Plenty of JUCO World Series players in mix for MLB Amateur draft
He seemed to come from nowhere, and in baseball circles, he did.
Dylan Baker has emerged from unknown territory — he’s from Juneau, Alaska — to become a highly regarded pro prospect.
The Western Nevada College sophomore pitcher, who led the Wildcats to a victory in the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series last week, is the No. 1 junior-college draft prospect, according to Perfect Game USA. He is listed as the 72nd top prospect eligible for the Major League Baseball Amateur draft, which starts at 5 p.m. (MDT) today and continues through round 40 on Wednesday.
“I’m pretty nervous about it,” Baker said about the draft. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, like what round, but it’s awesome.
“It gets stressful at times, especially if I don’t have the best outing.”
There were 14 players in this year’s JUCO World Series listed in Perfect Game USA’s top 100 junior-college-prospect rankings, including three who previously were drafted.
Baker pitched in relative obscurity in Alaska, but took advantage of an opportunity to play on a summer club team in Seattle before his junior and senior years of high school.
“Kids make fun of me because I’m from Alaska,” Baker said. “Oh, you’re from Alaska. Baseball’s not good up there. I don’t care how good the baseball is, I just love playing it.”
From the summer-league play, the right-hander received two offers from junior colleges in Oregon and Washington.
After one year at Tacoma (Wash.) Community College, he contacted Western Nevada College coach D.J. Whittemore.
“You know, he called me about the first of September and said, ‘Coach, I want to come play for you,’” Whittemore said. “And we told him, ‘Hey, we don’t have any scholarships left, but if you want to come and pay for school, then we’d love to have ya.’ And that’s how it happened.”
Western Nevada was the perfect fit for Baker. The quiet Alaskan put on 15 to 20 pounds of muscle and added more than five miles per hour to his fastball, pushing it consistently above 90 mph. He was clocked at 98 once, he said.
“Well, it really was a match made in heaven with Coach (Jeremy) Beard and Dylan, and they’ve bonded right away,” Whittemore said. “I think Dylan’s work ethic and his character have really shined this year. He passed all of his classes this spring, even though he’s staring at a seven-figure (signing) bonus. And he didn’t need to do that, but that shows what kind of person he is and how much respect he has for his teammates, the process. So, I’m really happy for him, and anything he gets he absolutely deserves.
“We’ve never had a player drafted higher than the eighth round, so this is uncharted waters for us, and he’s certainly the best player we’ve ever had. It’s going to be exciting June 4.”
Polk State (Fla.) College pitcher Alec Asher was drafted previously and signed, but a bone chip in his elbow nixed the contract.
The sophomore right-hander is back on the draft board this year and is projected to go in an early round.
“I don’t want to jinx myself or anything, but I should go pretty decent,” Asher said sheepishly. “I’ll cross my fingers and hope everything goes good.”
He was drafted out of high school in 2010 by the San Francisco Giants in the 23rd round.
Asher said he heard from several teams, but he isn’t sure who will draft him. He signed with NCAA Division II powerhouse Tampa (Fla.) in case the draft doesn’t work out.
Jefferson (Mo.) College pitcher Dalton Friend has spoken to a draft advisor and is eagerly awaiting the draft.
“I’ve heard anywhere from four to eight, somewhere in that range, but that’s the last I’ve heard, and that’s been two weeks ago at regional time,” Friend said. “So, I don’t know anything other than that. We’ll be waiting by the phone, and hopefully (Jefferson) Coach (Sam) Carel will get a chance to come down, and we’ll just discuss things, see how the process goes.
“It’s new to me. I was a prospect last year, but I ended up getting hurt, and so that was kind of disappointing, but I came back this year a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier.”
Iowa Western Community College pitcher and outfielder Tanner Krietemeier, who is from Castle Rock, is listed as the 18th best junior-college prospect. He could be drafted as a pitcher or outfielder.
“I’m not exactly sure,” Krietemeier said. “I’m still seeing what people see me as, I guess.”
He has signed with Oklahoma State University.
Other prospects who played in this year’s JUCO World Series included Neosho County (Kan.) Community College pitcher Matt Strahm, San Jacinto (Texas) College-North pitcher Daniel Stumpf, Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) College pitcher Jonathan Pulley and infielder Bruce Caldwell, Western Nevada pitcher Tyler Spencer and outfielder Derrick Pitts, Iowa Western infielder Damek Tomscha, Shelton State (Ala.) Community College pitcher Darren Whatley and Jefferson shortstop Brett Wiley and pitcher Dane Gronewald.
Any of the players drafted could be selected by the Colorado Rockies and get their professional careers started in two weeks where they last played — in Grand Junction at Sam Suplizio Field.
Baker wouldn’t mind that at all.
“That would be awesome,” Baker said. “I love this field. It’s the best field I’ve ever played on in my life.”