Six players with Chattanooga-area ties were selected Tuesday in the second day of the Major League Baseball draft, and two National League teams dipped into the area twice.
Staff Photo by Dan Henry In this March 24, 2009 photo, Bradley Central High School's catcher Ryan Casteel, 2, plays against Cleveland High School Tuesday evening at home.
None of the group is coming straight from the high school ranks.
The Colorado Rockies, who drafted Baylor's Tyler Massey two years ago and wooed him away from a University of Virginia scholarship, selected Ryan Casteel and Blake McDade, and the New York Mets took pitchers Ryan Fraser and Hamilton Bennett.
The Seattle Mariners drafted Tennessee Tech closer Stephen Pryor, a former Cleveland State pitcher from Mount Juliet, in the fifth round. The San Francisco Giants claimed Lee University shortstop Jose Cuevas.
Pryor said he expected to get a call Tuesday night with particulars about a contract offer and where and when he would begin his professional career. Though he was only 4-4 with four saves and a 5.71 earned run average this year for Tech, the Ohio Valley Conference regular-season champion, he had 75 strikeouts in 41 innings.
"They said I had a strong fastball and they could see me making it to the majors in three or four years as a relief pitcher," Pryor said.
He went to Seattle for a tryout on June 1 and to Philadelphia last Saturday.
"Last year he was throwing in the upper 80s and touching the low 90s, and this year he made the jump to 96-98 (mph)," Cleveland State coach Mike Policastro said. "He was a really good kid who always worked hard."
Pryor, who is married to the former Christian Hudgens of Chattanooga, said he was told he was a rounds 6-10 draft prospect until about a month ago. He moved up to third-to-fifth-round status after scouts saw him regularly hitting 98 mph against Middle Tennessee State.
"I'm definitely going to sign," said MTSU first baseman and outfielder McDade, one of five Blue Raiders picked Tuesday. "I saw my name pop up on the (computer) screen and I got excited. About 30 seconds after that, the area scout called and told me he'd be in touch.
"This is what I have been looking forward to since I was a little kid. It's been a dream my whole life. I'm glad I'm getting the opportunity. Hopefully I can make the best of it."
McDade, an Ooltewah teammate of former first-round pick Kyler Burke, who is in the Cubs' minor league system. led MTSU in batting most of his senior season, finishing with a .399 average, 89 hits, 19 doubles and 47 RBIs.
The Rockies earlier picked Cleveland State catcher Casteel from Bradley Central.
"It was good that he had a chance to come over here and play and see the difference in high school and college, and pro ball is another step he'll have to make," Policastro said. "I'm really happy for him. His intent was to go (pro) when he came here."
As a freshman for the Cougars, Casteel hit .350 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs. He also improved his overall defense and even cut the time on his throws to second base.
Tuesday's area draft picks
Mariners: Stephen Pryor, Cleveland State/Tenn. Tech, RHP, fifth round
Mets: Ryan Fraser, Walker Valley/Memphis, RHP, 16th round; Hamilton Bennett, Tennessee Wesleyan, LHP, 29th round;
Rockies: Ryan Casteel, Bradley Central/Cleveland State, C, 17th round; Blake McDade, Ooltewah/MTSU, 1B, 20th round
Giants: Jose Cuevas, Lee University, SS, 29th round
Mike Turner, who coached Fraser at Walker Valley, said of the University of Memphis right-hander: "Ryan was just a big ol' boy who threw hard, but he has since learned to pitch. He's 6-foot-4 and I'm sure they like his size, but Ryan has worked to get where he is. I always used Ryan as an
example: If you work hard, good things can happen."
Fraser went 7-4 but had a win over then 14th-ranked Oklahoma plus two complete games.
"From what their scouting director said earlier, it looks like I might be going to Brooklyn (short-season Class A)," Fraser said. "In talking with other clubs before the draft, I had heard that I might be a starter or I might be a reliever. I'm just going to get ready to do both."
Cuevas came to Lee from the Bronx, N.Y.
"He's a very toolsy guy. He's 6-2, 180 with a good arm, and he's a good defender," Lee coach Mark Brew said. "He had some juice in his bat. As a matter of fact, he hit a walk-off home run in our first game at the nationals."
Cuevas hit .360 with nine home runs and 66 RBIs for the NAIA runners-up.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...