Wolverines well-represented in MLB Draft
The Michigan baseball team had 11 players selected in the 2017 MLB Draft, which ran this week from Monday to Wednesday.
The 11 selections mark the highest the Wolverines have seen in program history. The selections also bring the total number of Michigan draftees up to 23 during Erik Bakich’s five-year tenure as head coach.
Junior left-hander Oliver Jaskie was the first Wolverine off the board, as the Seattle Mariners took him in the sixth round with the 183rd overall pick. The unquestioned ace of Michigan’s staff this season, Jaskie finished the year with an 8-3 record and 3.77 earned-run average in 16 starts, while holding opponents to a .234 batting average. His 119 strikeouts this year tied a Wolverine program record as well.
An All-Big Ten first-team selection, Jaskie is ranked as the 147th-best prospect by MLB.com and the fifth-best college lefthander. His biggest strengths, according to MLB.com, are his changeup and command of his fastball.
Junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer was the next Michigan player to be selected, by the Atlanta Braves in the 11th round. Lugbauer, an all-conference first-teamer, hit .290 with a team-leading 11 home runs and 58 runs batted-in. His power to all fields as well as his versatility — he has also played catcher and first base as a Wolverine — makes him an enticing prospect.
Lugbauer was drafted for the second time Wednesday — he was selected in the 21st round by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school, but did not sign.
In the 16th round, the Cincinnati Reds picked junior right-hander Ryan Nutof. A hard thrower with a fastball clocked at around 95 miles per hour, Nutof was a key contributer to Michigan’s pitching staff all season long, going 6-2 with a 4.52 ERA and 71 strikeouts. He worked a variety of roles for the Wolverines this season, making 12 starts and four appearances out of the bullpen.
Senior catcher Harrison Wenson returned to school despite being chosen in the 39th round last year by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and improved upon that position this year when the Los Angeles Angels took him in the 24th round. Despite slumping at the plate for much of the year — his average of .191 was a near-100 point drop from his junior season — Wenson slugged nine home runs and was rock-solid behind the plate, as he allowed just nine passed balls and threw out 47 percent of runners attempting to steal.
In the 25th round, the Mariners drafted junior right-hander Bryan Pall. Pall pitched just 2.2 innings this season before he was shut down due to injury, but recorded a 2.89 ERA and 64 strikeouts his first two seasons working out of the bullpen, and was a Freshman All-American in 2015.
Junior first baseman Jake Bivens was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 27th round. Bivens, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2015, hit .319 and .356 his first two seasons as a Wolverine. Despite his average falling to .273 this season, Bivens had an on-base percentage of .436 and a team-leading 24 stolen bases. Bivens played all across the infield his first two seasons, but featured exclusively at first base this year due to offseason Tommy John surgery that limited his throwing range.
Senior centerfielder Johnny Slater joined Jaskie and Pall as the third Mariners selection in the 28th round. Slater, a top prospect who was drafted by the Atlanta Braves out of high school, broke out in his final collegiate season as a true “five-tool” player who can run, throw, field, hit for average and hit for power. A career .207 hitter before this year, Slater hit .299 with five home runs, 47 RBIs, 24 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases while committing just one error in centerfield on his way to All-Big Ten Third Team honors.
The 28th round saw two Michigan players drafted, the second of which was junior left-hander Michael Hendrickson by the Cleveland Indians. After throwing just 35.1 innings his first two seasons, Hendrickson broke out as a junior and asserted himself in the Wolverines’ weekend rotation, going 6-3 with a 4.06 ERA that ranked second among Michigan starters. He also held opponents to a mere .236 batting average.
The Tigers picked redshirt sophomore left-hander Grant Reuss in the 29th round. Reuss pitched sparingly last season, but impressed in that limited time — he allowed just one hit and struck out 11 in 6.2 innings.
Senior right-hander Mac Lozer was drafted in the 33rd round by the New York Mets. An All-Big Ten Third Team selection, Lozer was dominant as the Wolverines’ set-up man this season, recording a 1.00 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 27.0 inning and a miniscule opponents’ batting average of .138.
The final Michigan player selected was senior shortstop Michael Brdar, in the 36th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. Brdar, the Wolverines’ most consistent hitter last season, recorded a .310 batting average and 19 stolen bases. In the field, he made just three errors, and displayed a powerful throwing arm and terrific range in making several web-gem caliber defensive stops.
Five high-schoolers who have committed to play baseball at Michigan next year were also drafted this week. Stockton, Calif., right-hander Cody Bolton was a sixth-round pick of the Pirates, and The Record in Stockton reports that he has signed a professional contract and will forego his college commitment. Jason Pineda, a first baseman from New York, was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 17th round. Catcher Joe Donovan, from Westmont, Ill., was the 33rd-round selection of the Chicago Cubs, while Portage Central right-hander Jeff Criswell was drafted in the 35th round by the Tigers. Left-hander Angelo Smith, from Illinois, marked the final selection for Michigan commits, as he was chosen by the Chicago White Sox in the 40th and final round.