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Another year and another set of UVA Baseball players drafted in MLB Draft

O’Connor saw yet another set of players get drafted in last week’s MLB Draft

Coach O’Connor - Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Since Brian O’Connor arrived in Charlottesville in 2004, Virginia Cavaliers being selected in the Major League Baseball Draft has been a regular occurrence and 2022 was no different. For the 14th time in O’Connor’s tenure, at least four Cavaliers were selected by Major League clubs.

Nate Savino got the draft started for Virginia when he was selected in Round 3, 82nd overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The third year lefty compiled a 6-6 record with a 3.69 in 15 starts in 2022. For his career, Savino had a 10-9 record with a 3.71 serving in Virginia’s weekend rotation. His selection marks the third time since 2017 that the Diamondbacks have selected a Cavalier in the first three rounds, joining Pavin Smith and Jake McCarthy as Hoos making the trek from Charlottesville to the desert.

In Round Nine, the Los Angeles Dodgers took left handed reliever Brandon Neeck with the 405th overall pick. Neeck posted a 4.04 ERA and a 2-2 record in six starts and eleven appearances out of the bullpen. He racked up 57 strikeouts in 42 innings of work this season and made a name for himself during the Cavaliers’ run to Omaha in 2021. During Virginia’s win over Old Dominion in the Columbia Regional, Neeck pitched 5.2 shutout innings with 16 of his 17 outs recorded coming by strike out. His draft selection carries with it a slot value of 156K, and while he does have another year of eligibility, he’s completed four years at UVA, so I’d expect Neeck to join the professional ranks.

The Dodgers weren’t done selecting Wahoos however as in the 13th Round, Los Angeles selected centerfielder Chris Newell 405th overall. Newell batted .258 with 12 home runs and was second in stolen bases with 16 in 2022. Newell burst onto the scene in the pandemic shortened 2020 season earning Co-National Freshman of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, but wasn’t able to replicate that form during his second or third years. However, his stellar defense gave Virginia a rock in the center of the field as evidenced by his Sportscenter Top-10 worthy robbing of a potential Dallas Baptist home run in the 2021 Super Regional.

Newell’s selection doesn’t carry with a slot value signing bonus as it occurred outside of the top ten rounds, however I’d be surprised if he returns to Charlottesville.

Finally, in the 20th Round with the 614th pick, the Tampa Bay Rays selected Matt Wyatt. In 2022, Wyatt was 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA with two starts in 15 appearances. The third year right hander was one of Virginia’s top arms out of the bullpen during the 2021 season posting a 4-2 record with a 11.7 K/9 Inning rate. Like Newell, his pick doesn’t carry a slot value and he has another year of eligibility so his return to Charlottesville is unknown.

In addition to the holes left by players on the current roster, the MLB Draft can leave college coaches left to wonder whether their recruits will make it to campus. Virginia generally had at least one player selected out of high school who chooses professional baseball over Grounds. This year, there were two recruits in the top-100 who were potential draft picks however neither Jack O’Connor (RHP) nor Bradley Hodges (LHP) were selected so expect the recruiting class to stay intact.