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BY ZACH EWING AND JEFF EVANS Californian staff writers
Amid all the projections and predictions swirling around the Major League Baseball Draft, which begins today and continues through Saturday, Garces senior Jake Sweaney has a comforting outlook on his own fate.
"There really is no 'worst-case scenario,'" Sweaney said. "It's a great thing.
That's because even if Sweaney doesn't become a professional this summer, he'll head instead to Eugene, Ore., where he'll catch on scholarship for the Oregon Ducks.
Still, Sweaney hopes to be drafted within the first five rounds of the draft -- the first two begin at 4 p.m. today and are televised on MLB Network, with rounds 3-10 starting at 9:30 a.m. Friday on MLB.com.
"It's really out of your power; you can't really control it," he said. "We'll just hang out at my house and watch the draft. I have no clue what will happen."
The Rams catcher has worked out for many of the 30 big-league clubs, including the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Astros and Rangers. He has wowed scouts with his ability to hit and run while still serving as a high-quality defensive catcher, both behind the plate and at throwing runners out on the basepaths.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Sweaney is ranked No. 88 on Keith Law's list of top 100 prospects for ESPN.com. That would put Sweaney in the middle of the third round, but the MLB Draft is notoriously fickle; teams must sign their first 10 picks with bonuses under a budget given to them by the league. If they don't sign a player, that pick's slot value is deducted from the budget anyway.
Sweaney said he and his family have decided on a dollar amount for a signing bonus that they've told teams they'll require to sign. He didn't disclose the amount but said it was unlikely he'd deviate from it. Prospects and teams have until July 12 to come to terms.
And even if teams draft purely on talent, opinion varies widely. In some prospect lists, Sweaney isn't listed in the top 100.
"It's so unpredictable," Sweaney said. "You just have to kind of be calm and let it happen."
Sweaney, The Californian's Player of the Year as a junior (this year's All-Area selections haven't been made), hit .489 for Garces this season with 14 doubles, eight home runs, 39 RBIs and 22 stolen bases.
"Scouts like that I'm athletic," said Sweaney, also an All-Area wide receiver for the Rams' football team. "They say I'm versatile: I have a strong arm and can hit very well. All the tools blend together."
Whether that means Sweaney is picked -- and paid -- highly enough to keep him from going to Oregon remains to be seen. Either way, he's going to have fun with the draft.
"Getting that call will be one of the greater moments of my life so far," he said. "This whole process started off overwhelming, but I've started to enjoy it. It's become really fun and exciting."
Taft High pitcher Steven Gee is in a similar situation to Sweaney. He has signed to play for Cal State Bakersfield but expects to be taken at some point in the draft.
Kerman pitcher Carlos Salazar is considered the Central Section's most highly touted high school prospect. He's expected to be taken in the first three rounds, and possibly as high as the first.
CSUB expects multiple selections
Cal State Bakersfield had its most successful season in the five-year history of the baseball program this season.
That will likely translate into the most CSUB players selected in the MLB Draft for a single season.
The Roadrunners had four players selected from their 2011 squad, which went 33-22.
Coach Bill Kernen said he thinks up to six Roadrunners could be selected from this year's squad, which went 37-22.
The top Roadrunner pick could be senior right-handed pitcher Scott Brattvet, whose fastball reaches the low 90s.
"Brattvet's going to go, probably in the first 10 rounds," Kernen said. "Cincinnati just flew him back Friday to pitch in front of the general manager and some of their cross-checkers (scouts). They're very serious about him. And somebody else will be, too."
Junior shortstop Tyler Shryock, whose from Tehachapi but attended high school at Lancaster-Desert Christian, and junior catcher-first baseman Cael Brockmeyer from Vineyard Haven, Mass., will both be drafted, Kernen predicted.
"I've heard everywhere from (rounds) 7 to 15, depending on which organization," Kernen said.
"If it's in the top 10, I get a little nervous as far as losing them. If it's in the teens, we have a shot of having them come back."
Others Kernen said he expects to be drafted are senior left-handed pitchers Chuck Buchanan from Las Vegas and Jeff McKenzie from El Dorado Hills near Sacramento and junior second baseman Oscar Sanay from Chula Vista.
Brattvet went 9-1 with a 2.55 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 98-2/3 innings. Shryock was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year who hit .357 and led the WAC with 89 hits while having a solid defensive season.
Brockmeyer batted .330 and led CSUB with four home runs and 51 RBIs. Sanay led CSUB in batting (.362) and tied Brockmeyer for the team lead in doubles (13).
McKenzie was the WAC Pitcher of the Year when he set a CSUB single-season record for wins, going 13-2 with a 1.88 ERA. Buchanan was 3-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 12 appearances. He struck out 48 in 41 innings.
The four CSUB players selected and signed to pro contracts in 2011 were pitchers Mike McCarthy and Martin Medina, outfielder Ryan McIntyre and catcher Jeremy Rodriguez. In the four-year history of Roadrunner baseball, seven players have been drafted and signed to professional contracts.
Bakersfield College coach Tim Painton said sophomore right-handed relief pitcher Logan Campbell will probably be drafted, and added that freshman second baseman Erik Williams "has an outside chance" of being selected.
Campbell, a Highland High graduate, was 0-0 with five saves in 17 games. He had a 3.45 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15-2/3 innings. Williams, a Stockdale High graduate, batted .331 with 16 doubles, three homers and 28 RBIs this season.
Former Renegades Tyler Painton, Tim's son who is a left-handed pitcher at Oregon State, is a draft-eligible sophomore and Elijah Trail, an infielder who just completed his junior year at Campbell (N.C.) University, could be on some teams' radar.
Painton is 0-0 in 11 games, all in relief, for the Beavers with a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings this seaon. Trail hit .260 for the Fighting Camels with a team-high seven homers while ranking second with 51 RBIs.
Taft College coach Vince Maiocco said the Cougars' best bet at being drafted is right-handed pitcher Allan Sanchez from Puerto Rico, who throws in the low 90s. Sanchez went 3-8 in 12 games with a 3.89 ERA this season with 68 strikeouts in 83-1/3 innings.
Another Puerto Rico native who pitched for Taft, Jesus Del Rosario, could be selected. Del Rosario, a left-handed pitcher, played two seasons for the Cougars, one season at Azusa Pacific and pitched this season at Rogers State, an NAIA school in Oklahoma.
Del Rosario was 4-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 18 games this season with 35 strikeouts in 29-1/3 innings.
The three-day draft begins Thursday with the first two rounds and two "competitive balance" rounds that make their debut this season. The Competitive Balance rounds give clubs with the lowest revenues and in the smallest markets the opportunity to obtain additional draft picks through a lottery, which was held in July.
Friday will cover rounds 3-10 and Saturday will cover rounds 11-40.