“Something You Dreamed About As A Kid” – Cal Poly Baseball Players Sign To MLB Teams
The 2021 Major League Baseball (MLB) freshman draft proved to be another success for Cal Poly, with pitchers Bryan Woo and Andrew Alvarez being selected in the 20-round draft and catcher Myles Emmerson being signed as as an undrafted free agent.
This is the 22nd straight year a Cal Poly baseball player has been drafted, a streak dating back to 1999 that also spans head coach Larry Lee’s 19-year career.
The three players, who have now all signed contracts with their major league teams, now bring Lee’s total number of players signed to 76 since he began his tenure in 2002.
Woo, the sophomore right-hander, was selected 174th overall by the Seattle Mariners while Alvarez, the junior left-hander, was selected 353rd overall by the Washington Nationals. Emmerson signed shortly after the draft with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Also of note in this year’s MLB draft, Cal Poly baseball rookie Cameron Butler of Big Valley Christian High School in Modesto, Calif., was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the 15th round of the repechage. He signed a contract worth $150,000 with the American League franchise and will not attend Cal Poly this fall.
The three Mustangs must now battle the increasingly competitive minor league system in order to achieve the dream of nearly every college baseball player: a shot at the major league club.
Emmerson graduated from Cal Poly with a long list of honors to his name, including the Cal Poly John Orton Golden Glove Award. He was also a first-team All-Big West member and shared the Big West Defensive Player of the Year award with CSU Northridge’s Denzel Clarke and UC Irvine’s Taishi Nakawake.
The red-shirted elder from Spring Valley, Calif., said the day the angels called him was a day he spent his whole life working for.
“Words can’t describe the excitement,” Emmerson said.
Emmerson, who started in all 56 games last season, is part of an interesting class of rookies for Anaheim, with the Angels using their 20 pitching picks.
Knowing that most of his peers entering the organization are pitchers, Emmerson said he’s optimistic about what this means for him.
“It’s a great opportunity to work with a great pitching team and ultimately help them grow as I grow in the process,” Emmerson said. “The Angels have a great history of bringing out strong receivers. After being with the organization for a few weeks, I think I fit in very well.
Emmerson put up huge numbers in the 2021 season, batting over .300. He also led the Big West Conference in picks with five and had a .991 field percentage behind the plate.
Emmerson, who will start with the Angels’ low-A affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers, said he thinks his ability to be a leader on defense will be what sets him apart from other prospects.
“I think my leadership on the field and in the bullpen is a bonus to my own talent,” Emmerson said. “Catching is a priority position in defense and I proved that I could defend behind the dish.”
The former history major leaves Cal Poly with a .288 career batting average after starting in 148 of the 168 games he has played for the university.
Emmerson said he would miss the atmosphere of Baggett Stadium and his favorite part of playing Cal Poly was the friends he made as a Mustang.
“My teammates are an exceptional group of guys and we will be friends for a very long time,” Emmerson said. “Sharing the experience with them through the ups and downs is something I will never forget. Those five years were the best years of my life.
Alvarez leaves Cal Poly with his own list of accolades, earning an All-Big West honorable mention last spring as well as the 2021 Mike Krukow Outstanding Pitcher Award.
Alvarez described the day he was drafted as anti-climactic, and that it didn’t settle into the fact that he was now part of MLB until he met the team.
“Day three of the draft, they don’t show it on TV, so it didn’t really strike me,” Alvarez said. “I celebrated with my family but when I arrived [to team facilities], that’s when it really started to sink in. The Nationals really wanted me.
Alvarez, who in three full seasons with the Mustangs (plus the shortened 2020 season) posted an 11-8 record, is part of a Nationals draft class that includes nine other pitchers, three of whom are left-handers like Alvarez.
Joining the major league team in the nation’s capital seemed “obvious” to Alvarez, who mentioned the organization considered him to be of higher value than any other team heading into draft day on July 13.
Alvarez is optimistic about the Nationals, saying, “I know it’s a good organization, the type that really cares about their players and their development.”
The redshirted junior from Los Alamitos, Calif., brings quite a bit of talent to the Florida Nationals rookie squad, with his final season at Cal Poly highlighted with a 7-3 record and 81 strikeouts in 88 ⅓ innings pitched.
Specifically, with a 12-out game against UC Riverside and an all-out game against UC Davis in which he allowed just one run, Alvarez has shown scouts this season that he doesn’t just have potential, but that he progressed in his four years on the central coast.
On his potential within the Nationals system, Alvarez went into detail about why the team selected a player like him.
“They’re not necessarily looking for the top performing guys in college,” Alvarez said. “I’m six-foot-three, left-handed, and have four different terrains that I’m proficient on. My breaking ball is my best shot. They can see all that potential.
Alvarez has also improved tremendously in the 2021 season after starting 3-2 with a 6.75 ERA, setting a 4-1 record and 2.75 ERA in his last eight starts on the bump. .
The factors that made the difference in Alvarez’s turnaround and his overall success at Cal Poly are attributed to the way head coach Lee handles the baseball program. Alvarez described it as a “huge combination of things” that add up to make Cal Poly a school “that gets guys in.”
Looking back on his time with the Mustangs, Alvarez’s highlight was a 2018 game when Cal Poly played then-No. 4 ranked Arkansas. As a freshman near the bottom of the depth chart, he closed in on the eighth inning with runners in scoring position, looking to keep the game tied.
Alvarez made the crucial takedown that gave Cal Poly the opportunity to take the lead in the top of the ninth, then took the team out in order in the ninth to secure the upset on the ranked Razorbacks.
Alvarez said this game highlighted his time in college because “it showed me that I belong [at Cal Poly]. I belong to division 1 baseball.
As for what he’s going to miss, Alvarez agreed with Emmerson that it’s the college baseball folks.
“Cal Poly is my home,” Alvarez said. “It’s the biggest city in California and it was the best four years of my life.”
Although his time at Cal Poly was short, Woo showed enough promise as a right-handed pitcher to be drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the sixth round.
Getting caught in the first 10 rounds is a major achievement for any player, as it’s a big indicator that a team thinks you have real ability to play in the majors sooner rather than later.
“I feel very lucky and grateful to be in this position,” Woo said. “There’s no way I’m in this position without God and the amazing people around me.”
Woo’s story of how he found out he was recruited by the Mariners is unique, finding out the news while on vacation in Hawai’i.
“Luckily my teammate Cole Cabrera lives in O’ahu so he was kind enough to let me and my family spend the day at his house,” Woo said during the Draft Day festivities. “It was really nice to have family and friends for that day and at that time.”
Draft day is something Woo has been looking forward to for a long time.
“That day and that moment is something you dream of as a kid, so there’s really no way to describe it, but it was an unforgettable experience and I’m so happy to have them with me,” said said Woo.
A look at Woo’s stat line won’t tell you much, with a career win-loss record of 4-7 and an ERA above 3.5 during his three seasons at Cal Poly. But the devil is in the details with a player like Woo, especially since two of his three seasons with the green and gold were cut short due to the pandemic in 2020 and an unfortunate elbow injury during the April series against Long Beach State that ruled out the right-hander. for the remainder of the 2021 season.
However, despite several shortened seasons, Seattle felt confident in Woo and signed him to a contract worth over $300,000 according to Cal Poly Athletics.
“I’m thrilled to play for the Mariners,” Woo said. “The main reason for this is their ability to develop a detailed process on how I can improve and grow.”
And that’s what Woo says makes him unique from those around him in the draft – his ability to improve.
“My pitching composition with my size, strength, mobility and ability, combined with my potential for improvement, is what made me a unique prospect compared to other players,” Woo said.
Some of that ability was seen before his premature exit in the 2021 season, when he was a takedown machine with 42K in just 28 innings.
Woo is rehabilitating with the team at their spring training facility in Arizona, while SB Nation’s Kate Preusser reports that the former business administration major is set to undergo Tommy John surgery in the near future. to come up.
When he returns to the mound for Seattle, Woo will be looking to repeat performances like his stellar performances in wins over CSU Northridge and Long Beach State last season, where he struck out seven and eight, respectively, without allowing a single. point.
Although he was only on the Central Coast for three years, Woo says the bonds he made during that time will be what he will miss the most.
“I will definitely miss the guys on the team the most and those relationships we’ve built over the past few years,” Woo said. “I’ll be friends with some of these guys for the rest of my life.”