With the 2014 Major League All-Star Game in the books, the second half of the season is officially about to get underway.
Many of the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft selections are nearing their one year mark of being in professional baseball, so it’s a great time to look back and also towards the future as we take a glance at how some of the West Coast Conference players taken in last year’s draft are doing so far with their Major League organizations.
The majority of WCC schools had at least one player drafted last year, so we will highlight one player from each of those schools that is closest to making an impact in the Major Leagues:
KRIS BRYANT, 3B, SAN DIEGO (2nd Overall, Chicago Cubs):
Bryant won’t be the first WCC player from the 2013 MLB Draft to make the Major Leagues, but when all is said and done he still projects to be the most successful.
After capturing the attention of the baseball world with a 31 home run junior season at the University of San Diego, Bryant became the highest drafted player in West Coast Conference history going second overall to the Chicago Cubs. Since then he has done nothing but hit for average and power hitting .343 with 40 home runs as he has advanced from the Arizona Fall League all the way up to the AAA Iowa Cubs.
After his recent appearance in the prestigious MLB Futures Game, Bryant is on the cusp of a Major League debut where he should continue to hit for power and begin to make his mark as a potential All-Star third baseman or outfielder for the Cubs.
Bryant has lived up to his lofty draft status and could not only define the 2013 draft for the West Coast Conference but possibly become the face of the WCC for baseball over time. He has the kind of natural power that could make him the kind of flashy home run hitter that gets his highlights on ESPN every night. The sky is the limit right now for Bryant.
MARCO GONZALES, P, GONZAGA (19th Overall, St. Louis Cardinals):
It’s still amazing that after Kris Bryant swept the national awards in 2013 that he had to share WCC Player of the Year honors with Gonzales. Gonzales may never match Bryant in career accolades and statistics, but he is putting together a stellar professional career of his own that is justifying how he went toe-to-toe with Bryant throughout their collegiate careers.
Gonzales was dominant in the minor leagues cruising through all levels and becoming the first WCC player from the 2013 draft to make his Major League debut. Gonzales’ numbers in the minor leagues were eye popping as he recorded a 2.48 ERA while averaging a strikeout per inning. With those numbers it was no surprise to see him make his Major League debut in June. He struggled in his first two appearances and has yet to record his first ML win, but he seemed to settle down in his last start before the All-Star break holding the Florida Marlins to one run over 4.2 innings while striking out five.
With nothing left to prove in the minor leagues, logging more innings with the Cardinals should allow Gonzales to settle down and develop into a quality starter. At just 22 years old he could be a seasoned veteran at the ML level by the time he reaches his prime. Watching Bryant face Gonzales when the Cubs face the Cardinals could be an exciting event and quite the calling card for the WCC to have two of their former players turn into one of the most anticipated regular matchups in the NL Central.
MICHAEL SWANNER, P, PEPPERDINE (493rd Overall, Atlanta Braves):
Pepperdine has a tradition of turning out quality pitchers, and the 2013 draft was a banner year as four Waves pitchers were selected. Two signed while Aaron Brown and Cory Miller returned to school and led the 2014 Waves to the WCC Championship and NCAA Super Regionals.
Of the four Waves drafted in 2013, Swanner was the third one selected but so far has put up strong numbers. Scott Frazier was the highest drafted of the Waves and had a good 2013, but he has struggled to get innings in 2014 being sent down two levels after starting the season with the A Kane County Cougars. Swanner meanwhile has been brilliant as a reliever in the Braves organization with a 3.32 ERA and 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings. After recording a 1.99 ERA in 2013 for the Rookie League Danville Braves, Swanner has spent all of 2014 with the A Rome Braves.While he has seen his ERA rise to 4.09, his strikeout numbers remain solid and he is a perfect 3-0 in relief appearances.
Both Frazier and Swanner are a long way away from the Major Leagues, and Frazier’s talent and potential as a starter could still have him vault Swanner at some point, but Swanner looks on his way to being a quality reliever who could rise up the through the minors if his numbers stay solid.
AARON GRIFFIN, P, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (308th Overall, Tampa Rays):
The Lions didn’t lose much from their 2013 roster to the draft, and it was evident in their very strong 2014 season. Seniors Aaron Griffin and Colton Plaia were the only key losses as they were both drafted in the later rounds.
Plaia has struggled with very pedestrian numbers behind the plate in the Mets organization, while Griffin is taking the road of Michael Swanner and is slowly building a resume for the Rays. Griffin had an amazing 2013 with the Low A Hudson Valley Renegades throwing for a 2.02 ERA and eye-popping 0.991 WHIP over 75.1 innings including 12 starts. The performance earned him a promotion to the A Bowling Green Hot Rods for 2014.
Griffin has struggled since the promotion and has been used primarily as a reliever seeing his ERA balloon to 5.05. His WHIP however is still a respectable 1.603 and his strikeout numbers have actually seen a slight improvement, suggesting some bad luck and an adjustment period is to blame for his ERA struggles. Like Swanner, Griffin is far from the Major Leagues but is on his way to building a resume that could get him up to the higher levels over time. He could be an innings-eater either in the middle of the rotation or the bullpen depending on where he settles.
ADAM LAW, OF, BYU (364th Overall, Los Angeles Dodgers):
The Cougars had an outstanding year in 2013 boasting a deep roster as evidenced by the fact they had four players take in the draft. Jacob Hanneman is expected to be the top BYU prospect out of this class after being taken 75th overall by the Cubs after just one season in college, but his age and inexperience is showing so far after struggling in the minors last year. His 2014 start has been much better, but the fastest Cougar to reach the Major Leagues out of this draft may end up being Law. Jaycob Brugman may have something to say about that as he is hitting for average and power having reached the High A Stockton Ports in the Athletics organization, but speed always has a place in professional baseball and Law is blazing a path to the Major Leagues in the Dodgers organization.
Law has stolen 52 bases in 123 minor league games so far while being caught just ten times. He has also batted well over .300 at every stop making him the kind of top of the order threat scouts drool over. He can play the outfield as well as second and third base, meaning he is the kind of versatile player who could easily find ways to keep advancing through the minor leagues. Law is currently with the High A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes where his numbers have taken a slight dip, but far from enough to be a concern. His 26 stolen bases and .302 batting average along with 14 doubles and 43 runs scored suggest he is ready for the next step.
Law could be well on his way to finding a home with the Dodgers as a utility player or fourth outfielder, and with enough time in the Major Leagues he could work his way to a full-time starter hitting near the top of a lineup and playing somewhere up the middle of the defense either at second base or in centerfield.
BENJAMIN GRISET, P, SAINT MARY’S (398th Overall, Tampa Bay Rays):
The Gaels had four players drafted in 2013 but none were highly regarded. Griset was the highest player taken barely making it inside the top 400 picks. Griset has lived up to being the first Saint Mary’s player taken as he is by far the best prospect for the Gaels coming from this draft class. None of Griset’s numbers are eye-catching, but he is logging a lot of innings as a starter and the Rays clearly see him as a workhorse who can limit runs and eat up innings. Griset appears to be on a path to being a solid middle/bottom of the rotation starter and his numbers so far back up that projection.
Griset started the season as a reliever for the High A Charlotte Stone Crabs and put up a stellar 0.71 ERA, but he was sent down to the A Bowling Green Hot Rods where he has returned to his starting role. After spending all of 2013 as a starter, the Rays clearly want him starting games and appear to feel a move down will allow him to log more innings right now. Griset has struggled to adjust back to being a starter with a 4.23 ERA and 0-5 record so far with the Hot Rods, but his WHIP and strikeout numbers are consistent with his numbers as a starter last year. Griset looks to be on his way to becoming an A.J. Griffin type of player.
The former San Diego Torero has excelled with the Oakland Athletics as a middle of the rotation starter who logs innings and uses a variety of pitches to get outs without being overpowering. Griset will be similar. He gives up hits but he limits damage and can get a strikeout when needed. Like Adam Law of BYU he may never be a star, but he is the kind of role player that can find a home in the Major Leagues and be very valuable to a club.
ADAM CIMBER, P, SAN FRANCISCO (268th Overall, San Diego Padres): The Dons had an outstanding year in 2013 reaching the finals of the first WCC Tournament and being selected as an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Three key players from that roster were drafted highlighted by pitcher Alex Balog being taken 70th overall by the Colorado Rockies. While Balog’s numbers have improved in 2014 after struggling last year for the Rookie League Grand Junction Rockies, it has been fellow Dons pitcher Adam Cimber that has found the most success so far after being taken almost 200 picks later by the San Diego Padres. Cimber has been a stellar reliever recording a 2.50 ERA and sterling 1.089 WHIP over 82.2 minor league innings.
His promotion to the High A Lake Elsinore Storm this year has done nothing to stop him as his numbers have stay mostly identical to his 2013 statistics. In an organization that is known for pitching and often trades their top relievers to rebuild after subpar seasons, Cimber could continue to advance and be on a fast path to pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
The Padres clearly see him as a reliever, and a long and productive career in the bullpen is a very real possibility. He’s another versatile and quality WCC player who fill a need and find his spot with a team at the ML level. Combine that with the quality coaching pitchers receive in the Padres organization, and Cimber could be on his way to being another in the long line of excellent relievers to develop out of the Padres organization.
The number of WCC players who have shown great growth and progression after being drafted in 2013 is quite impressive. With one player in the Major Leagues and another close, the class could be anchored by two of the best players to ever come out of the conference. Combine that with a number of solid role players coming through the minors, and the WCC could look back on 2013 as being one of their best professional draft classes ever.
Tags: Brigham Young Cougars Gonzaga Bulldogs Kris Bryant Loyola Marymount Lions Major League Baseball Marco Gonzales MLB Draft Pepperdine Waves Saint Mary's Gaels San Diego Toreros San Francisco Dons West Coast Conference