WNC baseball stars await "the phone call" | NevadaAppeal.com

WNC baseball stars await "the phone call"

Justin Lawson

Every June in the Western Nevada baseball team’s history leaves fans asking one question: How many players will be drafted by the Atlanta Braves?

That question will likely be answered today when teams make the bulk of their picks in Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft, which will include the fourth through 30th round selections. The three-day draft has seen nine Wildcats selected, with six of those being taken by the Braves. While this draft class didn’t boast any first-day picks for WNC there is still plenty of draft hope for the most successful team in the school’s four-year history.

As many as five players could be selected — barring any surprises — in the 50-round draft. Outfielder Lance Ray has the best chance of being taken. He was invited to workout for the Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, but couldn’t participate in either because the Wildcats were in the midst of their charge to a third-place finish in the JUCO World Series.

“It’s really tough predicting the draft,” WNC coach D.J. Whittemore said. “I don’t know that we’re guaranteed to have anybody drafted. I’d say one or two (will be drafted), but if I had to guess I’d say it could be four or five. It depends what team you ask, ‘Who’s most likely to get drafted?’ Every team’s got a different guy they like.”

San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg was taken first overall Tuesday by the Washington Nationals. The first through third rounds were conducted Tuesday and the remainder will be done Thursday.

Scouts have shown interest in catcher Jerome Pena, outfielder Brian Barnett, third baseman Travis Feiner and pitcher Josh Moody.

Barnett is looking to at least hear his name this year after a disappointing 2008 draft where the former Scenic West Athletic Conference co-Player of the Year wasn’t selected.

But the draft is more than just hearing your name called. College baseball media guides are filled with players whom were drafted as early as high school, but didn’t sign because they couldn’t come to terms with teams over signing bonuses or because they tried to improve their stock by proving themselves in college.

Moody is one of those picks. He was taken by the Braves last year in the 29th round (880 overall) and chose to go back to WNC and will likely uphold his letter of intent to play at Arizona State next season unless he is drafted higher.

“I think it’s just going to come down to money, mostly,” said Ray, who will play at Kentucky next year. “My parents really want me to get my education, so that’s probably the best option. Go away for school and play in the SEC (Southeast Conference) and get drafted higher the year after that.”

Solidifying his pledge to go to college, Whittemore said Ray has asked for $1 million signing bonus, a number that is usually reserved for first round selections.

Of the nine Wildcats drafted prior to this year, five signed straight out of WNC. Three signed after attending another school and only Moody has yet to sign.

The allure of playing at the junior college level is aided in the ruling that players can either be drafted straight out of high school, after one year of junior college or after three years at a four-year program.

The Wildcats have yet to put a player on a Major League club — the highest any have reached is Single-A ball — but there are number of them looking to change that.