For the 16th time in the last 19 drafts, Gonzaga has witnessed multiple Bulldogs picked during MLB’s first-year player draft.
On Sunday Gabriel Hughes set the mark, going 10th overall to the Colorado Rockies – the highest pick in school history.
Three more Gonzaga pitchers came off the board Monday: Trystan Vrieling at No. 100 to the New York Yankees, William Kempner six picks later at 106 to the San Francisco Giants and Brody Jessee in the 10th round to the Cincinnati Reds.
Associate Head Coach Brandon Harmon, who was recently promoted from pitching coach over the offseason, has now produced 18 pitchers that went on to be drafted, including 10 picks within the top 10 rounds in his 10 seasons at GU.
“He does such a great job with all the pitchers in Spokane,” Hughes said. “I think one of the biggest strengths ‘Harm’ has as a coach is really forcing us to be our own greatest coach. Think about the game, practice the game, ask questions and not just go through the motions every day.”
Vrieling entered Sunday ranked No. 71 by MLB.com and though he fell a bit, he landed in the Bronx with baseball’s winningest organization.
The Kennewick native and Kamiakin High School product has spent three seasons at GU, honing his four-pitch arsenal.
The righty leans on his fastball that touches 95 mph and its one that he commands in all four quadrants. He mixes in a curve and a slider, and his out pitch is his change-up which combines well with his fastball arm speed.
In 2022, Vrieling compiled a 4.91 ERA in 802/3 innings pitched with 107 strikeouts and 46 walks, going 4-4.
Then, in the 2021 Cape Cod League, Vrieling pitched in seven games, starting two with a perfect 2-0 record. He had a 1.04 ERA in 171/3 innings, adding 21 strikeouts and seven walks.
His walk rate has been a shade high, but his whiff potential and athletic makeup were enticing for MLB teams.
Where Vrieling fell in his projections, Kempner, the third head of the Bulldog weekend rotation, rose.
The Giants jumped to pick the 168th-ranked prospect with the last pick of the third round.
Even after a finger injury sidelined the San Jose native, Kempner started eight games, going 36 innings, striking out 48 and walking 21.
The 6-foot right-hander flashes a strong fastball that has toyed with 100 mph, but sits more consistently in the 95-97 range.
He keeps the ball on the ground, referenced by his six home runs allowed in three college seasons. His strikeout pitch is his slider that breaks strong right to left.
A crossfire delivery is a little funky, making batters uncomfortable in the box. The delivery leads to more walks, but is still a tough read for the batter.
Hughes, Vrieling and Kempner made up the weekend rotation for the Bulldogs in 2022. Those three and Jessee came into GU together and had talked about making an impact on draft weekend.
“We always knew we had the potential to do something special,” Hughes said. “It’s really cool to see that come to fruition and to see those other three guys also get of the board and to just put Gonzaga baseball on the map and to build a path for future teams.”
In the 10th round, the Reds targeted the sophomore Jessee out of Anchorage.
The 6-4 right hander wasn’t ranked by MLB.com, but he has already established himself as one of the top Division I pitchers out of Alaska.
Jessee was second in appearances with 18 for the Zags.
He reached 10 strikeouts versus Pepperdine, the first double-digit strikeout performance by an Alaskan against a D1 opponent since former Washington State pitcher Matt Way did it against Washington in 2009.
His 85 career strikeouts are fourth on the all-time list for Division I Alaskans.
In 2022, he had four wins with a 4.59 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. A 97-mph fastball is his go-to pitch.
If Jessee navigates the long road from the 10th round to the big leagues, he’ll join an exclusive group of 12 MLB players in the state’s history – the fewest of any state.
Rangers draft WSU recruit Pollard
He’s the headliner of Washington State’s 2022 recruiting class, but Chandler Pollard probably won’t be suiting up for the Cougars next season. Pollard, an outfielder/shortstop from Woodward Academy in Georgia, was selected by the Texas Rangers with the 139th overall pick in the fifth round of the MLB draft.
Coming into draft week, Pollard ranked No. 110 on MLB.com’s list of pro prospects. Exhibiting elite-level arm strength with impressive speed and hitting consistency, Pollard checked all of the boxes as a senior last season at Woodward Academy.
The 6-2, 170-pounder hit .521 and recorded a 1.737 OPS, totaling 11 home runs, 14 doubles and four triples. He drew 29 walks against just 13 strikeouts and set a Georgia High School Association single-season record with 61 stolen bases.
Pollard committed to WSU in March 2021 and signed his national letter of intent last November. He was the prized recruit in a 2022 Cougar recruiting class that rose into the top 50 of Perfect Game’s national rankings. But the value of a fifth-round contract may be too good to pass up.
The draft concludes Tuesday with rounds 11-20.
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