberland and McCann have good eyes from behind home plate and are home run threats, and if Cumberland can produce anywhere near as much as McCann did for the Braves from 2005 to 2013, then Atlanta might have found its next long-term catcher.
Alex Schick, who battled a kneecap injury during the 2016 season, was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the sixth round. He is a strikeout reliever whose pitches are aided by the downhill movement provided by his 6-foot-7 frame. He had his best year in 2015, striking out 46 batters in 36.1 innings.
The Miami Marlins selected centerfielder Aaron Knapp in the eighth round. Although he had a down year in 2016, the Marlins obviously foresee Knapp returning to his 2015 form when he hit .310/.376/.375 with 12 stolen bases. Knapp’s success will come mainly when he hits ground balls and line drives to utilize his speed, as flyball outs were his downfall in 2016. He is a potential Rajai-Davis-type player, who can turn singles into doubles and doubles into triples, while also serving as a major base-stealing threat.
Minnesota made a stockpile of Cal players, selecting third baseman Mitchell Kranson in the ninth round and pitcher Ryan Mason in the 13th. Kranson — a 2016 all-conference member — had a breakout senior year for the Bears while manning the hot corner, hitting .333/.376/.474. Versatility is a major part of his game, with the ability to play both corner infield positions, catcher and in the outfield. Kranson has the ability to become a player along the lines of Alberto Callaspo, who had his best years with the Angels playing third but could also man multiple other defensive positions. It doesn’t hurt to mention that both are also 5 feet 9 inches and about 210 pounds.
Mason, on the other hand, is a gamer who will put his everything into each trip to the mound. He is a fastball/changeup pitcher who has recently added a slider to his arsenal with great results. Should Mason continue his positive development in the minors, as well as perfect his slider, Mason could see himself as a middle or back-end starter in the rotation.
Lastly, shortstop Robbie Tenerowicz was chosen in the 27th round by the Tampa Bay Rays. Tenerowicz had a great 2016 season, hitting .299/.353/.485, and would definitely draw more interest should he decide to return to Cal his senior year and replicate those same results.
Chris Tril covers baseball. Contact him at [email protected].