By IAN WILSON
The 2019 Major League Baseball (MLB) First-Year Player Draft took place from June 3-5 and we have a summary of players with Alberta ties who were selected over the three-day event.
Some of the players chosen in the draft moved here to attend one of the province’s baseball academies, others were born and raised here, while others became familiar faces through the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL).
We also took note of players who are related to some well-known players who made their way to Alberta to play with one of our minor-league affiliates decades ago.
All in all, it was a solid draft class for Wild Rose Country. The 2018 draft did not see any Alberta players picked in the first 10 rounds, but this year Vauxhall Baseball Academy provided two pitcher selections on Day 2.
The third day – which encompassed rounds 11 through 40 – added more talent from Western Canada to MLB organizations, including a couple of Okotoks Dawgs Academy graduates and some WCBL players.
Here’s a look at the players we were keeping tabs on:
JOSH BURGMANN, Chicago Cubs, 5th Round, 162nd Overall
The right-handed starting pitcher hails from Namaimo, British Columbia, but he spent his high school years studying at Vauxhall Baseball Academy. Burgmann was originally drafted in the 30th round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016, but opted to play for the University of Washington Huskies instead. The move paid off, as he was excellent in the Pac-12 Conference this year. Over 14 starts and 79 innings with the Huskies in 2019, Burgmann struck out 101 batters, going 4-6 with a 3.99 earned run average (ERA).
“In high school I put a lot of expectations on myself in terms of the draft and when I didn’t go obviously as high as I hoped, I was pretty disappointed with myself,” Burgmann told Alberta Dugout Stories. “This time around I am taking a more balanced approach with it, taking everything in stride and have fun with the process, instead of worrying about it all the time.”
Vauxhall Academy head coach Les McTavish called his former pupil “explosive” and “dominant” on the mound.
“I’m real proud of Josh. He went through Tommy John surgery and came out the other end well. That took a lot of hard work, not just physically but mentally,” said McTavish.
“Josh threw a no-hitter for Vauxhall in the 10th grade against a good program …. He’s always had some talent. He just leaves everything on the field. Nothing surprises me with Josh. He’s gifted, he’s great at his craft and he’s got a bright, bright future and I look forward to watching him hopefully someday on TV.”
His three years in Alberta left a major impression on Burgmann, who said he may return to the province one day.
“Going to Vauxhall was easily one of the best decisions I have made in my life. It is an obvious no-brainer, from a baseball standpoint, because they do an amazing job at developing players and moving them on to the next level,” said Burgmann.
“The other element of attending the academy that I wasn’t expecting was how connected I became with the community and the core values of the program, that being ‘Better Person, Better Player.’ I truly believe the academy and all the people involved with the program and the community helped me in my journey, not only in becoming a better baseball player, but in helping me become a better person. One day, after hopefully a long professional baseball career, I would love to return and take over coach McTavish’s job.”
ADAM MACKO, Seattle Mariners, 7th Round, 216th Overall
Several countries can take pride in Macko’s selection in the draft. The left-handed pitcher was born in Slovakia, played Little League baseball in Ireland and his baseball skills were largely self-taught until he found his way to Alberta.
Macko’s baseball journey includes an unlikely beginning, an unusual path and an inspiring result on draft day.
Before he arrived at Vauxhall Academy, Macko spent countless hours studying videos of MLB pitchers Justin Verlander and David Price. He would then try to emulate their movements.
“I never paid attention to how much time I’ve spent by the laptop studying baseball and watching videos on YouTube because it’s something I loved to do,” Adam told Alberta Dugout Stories. “Studying my favourite pitchers’ moves and replicating them was the most exciting thing for me.”
Macko, who called Stony Plain home before he went to Vauxhall for high school, now has a choice to make between signing with the Mariners or going to university and playing for the Purdue Boilermakers.
Whatever he decides, McTavish expects his promising pupil won’t let up until he realizes his dreaming of playing in the major leagues.
“For Adam, baseball is his life. He embodies what it means to be a student athlete and a high-performance athlete … he’s a great pitcher on the field and I’ll tell you, there’s nobody that works harder off the field,” said McTavish.
“From the time he was in the 10th grade throwing 80 miles an hour, he talked about pitching on TV, and not just pitching on TV in the big leagues, but being a mainstay and being an All Star, and I thought he was crazy when he talked about that when he was young but maybe he wasn’t.”
MATT LLOYD, Cincinnati Reds, 15th Round, 444th Overall
The Reds finally decided that Lloyd had waited long enough.
After sitting through the 2018 draft and not seeing his name called, the 23-year-old alumnus of both Dawgs Academy and the Okotoks Dawgs summer collegiate team had to wait until the final day of selections to realize his goal of being drafted.
When we caught up with Lloyd for ADS: The Podcast earlier this year, the former WCBL Canadian Rookie of the Year conceded last year’s snub was a tough pill to swallow.
“That was a tough day. The day after and really the whole week and weeks after the draft. It kind of just felt like I got punched in the stomach a little bit,” said Lloyd at the time.
“I think at the end of the day, it’s going to be a good thing that I didn’t get picked last year … I did look back at my skill set and everything that went down in 2018 and tried to reflect as well as I could from an outside standpoint. I said to myself, ‘OK, I didn’t get drafted. Why didn’t I get drafted? What do I need to work on?’ Stuff like that.”
Lloyd can stop pondering such questions now. After putting in work as a senior at Indiana University, he saw results on the mound and at the plate. As a closer for the Hoosiers, Lloyd was outstanding, picking up five saves and striking out 20 batters over 16.2 innings. He also posted a 2.70 ERA over 14 appearances out of the bullpen. When he wasn’t shutting down opposing hitters, Lloyd was creating offence for Indiana. He finished tied for the Big Ten Conference lead in home runs with 17, while batting .280 with 59 RBI.
EDGAR BARCLAY, New York Yankees, 15th Round, 465th Overall
The Bronx Bombers selected a left-handed pitcher who made an impression on Edmonton baseball fans last summer.
Barclay – a 5-foot-10 junior who attended California State University (CSU) Bakersfield this year – only appeared in eight games for the Edmonton Prospects in 2018, but he put up good numbers in those 39 innings of work. The 21-year-old posted a 3-1 record – with a pair of those wins coming in the playoffs – and he struck out 44 batters in 39 innings. He also added a save and his ERA was 2.54.
Playing for the Roadrunners, the Hawaiian was a workhorse this year. Barclay logged 90.1 innings, striking out 111 would-be hitters while going 6-4 with a 3.69 ERA.
TANNER JESSON-DALTON, Chicago Cubs, 17th Round, 522nd Overall
You could call him the Lawnmower Man.
Just a few years ago, Jesson-Dalton started up his own landscaping and snow removal business in Lethbridge after he completed high school.
But a chance encounter with Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) coach Todd Hubka brought him back to the game. From there, the right-handed pitcher went from mowing lawns to mowing down batters.
In 2016, the 6-foot-3 hurler appeared in 10 games for the Lethbridge Bulls – nine of them starts – and went 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA and 42 Ks in 50.1 innings.
Over his last two seasons with the Sacramento State Hornets, Jesson-Dalton played in 61 games, making three starts and going 6-4 with a 2.50 ERA in 100.2 innings. But his primary role was as the team’s closer. In 2018, he picked up 10 saves for the Hornets and this year he closed out another six games.
BEN THOMPSON, Atlanta Braves, 28th Round, 847th Overall
The Auckland, New Zealand native had a forgettable start for the Okotoks Dawgs on June 1st. After taking the mound against the Fort McMurray Giants at Seaman Stadium, the 6-foot-5 righty lasted just 3.1 innings and surrendered eight hits and five earned runs.
Odds are neither Thompson nor the Braves were thinking about the bad outing on Day 3 of the draft, however. Instead, Atlanta was focused on the Dawgs Academy alum’s low-90s fastball and his impressive sinker.
Or perhaps they were reviewing Thompson’s 2019 season at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, where the sophomore made 11 starts and produced a 3-2 record that included two complete games. In addition, the 22-year-old sent 53 batters back to the dugout via strikeout and finished the college season with a 3.36 ERA over 59 innings.
For his part, Thompson will now have to decide between turning pro or pitching for Tulane University in Division 1 of the NCAA.
ELLIOTT CARY, Detroit Tigers, 29th Round, 862nd Overall
Another former Okotoks Dawgs player who heard his name called during the MLB Draft, Cary is coming off a solid campaign with Oklahoma City University (OCU). The senior from Niceville, Florida had a batting average of .303 and 12 home runs in 59 games. He also picked up 62 runs and 41 RBI.
Back in 2016, the outfielder played 20 games for the Dawgs. During 16 regular-season contests Cary hit .300, stole eight bases, smacked three long balls and scored 19 runs. His play improved in the post-season – in four games he scored five runs, stole two bases and added two more home runs while batting .471.
THOMAS LITTLE, Philadelphia Phillies, 33rd Round, 990th Overall
Don’t let the name fool you. The Vauxhall Baseball Academy graduate is listed as 6-foot-8 and 195 pounds on the Jets website.
Add in the fact that he’s a left-handed pitcher and the Lethbridge product is an intriguing prospect – one that was too good for the Phillies to pass up.
Little attended the Tournament 12 at Rogers Centre in September and Prep Baseball Report (PBR) had this to say about him heading into the prestigious event:
“He has a lot of room to add size and strength to that frame. The lefty looks effortless throughout his mechanics, getting out front utilizing his size and leverage. Fastball has late arm-side run making it very tough on left-handed hitters.”
GLENALLEN HILL JR., Arizona Diamondbacks, 4th Round, 122nd Overall
Blue Jays fans of a certain vintage will recognize that name right away.
Hill Jr. is a hard-hitting infielder and outfielder out of Santa Cruz High School in California. He’s got speed on the base paths and power at the plate.
The elder Glenallen Hill, meanwhile, started his professional baseball career with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays in 1983. In 46 games and 133 at bats, the then 18-year-old batted .256 with six home runs, 27 RBI and 26 runs. He also hit four triples and had four stolen bases. The outfielder played 13 MLB seasons in total, including five with the Cubs, three with Toronto and another three with Cleveland.
NICK SOGARD, Tampa Bay Rays, 12th Round, 368th Overall
The shortstop from Loyola Marymount University is the nephew of former National League Rookie of the Year Steve Sax.
Sax’s career began in Lethbridge with the Dodgers, where he also took the field as a shortstop. In 39 games for the rookie-level affiliate, Sax batted .328 with a .405 on-base percentage, 21 RBI and 24 runs. After he left Alberta, Sax moved to second base and played 14 MLB seasons.
JAKE RANDA, Washington Nationals, 13th Round, 393rd Overall
The 20-year-old outfielder with Northwest Florida State College is the son of Joe Randa.
Joe played briefly for the Calgary Cannons in 1997. In three games, he had 11 at bats and produced one home run, four RBI and four runs. He played the rest of that season with Pittsburgh Pirates and his MLB career spanned 12 years, eight of them with the Kansas City Royals.