Fresno Pacific Sunbirds catcher gets his shot at MLB draft
Fresno Pacific catcher Michael Vaughn was limited to just 23 games this year because of a broken hand.
The season prior, he hit just .190 while playing in 49 games.
Yet Vaughn is considered the top local prospect — rated 352nd overall in the nation and the 25th best catcher prospect by Baseball America — in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, with much of his value coming from his defense and athletic body frame.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Vaughn also showed vast improvement with his bat this season, hitting .357 before suffering a hamate bone injury in the first 16 games. He returned late in the season and finished with a .291 average.
Sunbirds coach Oscar Hirschkorn said he has no doubt Vaughn will go in the first 10 rounds. The first and supplemental rounds will be held tonight at MLB Network Studios in Secaucus, N.J.
“When you’re a catcher who can catch and throw like he does, that puts you on the map,” Hirschkorn said. “When you show that you’re a defensive-oriented catcher but can also hit, that gets a lot of people’s attention.
“Michael finally got some regular at-bats for the first time in his career — from last year to the Alaska League in the summer to this season. Everything finally came together for him offensively. It’s just a shame he got hurt so early.”
While Vaughn, a draft-eligible sophomore, projects as the top local player to get drafted, it remains unclear who will be the draft’s top overall pick.
Most major league teams agree that there’s no Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper in this year’s baseball draft.
So, without a clear-cut No. 1 prospect and several significant rule changes in place, teams face some intriguing decisions and an unpredictable first round in this year’s draft with the Houston Astros leading things off.
“It’s a below-average draft as far as drafts go, and it’s certainly down from last year as far as depth and premium players in the first round,” said Sean Johnson, Minnesota’s West Coast scouting supervisor. “It’s lean in certain spots.”
Allotted spending caps based on the number and placement of team’s picks, and an earlier signing deadline are among the changes clubs will navigate this year. The draft also is shorter now, pared down from 50 to 40 rounds.
The Astros have the No. 1 pick for the first time since taking Phil Nevin in 1992 — one of five teams to pass on a young shortstop named Derek Jeter, selected sixth overall by the New York Yankees.
Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, who on Friday defeated Fresno State in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament, is considered the likely No. 1. He has a mid-90s fastball and is 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA.
Under baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, teams face a punitive tax and the possibility of losing draft picks if they stray from the prescribed bonuses.
If a player doesn’t sign, the team loses the amount for that slot. If a player signs for less than the slot, the team could shift that money to other picks. For players selected in the 11th round and beyond, portions of signing bonuses above $100,000 would count against the bonus pool.
Teams will now have until mid-July to sign their draft picks, instead of the previous mid-August deadline.
Back in the Valley, some high school players with the possibility of getting drafted include Central Section career home run leader Anthony Hawkins of Fresno High, Sunnyside catcher Jose Barraza and Clovis East outfielder Isaiah Yates.
Fresno State has a few potential draft picks — most notably right-handed pitcher Justin Haley — who caught the attention of many scouts in February when he threw 3 1/3 perfect innings in relief against then-No. 1 Stanford.
Haley, a junior, finished 7-4 with a 3.28 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 93 1/3 innings.
Brothers Trent and Taylor Garrison, meanwhile, were both drafted last season and are near locks to get drafted again.
After today’s supplemental rounds, the remaining rounds will be completed via conference calls among the teams over the next two days.