BOCA RATON – Pitcher Alex House stands the best chance to be the first FAU player selected in this week’s Major League Baseball draft, which begins with the first two rounds tonight.
He could also be the lone FAU player chosen.
“We could lose eight to 10 guys or we they could all be here,” FAU coach John McCormack said. “It’s not clear cut like the last couple years.”
House’s statistics from his 2017 won’t launch any parades. The junior righthander posted a 6-4 record with a 4.71 ERA in an inconsistent season for both himself and the Owls. At times House was brilliant. Other times, FAU needed all the runs it could get.
Late in the season McCormack employed House out of the bullpen, choosing a pitcher who had been primarily a reliever toss the first few innings of what would have been House’s scheduled starts. Often House would come in from the bullpen and finish the game, shutting down the opponent with a mid-90s fastball and a more refined 85-mph slider he learned from pitching coach Jason Jackson.
“I feel at the end of the season when coach put me in as a reliever and I went five, seven innings at a time, teams really do like that,” House said.
House says scouts and his adviser are telling him to start paying closer attention to the draft midway through Tuesday, when rounds three through 10 occur.
“I’ve shown some dominance on the mound,” House said. “I’ve shown enough people what I can do. I’m young. I’ve got a good arm.”
After House, the Owls’ draft situation becomes murkier.
Slugger David Miranda would seem likely to be the next to get the MLB call. A JUCO transfer who didn’t even begin the season as a starter, Miranda smashed a team-high 12 home runs, tying for seventh Conference USA.
Miranda recently worked out for the Los Angeles Angels and has received strong interest from Arizona, Atlanta and Seattle.
None of those teams, however, seemed all that high on Miranda until after the series against Rice, when the calendar turned from March to April.
“These four or five [scouts] that I’m talking to, they are really good guys and they are really interested,” Miranda said. “They said they are pushing for me hard in the draft room. Hopefully one of them convinces and gets their guy to call my name.”
A team looking for left-handed power could select Miranda near the end of the second day or, more likely into the third day during the final 30 rounds.
Like House, Miranda said he’s most likely to sign with the club that selects him. A mitigating factor in Miranda’s decision to forego his senior season and sign is that the California native is currently paying the more expensive out-of-state tuition rate at FAU.
“I told (McCormack), Whatever I can get, that’s my best option,” Miranda said, referring to a potential signing bonus. “I can’t afford to come back.”
The NCAA allows for the awarding of partial scholarships in baseball, and Miranda did say that McCormack told him there would be more scholarship money available should he elect to return to FAU.
Miednik Could Be FAU Draft Wildcard
At times this season lefthander Jake Miednik pitched like the best arm on the Owls’ staff. But he also hit a stretch toward the end of the season that nearly prompted McCormack to pull him from the FAU rotation. MLB teams are always looking for lefthanded pitching, and Miednik was the NJCAA Pitcher of the Year before coming to FAU. He could be selected when the draft reaches round No. 15, or go undrafted altogether.
This time last year second baseman Stephen Kerr appeared certain to be drafted. When that didn’t happen Kerr returned for his senior season, and his draft prospects are even less certain this time around.
After hitting .269 during his senior season, Kerr said he isn’t “expecting” to get drafting despite being FAU’s career-leader in assists.
“I don’t want to to say I expect to because that would give me the chance to get let down and I don’t want to be let down,” said Kerr, a four-year starter for the Owls.
The team that draft’s Kerr will likely be looking for an experienced middle infielder who can bring maturity and the ability to mentor youngsters on a low-level minor league team – although Arizona might have other idea. The Diamondbacks asked Kerr if he was willing to play catcher.
Senior third baseman Austin Langham, who can play several infield positions, is in a similar situation as Kerr, but if he plays at the next level it would most likely be as a free-agent signee. The same can be said for pitcher/designated hitter Sean Labsan, who began his senior year with a pectoral injury and under-performed upon returning.
There is some intrigue surrounding right-handed pitcher Mark Nowatnick. Arguably the most consistent FAU pitcher all year, Nowatnick, a junior, missed the final four weeks of the season after breaking his foot during the celebration of an FAU walk-off victory over FIU.
McCormack said there is even one team showing serious interest in Kevin Abraham, the Owls’ catcher who sat out last season while battling cancer, missed time early in the season after being hit by a pitch in the face, and ended the season by breaking a bone in his hand when he was hit by a pitch in the C-USA tournament.
And then there’s first baseman Esteban Puerta, who hit 10 homers in both of the Owls’ last two seasons. Puerta hit .307 and .287 in those seasons, but something shocking would have to happen for Puerta to continue his baseball career. He graduated in May with degrees in computer science and engineering, and has already started a job outside of baseball.
McCormack will also follow the draft closely to see whether Coral Springs pitcher Max Lazar, third baseman/outfielder Ryan Karstetter, Tampa-Steinbrenner outfielder/first baseman PK Morris and Palm Beach Community College Vince Coletti are selected early enough to prompt them to skip enrolling at FAU and turn professional.