Seton Hall made a memorable run in the Big East tournament a year ago and now, many of the players that fueled its run to the championship game are now achieving similar success at the professional level.
Seven players from last season’s 30-win team were either drafted or signed with Major League Baseball franchises in June – a testament to the success coach Rob Shepherd has achieved developing and preparing players for the next level in recent years. Seven affiliated signings in one summer is a program record and 17 players have been drafted in the past decade.
The first Seton Hall player to be drafted in June, pitcher Billy Layne Jr., was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 11th round and became one of the best pitchers in the Arizona League in a matter of months. In 10 appearances (five starts), Layne Jr. was dominant, pitching to a 1.63 earned run average over 27.2 innings of work. While demonstrating pinpoint control with 36 strikeouts and only four walks, opponents only hit .212 off the right hander and a promotion to A-ball is in the cards sooner rather than later.
Layne Jr. is not the only former Seton Hall pitcher who is off to a hot start at the professional level, as reliever Andrew Politi has thrived in the Boston Red Sox organization with his elite fastball. After being sent to the single-A short season Lowell Spinners’, Politi appeared in a team-high 21 games and served as the team’s closer late in the season. He compiled a 4.34 earned run average in 29 innings pitched and struck out 43 batters, good enough for fourth best on the team.
Former ace Shane McCarthy picked up where he left off at Seton Hall, pitching to a 2-0 record with a 1.35 earned run average in 20 innings of work out of the bullpen as he makes the transition to becoming a full-time reliever. Matt Leon has also found a home in a minor league bullpen after going undrafted as a member of the Los Angeles Angels organization alongside former Seton Hall teammate Derrick Jenkins. Cullen Dana also saw his name called in the 30th round when the Padres selected him, but he has not pitched as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.
As for the position players, both outfielder Ryan Ramiz and catcher Mike Alescio have found success with the Seattle Mariners and Milwaukee Brewers, respectively. After being drafted in the 23rd round by Seattle, Ramiz was sent to the organization’s Arizona rookie league affiliate and hit .298 in 47 games while displaying his versatility with clean defensive performances at all three outfield positions.
Alescio went undrafted, but that has not stopped him from making headway in the Brewers organization. In his first four games with Milwaukee’s Arizona rookie league team, Alescio hit .364 before being promoted to the Helena Brewers, where he showcased his defensive skills. A promotion to Milwaukee’s single-A affiliate is likely in the spring assuming he can turn around his .180 batting average in 21 games.
Since taking over in 2004, Shepherd has seen 25 of his players have their names called in the MLB Draft. Plenty of standout talents have taken the mound or stood in the batter’s box at Owen T. Carroll field, but the most recent graduates of the program may trump them all.
Tyler Calvaruso can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ tyler_calvaruso.