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June 8, 2014

Five Ivies Taken In MLB First-Year Player Draft

MLB Draft Central | Results

Portions of this story courtesy of Brown Athletics Communications, Columbia Sports Information/Media Relations and Cornell and Princeton Athletic Communications

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Five Ivies were taken in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, conducted on Friday and Saturday, June 6-7. Cornell's Brent Jones and Princeton's Michael Fagan were the first to go, as they were taken on the first day by the Diamondbacks and Athletics, respectively. Fagan's teammate Alec Keller (Nationals), Columbia's David Speer (Indians) and Brown's JJ Franco (Braves) were drafted on the second and final day.

Jones was taken by Arizona in the fourth round (120th overall), to become the highest Major League Draft pick from Cornell. He just completed his junior season with the Big Red, earning All-Ivy Honorable Mention after posting a 2-3 record with a 2.50 earned-run average and 47 strikeouts in nine starts.
 
At the Big Red's Scout Day in Fall 2013, Jones was consistently throwing his fastball 93-95 mph. It topped out at 96 mph that day, and was clocked as high as 97 mph throughout the season. That raw velocity and the ability to maintain that velocity throughout a six- or seven-inning start is one of his biggest strengths.
 
"It seems everyone throws 93 or 94 mph in the Major Leagues now, so you have to throw 95 or 96 to raise an eyebrow," said Bill Walkenbach '98, the Ted Thoren Head Coach of Baseball. "There's a lot of velocity out there right now, but Brent has got a plus-curveball that they really, really like and should play at the next level."
 
The earliest draft pick in program history was previously Chris Schutt, who was selected in the seventh round with the 208th overall pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2003. The last time a Cornellian was selected was in 2011, when the Boston Red Sox nabbed Jadd Schmeltzer in the 49th round — though rising senior Roberto Suppa was selected in the 26th round by the San Diego Padres in the same draft, coming out of high school.
 
"In the Major Leagues, everyone's throwing in the mid- to upper-90s, and Brent Jones is already throwing mid- to upper-90s," said Scott Marsh, who serves as the Big Red's pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. "Usually, pitchers don't peek out on their velocity until they get to their mid- to upper-20s. Also, the ability to spin his breaking pitches – especially his curveball — is always a good thing. Scouts love guys who can spin the ball aggressively, because it's another indication of arm speed and potential increases in velocity to come."

Fagan was selected by Oakland in the ninth round (282nd overall). He is the third Tiger pitcher in as many seasons to be selected, joining Zak Hermans (2013) and Matt Bowman (2012), who were taken by the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets in the 30th and 13th rounds, respectively.

Since 1965, 45 Princeton baseball players have been drafted, including 20 since 2000. Fagan was also selected out of high school in the 2010 draft by his hometown San Diego Padres (45th round -1354th overall), but did not sign.

Piecing together a tremendous senior season, Fagan garnered first-team All-Ivy accolades. Tossing 58.0 innings, the lefty posted a 4-2 overall record in nine starts. Leading the conference in strikeouts (77), he issued just 18 walks while holding opponents to a .213 batting average. Going the distance in three games, Fagan surrendered just 15 earned runs.

Striking out 10 batters in a 7-3 win over Michigan on Mar. 7, he allowed just one hit while fanning eight in a 1-0 shutout victory over Navy on March 22. Recording a career-high 11 strikeouts in seven innings against Brown on April 5, he issued just three free passes in a 3-2 Princeton triumph. Fagan would match his personal-best with 11 K's against Penn on April 20 and Cornell on April 27.

Fagan was the sixth pitcher - and first left-hander - selected by the A's this season. Chosen in 1986, Drew Stratton was the only other Tiger ever drafted by Oakland.

Selected in the 17th round by the Washington Nationals, 514th overall, Keller became the second Tiger in as many days to be drafted. The reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, Keller is the 46th Princeton player to be chosen since 1965 and the 21st since 2000.

The second-straight Tiger to be named the conference's Player of the Year, Keller pieced together a tremendous senior season, finishing second in the league in batting average (.327), fourth in on-base percentage (.396) and hits (48), sixth in slugging (.476), seventh in total bases (70) and tied for ninth in stolen bases (7). Driving in 19 runs, he legged out an Ivy-best four triples with eight doubles and two home runs in 38 appearances.

Hitting safely in 26 games, he had 13-multi hit outings to his credit including a season-high four base-knocks against UNC Greensboro. Notching three hits in a contest on seven occasions in 2014, Keller had a season-best 11-game hit streak from March 23 to April 12.

Splitting time between second base and centerfield as a senior, Keller picked up first-team All-Ivy accolades for the third-consecutive year. Just the third Tiger to accomplish the feat, he joins Bob Schiffner (1969-71) and Dan Arendas (1984-86).

Starting 24-of-30 games as a freshman, Keller hit .276 with three doubles and 13 runs scored. Earning his first All-Ivy selection the following season, he hit .346 with a .393 OBP, 18 RBI, four doubles and 22 runs scored. During his junior year, Keller batted a career-best .378 with a .435 on-base and .538 slugging percentage. Driving in 17 runs, he posted nine doubles and four home runs.

Speer was drafted in the 27th Round Saturday by Cleveland. He becomes the 18th player in program history to be drafted since the inception of the amateur draft in 1965. His selection also marks the third straight season that Columbia has had at least one player drafted. Head coach Brett Boretti has now had six players drafted during his tenure at the helm of Columbia baseball.

During his senior season, Speer (7-2) ranked among the most dominant pitchers, not only in the Ivy League, but nationally. He recorded four complete-game shutouts, while his 10.7-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the second-best nationally.

His 87 innings this season is the second-highest single-season total in program history, while his seven wins was just one shy of tying the program’s single-season record. His 0.72 walks per nine innings became the new program standard.

During the Ancient Eight slate, Speer posted a 4-0 record in five starts, striking out 32, while allowing just one walk. His 1.06 ERA was the second-lowest in conference-only games. The Westport, Connecticut, native continued to get better throughout the season, putting together two phenomenal outings in the Gehrig Division playoff and the Ivy League Championship Series opener, winning both games for the Lions.

Speer was a two-time first team All-Ivy selection, posting a career 2.96 ERA, the 10th-lowest ever in program history. Among Speer’s stellar career statistics, he reached the top-10 in the Columbia record books in complete games (11, 10th), games started (35, sixth), innings pitched  (231, fifth), strikeouts (198, fifth) and wins (18, third).

Franco was drafted in the 38th round (1,153rd overall) by Atlanta. A former All-Ivy selection, Franco becomes the first Brown draftee since Matt Colantonio in 2011, who was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 22nd round.

Franco is coming off an impressive senior season with the Bears, as he paced the team in batting average, and started all 37 contests between shortstop and second base. Franco put together 10 multi-hit contests, and also added a team-high three triples to go along with five doubles. A patient hitter, he ranked fourth on the team with 17 RBI and drove in a trio of runs in two games.