SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Eight members of the UC Santa Barbara baseball program were selected on Wednesday in the final day of the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
The Gauchos' eight picks in this year's draft tied Long Beach State for the most of any Big West school. Since Checketts' hiring in 2012, no Big West program has more MLB draftees than UCSB's 35.
A trio of Gauchos were selected in the 15th round, with junior first baseman Austin Bush going first to the Atlanta Braves with the 440th overall selection. Junior right-handed reliever Alex Garcia followed three picks later, going to the Philadelphia Phillies with the 443rd overall selection, then junior left-handed pitcher Kyle Nelson became the third UCSB player selected in the round, going 462nd overall to the Cleveland Indians.
Colton Burns, selected 526th overall with the first pick of the 18th round, was the last Gaucho to go in the top 20 rounds.
Late-round selections included junior shortstops Clay Fisher (27th round, Cincinnati) and JJ Muno (27th round, Chicago White Sox), redshirt junior right-hander Joe Record (28th round, Minnesota), and junior infielder Kenny Corey (36th round, Milwaukee)
Bush, a Turlock native, is coming off a historic season for the Gauchos, as the power-hitting first baseman launched a single season program-record 20 home runs in 2017 en route to All-Big West First Team honors. The 6-6, 265-pound slugger caught fire late in the season, hitting 10 home runs over the final 12 games of the year. Not just a power threat, he showed a well-rounded approach this past year in setting new career-bests with a .303 batting average and a .372 on-base percentage. With 34 career roundtrippers, he is the program's single-season and career home run champion in the BBCOR era. Bush was a key piece of UCSB's run to the College World Series in 2016, hitting four homers in the postseason and earning the Vanderbilt Regional MVP award.
Garcia, a Whittier native, has shown flashes of brilliance at UCSB, averaging over a strikeout per inning in each of his three seasons on campus. His most effective season came in 2016 when he recorded a 2.31 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings.
Nelson dazzled in two years out of the bullpen (1.44 ERA, 12 saves) before making the transition to the rotation this year, going 6-4 with a 4.51 ERA and a team-high 69 strikeouts over 87 1/3 innings. A 2017 Preseason All-American, his .230 batting average against was fourth best in the Big West. The San Francisco native and 2016 All-Big West First Teamer set a program record by going 49 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run over his freshman and sophomore seasons. Should he sign, Nelson will join 2016 draftees Andrew Calica and Shane Bieber, both teammates on the College World Series team, in the Cleveland organization.
In his first year at UCSB, Burns impressed out of the leadoff spot with a team-best .308 average, .422 on-base percentage, and 32 walks. The Valencia native and College of the Canyons transfer ranked in the top-five conference-wide in average, on-base percentage, hits, walks, and runs for most of the year before suffering a knee injury that limited him to eight games in May. Burns played mostly second base at UCSB, but was listed as an outfielder by Minnesota in the official draft conference call.
Former double play partners Clay Fisher and JJ Muno were both taken in the 27th round. Fisher was a 2017 Preseason All-American and was noted as one of the premier defensive players in college baseball, but had his season cut short after 15 games due to an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery. Muno, who led the team with a .379 batting average in the 2016 postseason, filled in for Fisher at shortstop this season and did a fine job, earning an All-Big West Honorable Mention.
Like Fisher, Record missed the majority of the season with an elbow ailment. He was a key piece of the 2016 College World Series however, authoring a 3.91 ERA as the Sunday starter and earning the victory in the Vanderbilt Regional final over Xavier.
Corey was a solid all-around player in his first year at UCSB, batting .299 and serving as the starting third baseman. He hit a team-best .345 in league play, including a torrid stretch where he hit .593 during a seven-game hit streak with 14 runs scored.
Five UCSB signees also had their name called on the Draft's final day: infielder Jason Willow (24th round, Baltimore, Lambrick Park Secondary School), infielder Jesus Azuaje (25th round, Philadelphia, Glendale CC), left-handed pitcher Jorge Arellano (36th round, Cleveland, Downey HS), right-handed pitcher Ben Fariss (39th round, Toronto, Valenci HS) and outfielder Cole Kleszcz (40th round, Cleveland, College of the Canyons).
Keep up-to-date with all things UCSB baseball all summer long by following the team Twitter account here.
UCSB's 2017 Major League Baseball Draftees
|Name||Position||Round||Overall Selection||Team||Key Stats|
|Austin Bush||1B||15||440||Atlanta Braves||UCSB record 20 HR in 2017|
|Alex Garcia||RHP||15||443||Philadelphia Phillies||Career: 9.2 K/9|
|Kyle Nelson||LHP||15||462||Cleveland Indians||Career: 1.44 ERA, 12 saves as reliever|
|Colton Burns||OF||18||526||Minnesota Twins||.308 AVG, .422 BA|
|Clay Fisher||SS||27||797||Cincinnati Reds||.971 career fielding percentage|
|JJ Muno||SS||27||807||Chicago White Sox||.379 AVG in 2016 postseason|
|Joe Record||RHP||28||826||Minnesota Twins||6-5, 3.91 ERA as Sunday starter in 2016|
|Kenny Corey||INF||36||1,074||Milwaukee Brewers||.345 batting average in league play|