Rangers land high-ceiling talent in Matuella; Padres nab Nix with 86th pick
By Paul Casella
The Rangers rolled the dice early on Day 2 of the Draft, taking Duke right-hander Michael Matuella with the third pick of the third round (78th overall). Once considered a candidate to go No. 1 overall, Matuella had his junior year derailed by injuries and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery in April.
Despite those injuries limiting him to just 141 innings over his three years with the Blue Devils, Matuella still entered the Draft ranked as the No. 28 overall prospect on MLBPipeline's Top 200.
Unreal moment. Im beyond excited for the opportunity that the @Rangers have given me!! Thank you to everyone for the incredible support!!!
Matuella's selection came just two picks after the D-backs began Day 2 by taking College of Charleston right-hander Taylor Clarke, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013. Clarke has rebounded well, however; he entered Tuesday tied for the NCAA lead with 13 wins, while also ranking third in the nation with 141 strikeouts in just 114 1/3 innings.
Another notable pitcher came off the board soon after those two selections when the Padres grabbed Jacob Nix with the 86th overall pick. Nix was selected in the fifth round by the Astros last year, but the two sides never came to a deal en route to Nix filing a grievance and ultimately joining IMG Academy's post-graduate team. He came into this year's Draft ranked as the No. 39 overall prospect on MLBPipeline's Top 200.
The fourth round was highlighted by a pair of familiar last names being called. First, the Red Sox selected Missouri State outfielder Tate Matheny, the son of current Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, with the sixth pick of the round (111th overall). Later in the round, the Nationals used the 134th overall pick to snag Mariano Rivera Jr., the son of all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera.
The Rays, despite picking in the middle of the round, ended up with the highest-ranked player to come out of the fifth round, according to MLBPipeline.com, in Virginia outfielder Joe McCarthy. McCarthy, the No. 68-ranked Draft prospect, missed a few months this season after undergoing back surgery in late January, but he comes with the potential of turning into an above-average power hitter from the left side of the plate.
Another pick of note was Lakewood (Calif.) High School shortstop Brendon Davis, who went to the Dodgers with the 162nd overall pick. Davis has been a member of the ever-expanding Urban Youth Academy since he was 9 years old, and he once delivered a speech at the 2010 MLB Beacon Awards luncheon in which he thanked then-Commissioner Bud Selig for supporting the UYA, speaking of his dream to one day play in the big leagues.
For the first time in this Draft, no players within MLBPipeline's Top 100 came off the board in the sixth round. The highest-ranked player selected was right-hander Jimmy Herget, who checks in at No. 105 and was taken by the Reds with the 175th overall pick.
The D-backs led off the round in familiar fashion, taking a collegiate right-handed pitcher for the fourth time in as many Day 2 rounds. This time around, it was Concordia University's Tyler Mark, who projects as a reliever, much like Arizona's fifth-round pick, Ryan Burr of Arizona State.
The Astros selected one of the most imposing pitchers on the Draft board, taking Oklahoma State southpaw Michael Freeman with the 199th overall pick. Freeman, who pitched primarily in relief with the Cowboys, is a towering left-hander listed at 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds.
Another intriguing pitcher taken in this round is Iowa right-hander Blake Hickman, who was taken three picks later by the White Sox. Hickman has had a rare journey to this point, initially being drafted as a catcher in the 20th round in 2012. He then went to Iowa where he remained only a catcher his freshman year before becoming a two-way player his sophomore season and turning solely to pitching this past year. He impressed at the 2014 Big Ten Conference tournament and in the Cape Cod League but struggled with his consistency this spring.
The Twins took an eighth-round flier on 6-foot-3, 225-pound Oak Forest Academy (Amite City, La.) first baseman Kolton Kendrick, whom MLB.com Draft and prospect expert Jim Callis labels as one of the best raw power hitters in the entire Draft. Callis added that there was talk at times that Kendrick could have gone as many as five rounds earlier than he did, and though it will take some work, he could be the type of player that has 30-homer potential if he can find a way to harness his power at the Major League level.
In Cal State-Fullerton righty Justin Garza, Round 8 also featured another pitcher who likely dropped significantly due to serious arm injuries, particularly Tommy John surgery. A healthy Garza could have gone in the first few rounds, but his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame -- coupled with his elbow surgery and other shoulder issues -- left some teams concerned about his long-term future. The Indians decided to take a chance on Garza and will now look to help the righty progress through his rehab in the coming months.
University of North Carolina right-hander Reilly Hovis, taken by the Marlins with pick No. 266 in Round 9, will be a name to watch. The 6-foot-3 junior was absolutely dominant in 2014, but he tumbled down Draft boards this spring after being limited to just three innings over two appearances due to Tommy John surgery. In 2014, before injury struck, Hovis went 9-1 with six saves and a 2.25 ERA, all while striking out 81 batters over 64 innings in 34 appearances. His rate of 11.39 strikeouts per nine innings was second only to then-TCU -- and current Royals -- reliever Brandon Finnegan among major college pitchers.
Round 9 was a big one for Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., as the Golden Griffins had not one but two players selected just two picks apart. The Blue Jays took third baseman Connor Panas with the 272nd overall pick, and the Indians followed by taking teammate Devon Stewart. Prior to this round, Canisius hadn't had a player selected this early since 1994, when Joseph Mamott was taken in the sixth round by the Red Sox.
The final round of Day 2 got off to a bit of an unusual start, with position players making up nine of the first 10 selections. That came after only 12 position players had been taken in each of the previous two rounds and no more than three in a row had been taken at any point during that span.
That trend evened out a bit with five of the next six selections being pitchers, including the Braves' selection of Navy right-hander Stephen Moore with the 300th overall pick. That made Moore the earliest player in Draft history to be taken out of Navy -- and the first player taken from Navy since Alex Azor and Preston Gainey were selected one round apart in 2012. It adds to an already historic season for the Naval Academy, as fellow alumni Mitch Harris (Cardinals) and Oliver Drake (Orioles) each debuted in the Majors earlier this season, Harris becoming the first Navy grad to play in the big leagues since 1921.
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.