Although they failed to repeat the program’s thrilling run of 2016, three Blue Devils nevertheless found some reward for their work this season, as they heard their names called Wednesday on Day 3 of the 2017 MLB Draft.
Junior first baseman Justin Bellinger, redshirt junior pitcher James Ziemba and sophomore outfielder Jimmy Herron were selected at Nos. 647, 655 and 932 overall, respectively. Bellinger went to the Cincinnati Reds in the 22nd round—becoming the first Duke player to be drafted in 2017— just eight spots ahead of Ziemba, who was picked by the Los Angeles Angels.
In the 31st round, Herron became the program’s first outfielder selected since 2009, going to the New York Yankees.
All three still have the option to return to school next year if they do not agree to terms with the teams that drafted them.
A year after he led the team in both batting and slugging percentage, Bellinger’s production was cut short in 2017 after he injured his hand just two weeks into ACC play. D1Baseball.com listed him as the 35th best prospect in the ACC after a season in which he played in just more than half of the team’s games, hit .193 and slugged two home runs. Although his injury limited him offensively, he shined in the field, committing no errors in 206 chances to finish the season with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage at first base.
Ziemba, the 11th pitcher drafted during Pollard’s time with the program, set career highs in innings and strikeouts in 2017 at 48 1/3 and 45, respectively, in 22 appearances for the Blue Devils. The Hillsborough, N.J., native was used both as a starter and reliever in 2017, and posted a 5.03 ERA after recording a 3.95 ERA in 19 appearances the year before. The lefty saw his draft position improve significantly from a year ago when he was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 37th round.
Herron was the final Duke player selected in the 2017 draft after a stellar sophomore campaign in which he started every game for the Blue Devils and led the team in batting average, hits, doubles, runs and stolen bases. A freshman All-America selection in 2016, Herron now owns a .325 average after two seasons at Duke, and his 41 career stolen bases are good for 13th in program history.
It was the fourth year in a row at least three Blue Devils were drafted, and two Duke signees also heard their names before the night was over. Second baseman Wil Hoyle, a Durham native out of Jordan High School, and outfielder Steve Mann, from Beverly Hills, Mich., were selected in the 38th round at Nos. 1131 and 1145 overall, respectively.
Mann was picked by his hometown team, the Detroit Tigers, and Hoyle was chosen by the Oakland Athletics. Although they were drafted straight from high school, both players are expected to forgo professional baseball for now and come to Duke in the fall.