Reaching the ACC tournament for the first time since 2004 and falling just a few wins short of the NCAA tournament, the Duke baseball program's recent success was validated on the field in 2009--and Major League Baseball has taken notice.
Through the first 25 rounds of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, four Blue Devils have been selected by MLB teams, led by senior first baseman Nate Freiman, who was taken in the eighth round by San Diego. Freiman was followed by senior righty Andrew Wolcott in the 17th round to Arizona, senior catcher Matt Williams in the 18th round to the Cubs and junior righty Alex Hassan in the 20th round to Boston. Freiman, Wolcott and Williams are all seniors and will likely begin their professional baseball careers soon. While Hassan is a junior who can opt to return next season, he is also a native of the Boston area, meaning that he may be enticed by the option of starting his MLB career with his hometown team.
All of Duke's active draftees had their names called today during the draft's second day, but another prospect with Duke ties was tabbed much, much earlier. Steven Baron, a high school catcher from South Florida who committed to play for Duke this upcoming season, was drafted 33rd overall in the Compensation A round by the Seattle Mariners. Baron was Duke's highest rated commit and was ranked 75th in Baseball America's Draft Top 100 Prospects list.
Here is MLB.com's scouting report on the 6-foot, 195 lb. Baron:
Baron hasn't received as much attention among the catching crop, but he should. The Miami-area standout has outstanding catch and throw skills. He's had some issues with timing at the plate, but he's got good bat speed and does have the potential to hit for power. He's a natural leader with outstanding makeup who already calls his own game, and that kind of skillset will always get plenty of attention on draft day.
Unfortunately for Duke fans, however, it appears that Baron will be unlikely to ever wear a Blue Devil uniform. A week before the draft, Mariners blog USS Mariner reported that Seattle was close to a pre-draft contract agreement with Baron, speculation that was confirmed by the USS Mariner and echoed by the Seattle Times Mariners beat writer Larry Stone yesterday. No press release confirming a Baron signing has been put out yet by the Mariners, but we will closely monitor Baron's negotiations in the coming days.
Even if Baron doesn't ever play at Duke, the fact that the Blue Devils are attracting first-round caliber talent to not only to consider the school but sign letters of intent is extremely encouraging. What do you make of Duke's busy two days at the MLB Draft?
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