David Armendariz was disappointed when the Major League Baseball Draft came and went in June without his name being called.
But after a junior season in San Luis Obispo that might not have lived up to his expectations at the plate, the Cal Poly outfielder has spent the summer in the next-best place to the minors — the Cape Cod Baseball League.
The summer collegiate league in Massachusetts is run similarly to local franchises such as the San Luis Obispo Blues and North County Indians, but, a veritable proving ground for
future Major League players, the Cape Cod League gets top prospects and scouting scrutiny more intense than of any of the dozens of offseason leagues around the country.
“Cape Cod is such a beautiful place,” Armendariz told The Tribune by phone Saturday, “and then when it comes to baseball, you’re getting the best competition there is in the nation. I’m playing against all these great players, and just hearing and seeing how they play the game is an experience in itself.
“Obviously, things didn’t work out the way we had hoped, but I look at it as everything happens for a reason, and now I’m playing at this competitive level; it’s only making me better.”
In a junior season that can make or break your draft prospects, Armendariz hit .271 for the Mustangs, including 11 doubles, one triple, three home runs and 23 RBI.
He was the fifth-leading hitter on a 40-19 team that won its first Division I regional game in program history but had its season derailed by eventual College World Series champion UCLA.
Armendariz was solid but did not have the breakout performance that would have made him a prized pick.
With the Aug. 4 season finale approaching in Cape Cod, Armendariz is batting .265 with five doubles, one home run and seven RBI in 72 at-bats. He’s the fifth-leading hitter for the Brewster Whitecaps, who are 13-22 on the summer.
Those numbers, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said, are more impressive than they appear in a wood-bat league stacked with elite pitching prospects.
“He’s holding his own right now,” Lee said. “He’s able to get his hit per game and be productive. If you look at their lineup and see where some of the averages are, there are a lot of low ones, and there’s very few players that have a high batting average.”
Armendariz, who has started 125 games in his first three seasons with the Mustangs, will return to a Cal Poly lineup that lost only senior second baseman Denver Chavez.
It will also be a very crowded outfield.
Two-year starter Nick Torres returns in right field, and returning junior Jordan Ellis was a breakout star in center field last season.
Alex Michaels was playing well in left before being lost for the season with a knee injury and will return looking to reclaim a starting spot.
Include Santa Barbara City College transfer Zach Zehner, who is hitting .340 in the Northwoods (Minn.) League, and incoming freshman Kevin Morgan, hitting .311 for the North County Indians, and Armendariz will have to fight to stay in the lineup, Lee said.
“And they know they’re being watched,” Lee said. “They need to have productive summers.”
Being the only Cal Poly player playing in Cape Cod this summer has certainly prepared Armendariz mentally for the challenge. Each game, he said, 15 to 20 scouts watch players’ every move from batting practice to the final pitch of the ninth inning.
And the measure of success he has had provides a boost of confidence.
“I want this solid approach, and I want to have quality at-bats,” Armendariz said. “And what I’m taking away from here because I’m facing this competition: This approach works at this high of a level, and these are unbelievable games that we’re playing.”