Now that I’m back from Orlando after traveling during most of the latter stages of the first day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Wednesday, it’s good to see several former Shore Conference stars get their shot at playing professionally while Christian Brothers Academy’s Pat Light now has a decision to make after being taken in the 28th round by the Minnesota Twins.
Light joins Monmouth University pitchers Brett Brach, a former Freehold Township star who was taken in the 10th round by the Indians, and Ryan Buch, who was taken in the eighth round by the White Sox, as well as former Monmouth Regional and Seton Hall standout hurler Keith Cantwell (Diamondbacks, 31st round) and Brookdale Community College’s Joe Talerico (21st round by the Yankees), a former Toms River South standout.
Cantwell is the first former Monmouth Regional star I can remember ever being drafted, so congrats to him and to the Falcons’ program under long-time coach Ted Jarmusz. Talerico initially committed to Seton Hall out of Toms River South before eventually landing at Brookdale, a junior college program under coach Johnny Johnson that can pretty much be counted on to have at least one player a year taken in the draft.
Buch was projected as high as the second round at one point before becoming a mid-round pick, while Brach was one of the Northeast Conference’s top pitchers for the last two years.
As for Light, it’s no shock the Twins took him considering Twins scout John Wilson had been following him all year, as I saw him at a couple different games. Light had a strong performance while playing in the fall and reportedly was throwing 90-91 to put himself on the MLB radar, although he did not have that kind of velocity this spring. Now it all comes down to money to get Light to break his commitment to go to Monmouth University. Former CBA pitcher Kyle Slate, who got drafted in the 37th round by the Phillies in 2007, took the $80,000 bonus instead of going to the University of Maine, but I get the feeling it will take at least six figures to get Light to sign. Slate has since suffered a season-ending arm injury and is still stuck at the lowest levels of the Phillies system, which Light could take as a cautionary tale.
I could see Light’s big frame (6-5) being tantalizing to a big-league team that figures if he can just add velocity like former St. Rose hurler Anthony Ranaudo, who is a potential first-round pick in next year’s draft out of LSU, he could be a steal as a 28th-rounder. The difference is that Ranaudo touched 90 as a senior at St. Rose and has since pumped it up to about 95-96 at LSU, while Light was mostly in the low- to mid-80s this year. Both of them are great all-around athletes who were also basketball stars. Light may also see how Ranaudo went from an 11th-round pick by the Rangers out of high school to somebody who might be signing a seven-figure bonus in the first round in the not-too-distant future and decide he wants to go to Monmouth and continue to improve. Both of them have strong makeups and competitiveness, with the main difference being that Ranaudo’s stuff is more advanced at this point. My guess is that Light goes to Monmouth unless the Twins really offer him much more money than that draft slot normally gets.
Having covered minor league baseball, one thing I know is that it’s much harder to get a good shot if you are a 28th-round pick even if you are putting up pretty decent numbers. Even if the first- or second-round pick in front of you is terrible, he is going to play over you because a team has much more invested in him. If a 28th-rounder gets off to a slow start in his career, it’s easier to just cut bait because there is less invested in him. I’ve seen a lot of pitchers get lost in the shuffle of rotations in low A ball because they are lower-round selections and never really get a chance to consistently start or show what they can do. Good luck to Light either way.
There were whispers that Toms River North shortstop Steve Nyisztor, a Rutgers recruit, had a shot at getting picked, but my guess is that he made strong indications that he was committed to going to Rutgers so teams did not want to use a late-round pick on a player who appeared intent on going to college. Nyisztor definitely has a chance in three years to hear his name called if he continues to develop.
The players on Toms River East can also boast to their grandkids that they beat a team in the state playoffs that featured a first-round draft pick, as Millville outfielder Mike Trout got taken 25th overall by the Anaheim Angels. Toms River East upset Millville in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV playoffs this year. I am also curious to see what becomes of the top pick, flamethrowing San Diego State pitcher Stephen Stasburg, who was taken by the Nationals. Much has been written about Scott Boras asking for $50 million, but I just wonder how any pitcher can consistently throw 100 mph and not eventually have a serious arm breakdown. Plus, no No. 1 overall pick who was a pitcher has ever become any kind of all-time great.
Finally, I will be rolling out the Stumpy Awards for baseball to wrap up the season, and I will have them posted on the site on Saturday, so be sure to look for them and remember to check back tomorrow (Friday) for the All Shore Media All-Conference teams and the final Top 10.