Cal Poly pitchers hope to go high in MLB Draft

Several Mustangs will have decisions to make when draft continues Friday after none picked in the first two rounds

jscroggin@thetribunenews.comJune 6, 2013 

Cal Poly pitcher Michael Holback is armed with a low-90s fastball, but he is relatively inexperienced even though he is a junior.

LAURA DICKINSON — ldickinson@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Reed Reilly still isn’t sure what he’s going to do when he gets the call. 

The Cal Poly sophomore pitcher, who tied the program’s single-season saves record this past season, has two more years of eligibility to play college baseball. 

He’s also likely to be selected in the MLB Draft today and have a scout dangle a six-figure signing bonus as bait. 

“It’s going to have to take a pretty good amount for me to go for the two remaining years,” said Reilly, who saw Cal Poly’s season end at the Los Angeles Regional at Jackie Robinson Stadium on Sunday. “Because I think we’re going to be a regional team next year, too. It’s not something where I’m just going to go for sure. 

“It’s not worth giving up two more years of college, having fun making a regional — I feel like we can go pretty far —  just for sitting around in the minor leagues and waiting to get called up. If the money’s good, then I’ll probably go, but if not, we’re going to make another run at regionals.”

Reilly was not specific about draft position or cash figures speaking at the Night of the Mustang banquet on Wednesday night. He’ll define “pretty good amount” when he hears an offer. 

But now that the Cal Poly baseball team has experienced its first taste of postseason success, the chance for another shot at glory could keep he and some other key pieces in San Luis Obispo. 

Several Mustangs are expected to be selected as the draft continues today and Saturday. 

None were selected in the first two rounds Thursday, but of those that are chosen today, they’ll most likely have a tough decision on whether to return to school or sign professionally. 

Head coach Larry Lee has said he’s hoping to retain Reilly (14 saves), the staff leader with a 2.29 ERA, and junior pitcher Michael Holback, Lee’s second option out of the bullpen. 

Cal Poly already must find replacements for ace starter and all-time single-season wins leader Joey Wagman, second baseman and leading hitter Denver Chavez and catcher Elliot Stewart, all seniors. 

Juniors Jimmy Allen, David Armendariz and Chase Johnson are also on the radar of MLB scouts. 

Allen (.299 BA, 1 HR, 39 RBI), a third baseman, and Armendariz (.271 BA, 3 HR, 23 RBI), a left-fielder, might not have lived up to heightened expectations this season, but they remain among Cal Poly’s representatives on the MLB’s draft database, which ranks the best available prospects. 

Though he pitched only sparingly just one season removed from serving as the primary closer, Johnson is actually the second highest-rated prospect on the team behind Reilly, mainly for his 93 mph fastball. 

They are followed in order by Allen, Armendariz and Holback, all juniors who stand to command larger signing bonuses this year than they would coming out as seniors. 

“Looking at the team that’s going to be coming back next year,” Holback said, “it’s kind of enticing to come back and want to play with them, but if I get the money and I get my shot, it’s kind of hard to give up this opportunity.”

Holback (3-2, 3.86 ERA) is armed with a low-90s fastball, but he is relatively inexperienced even though he is a junior. He used a season of eligibility playing for the Cal Poly club baseball team as a freshman before making 19 appearances as a sophomore and nearly doubling his innings in a breakout season this past year.  

“I can get to know the game better,” Holback said, “and I think that will help me improve my stats. I feel like I’ve been kind of young to the game just because I’ve only been a pitcher only for about two years, getting the concepts of the game and understanding what I need to do to be successful.” 

Cal Poly’s staff is expected to be bolstered by a pitching heavy recruiting class. 

Five pitchers were announced in a seven-player signing class last fall, and there could be a couple more on the way by the start of next season. 

Stockton St. Mary’s High standout Joey Caffese was 10-4 with a 1.97 ERA and struck out 88 in 67 2⁄3 innings for the CIF-Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoff finalist. 

San Jose Bellarmine High’s Justin Calomeni was 8-1 with a 1.07 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 78 1⁄3 innings for the Central Coast Section quarterfinalist. 

The Mustangs return starters Matt Imhof, Casey Bloomquist and Bryan Granger, and Reilly said he and Lee discussed a possible move to the starting rotation. 

Either way, Cal Poly could be depending on freshmen pitchers to step into vacated bullpen or starting roles. 

With RBI leader Nick Torres going into his junior season, three freshman positions starters back for their sophomore years, outfielder Alex Michaels due back from a leg injury and just two seniors gone from the everyday lineup, the Mustangs have a good shot to follow up on their Division program-record 40 victories with a third trip to an NCAA regional. 

They won their first postseason game since moving up from Division II in 1995, and it was enough to encourage Allen into making a declarative statement in the wake of two disappointing losses in Los Angeles. 

“It makes me just want to come back even more next year and have everyone 

experience it again, especially the incoming freshmen” Allen said after Sunday’s 8-5 elimination defeat against San Diego. “It was an unbelievable experience.” 

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