The Ducks had a strong showing at the MLB Draft this week as four players were taken in the first 12 rounds. A total of six starters and six recruits had their names called to join the show.
Pitchers Garrett Cleavinger and Josh Graham were drafted in the third and fourth rounds respectively by the Orioles and Braves. Infielder Mitchell Tolman went to the Pirates in round seven. Scott Heineman was picked in round 11 by the Rangers. Conor Harber was drafted by the Brewers in round 16 while Cole Irvin rounded out the current players to be drafted, following Tolman to Pittsburgh in round 32.
The widely held belief is that Irvin will be returning for a final season with the Ducks after an up-and-down campaign in 2015. Horton has told reporters that he believes that Irvin will continue his career at Oregon, giving the Ducks a dangerous three man rotation in Irvin, Matt Krook and David Peterson for the 2016 season.
With $400,000+ value contracts for Cleavinger and Graham it is unlikely that they will be returning for their final seasons of eligibility. Pitchers with college experience tend to move through the minor leagues the quickest, so it is likely we will see these Ducks make their appearance at the show in just a few years’ time.
Tolman was the sixth college third baseman off the board and 12th overall. He will leave Oregon as the all-time leader in doubles (47), multiple-RBI games (31) and RBI (128).
It’s hard to imagine that round 11 could be considered falling, but for a player with Heineman’s potential, another year of college ball could significantly increase his value. As the season progressed and his playing time increased; the redshirt junior’s production blew up, finishing the season batting .290 with four HR, 23 RBI and a team leading 16 SB. The $100,000 price tag that comes with his draft place is hard to pass on, unless he can move up with another stellar season at Oregon.
The loss of rostered players is to be expected, but the most interesting situation may be the fate of Oregon’s top recruit Demi Orimoloye, an outfielder from Canada, who was drafted by the Brewers in round four. The 18 year old from St. Matthew Catholic High School in Ottawa is poised to become the first ever African-born player to play in the majors. The projected first-round talent could still decide if his time would be better spent refining his skills at the college level, but the Ducks will have to wait until Signing Day on July 17 to know what his decision will be.
Replacing these key pieces will be a difficult task for Horton and the rest of the staff; however, they have the tools in place to do so. Stephen Nogosek is primed to move into the ninth inning role after serving as the set-up man for Cleavinger. The void left in the starting rotation by Graham is set to be taken over by Krook and Matt Eureste is capable of taking over at third, where he started the year, as long as he can improve his defense this offseason. Phil Craig-St. Louis provided protection for Tolman in the cleanup spot and should continue to drive the offense in 2016.
Despite changes on the field, it appears that the personnel will remain unchanged as Oregon kept assistant coach Mark Wasikowski from being lured away to Arizona.
The Ducks found ways to win in 2015 when no one thought they stood a chance and Horton and the Ducks are set to continue their winning ways hopefully making their way into a College World Series final.
Top Photo by Dave Peak