FAU pitcher R. J. Alvarez's 5-0 record with 8 saves as a junior could lead to a first round selection on Monday. (OwlAccess.com photo)
Could be a first?
Pitcher R. J. Alvarez could become the highest drafted FAU player ever when Major League Baseball begins its first-year player draft on Monday.
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For the majority of his baseball playing days R. J. Alvarez considered himself a position player. It wasn't until his junior season at Cardinal Newman High School that he stepped onto the mound and began to show off that million dollar right arm.
With Major League Baseball's draft slated to begin on Monday evening, FAU's closer could be only a few hours away from cashing in on the promise of that arm.
Alvarez has a chance to become the first FAU player selected in the first round since MLB went to the once-a-year draft system it currently employs.
“That would probably be the best thing that ever happened to me,” Alvarez said. “That's always something I've dreamed about.”
After working primarily as a starter during his first couple seasons at FAU, Alvarez wowed players, fans and – most importantly – scouts as a reliever this season with a fastball clocked at 98 mph during the Sun Belt tournament and a curve ball that frequently had batters simultaneously bailing out of the box and swinging humorously in a futile attempt to make contact.
Those potent pitches, combined with a change-up, have some scouts saying he could be selected as a supplemental pick late on Monday.
Should Alvarez not receive a call on Monday, he will almost certainly be chosen early on Tuesday when the MLB draft resumes with its second round.
“I'm hoping that something good happens,” Alvarez said. “I'm pretty sure I will get picked somewhere decent and start my pro career.”
Kansas City, San Francisco, Detroit, Toronto and the Los Angeles Angels are among the teams showing the most interest in Alvarez, who went 5-0 with eight saves and a 0.72 ERA during his junior season. Alvarez says most scouts are telling him he will likely be selected in the second, third or fourth round.
Should that happen, he will become the highest drafted Owl since Baltimore selected Jeff Fiorentino in the third round (79th overall) in 2004.
Cincinnati chose Jeff Forney with the 19th pick of the first round in the secondary phase of the 1985 draft, back when MLB held two drafts per year.
Alvarez has anxiously awaited draft day before. He was considered a top prospect out of high school, but a strained elbow during his senior season prompted teams to shy away. Alvarez said he did receive some phone calls from teams after the fifth round of the 2009 draft, but they didn't offer enough of a signing bonus to keep him from heading to FAU. He ultimately went undrafted that year.
“It was a little upsetting. I was kind of looking forward to getting drafted,” Alvarez said. “I wasn't asking for outrageous numbers.”
It is unlikely that scenario will be repeated this week.
“I guess it's true - I might have a million dollar arm,” Alvarez said.
MLB Draft Breakdown
Major League Baseball will begin its first-year player draft on Monday at 7 p.m. The first round (and the subsequent 30 supplemental picks) will be televised on the MLB Network. The draft resumes on Tuesday at noon with rounds 2-15, and concludes on Wednesday with rounds 16-40. FAU could have as many as six players selected over the course of the three days. Here's a look at which players could have their names called along with a couple of incoming Owls who could have a decision to make.
- RHP R. J. Alvarez – Mitt-popping fastball and devastating curve ball allowed Alvarez to strike out 47 in 37 2/3 innings while allowing only 20 hits. The junior could be a first-day selection. If not, he won't have to wait long on Tuesday.
- C Mike Spano – The wildcard for FAU in this year's draft. Spano showed he could hit, throw and catch in his first year as the Owls' starting catcher, and MLB teams are always looking for catchers. The junior could go in the late single digits or could slide into Wednesday. At that point he might have a tough decision to make.
- RHP Ryan Garton – FAU's Friday starter for the better part of the past three years, the senior won 21 games during his FAU career. He could become a late second day selection.
- 3B Kyle Newton – Scouts showed early, then late interest in the former shortstop. Like Spano, Newton could hear his name around Round 10, or could slide deep into Wednesday. Indications are that the junior will forgo his senior season if possible.
- OF Alex Hudak – Fractured ankle cooled off what had been a hot start to his senior season and likely hurt his draft status. Hudak will likely be selected early on Wednesday.
- C Mike Albaladejo – Though he played mostly second base as a senior, the team that drafts Albaladejo will likely move him back to catcher. The Owls' diminutive spark plug probably won't hear his name until after the 25th round and could possibly end up in free agency.
FAU SIGNEES TO WATCH
- Robbie Whelan, RHP Haines City HS – Low 90s fastball could place Whelan as high as the fifth round.
- Brandon Welch, RHP Palm Beach SC – A drop in velocity late in his sophomore season could cause Welch to fall to the eight-to-twelve round range.
- Tyler Rocklein, OF State College of Florida – 6-3 right-handed power bat hit .332 with 14 homers as a sophomore. Could be a second day selection.
- Levi Meyer, C Iowa Western CC – Hit .481 to lead the Reivers to the JUCO World Series. Could be a Tuesday selection.