The first metro-east baseball player to have his name called Saturday in the Major League Draft on was former Lebanon High pitcher Zach Becherer.
The Rend Lake College sophomore was drafted in the 15th round by the Atlanta Braves with the 439th overall pick despite undergoing Tommy John surgery April 13 to repair elbow ligament damage.
Before his injury, Becherer was 2-1 with a 1.33 earned-run average in five games for Rend Lake. He struck out 43 in only 27 innings pitched and seemed on his way toward a big season after signing earlier with Delta State in Mississippi.
“I was getting better and better each time that I went out,” Becherer said. “Being drafted feels good, I’ve worked my butt off for it.”
Becherer found out about being drafted from his adviser, Jason Wood of St. Louis-based Arland Sports.
“Jason was texting me and he told me about it,” said Becherer, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander. “ I wasn’t even home so I couldn’t see it on TV at the time.”
Being drafted feels good, I’ve worked my butt off for it. Lebanon High graduate Zach Becherer
Becherer’s signing bonus package, which includes money for college, is reportedly in the $275,000 range.
Becherer said his doctor told him he is at least eight to 12 months away from getting back on a mound. It could take up to 18 months for a full recovery, but he seems excited about a chance to begin his professional career once healthy.
“I thought there was a chance I’d be drafted because of how well I was doing, but I wasn’t sure if I would be or not,” he said.
How has Becherer changed since his days pitching at Lebanon High?
“I’ve got a lot more control,” he said. “I feel like I’m smarter on the mound and don’t let anything get to me. I just block everything out and just throw my game.”
Lebanon has a proud tradition when it comes to pitchers being drafted. Neal Cotts, currently pitching in Class AAA with the New York Yankees, spent 10 seasons in the major leagues and was a second-round draft pick in 2001 by the Oakland A’s out of Illinois State University.
Former Lebanon pitcher Wes Brooks was a 23rd round pick by the Boston Red Six in 1992 after starring at Southwestern Illinois College, while former Lebanon, SWIC and University of New Orleans pitcher Jason Faust — now the Marissa High baseball coach — was a 36th round pick by Oakland in 1997.
Wood also represents Waterloo High senior Jordan McFarland, a University of Arkansas recruit who was expected to be drafted in the top 10 rounds. Instead, McFarland was drafted in the 36th round (1,084th overall) by the Washington Nationals.
“The family puts a value on what it would cost to forgo the University of Arkansas, and that’s different for every family,” Wood said “An SEC (Southeastern Conference) scholarship like McFarland has is worth a lot of money.
“I think every situation is different, but I hold the University of Arkansas in high regard and so does Jordan. The SEC is the best conference in all of the country.”
I think every situation is different, but I hold the University of Arkansas in high regard and so does Jordan. The SEC (Southeastern Conference) is the best conference in all of the country. Adviser Jason Wood on Jordan McFarland’s decision to play for Arkansas
Wood said a dollar figure was set on what it would have taken for a team to draft and sign McFarland. Several teams reportedly checked in with lesser offers at various points in the draft, but were told the original offer still stood.
As a result, McFarland will begin his collegiate career at Arkansas later this year. Several teams showed interest in McFarland and the Nationals flew him to their home ballpark for a workout.
Wood compared McFarland’s situation to other high profile players from the metro-east, including Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi from Highland and University of Missouri sophomore pitcher Tanner Houck from Collinsville.
“McFarland held firm, Tanner Houck held firm, Odorizzi held firm,” Wood said. “It’s real tough on the players because they’re young. They get their mind set on something and then it doesn’t happen. It’s just a roller coaster.”
Odorizzi signed with the Milwakuee Brewers right out of high school while Houck, a 12th round pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014, opted to go to Missouri. Houck is already being mentioned as a potential first-round draft pick in 2017.
“These kids develop in college, they get bigger and stronger and face better competition,” Wood said.
Wood also represents Riley Pint, a high school pitcher taken fourth overall this year by the Colorado Rockies. Wood estimated Pint’s signing bonus package at roughly $4.8 million.
Another Wood client was former Arkansas standout outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi was drafted in the 30th round out of high school and didn’t sign, electing to play for the Razorbacks in college instead.
The gamble paid off when Benintendi won the Golden Spikes Award last spring as the nation’s top collegiate player and received a bonus of $3.69 million to sign with the Red Sox as the seventh overall pick.
On Friday, former Alton High catcher Brent Gibbs was chosen in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Parkland College freshman right-hander Brady Schanuel, a Belleville East graduate, was drafted in the 36th round (1,072nd overall) by the Oakland A’s on Saturday. He signed with Ole Miss earlier this year and will begin his college career there as a sophomore.
“We couldn’t match up on the money so we had to pass on it,” Schanuel said Saturday. “It’s a little nerve-wracking to try to know when teams are going to draft you, but at the end of the day I know I can head to Ole Miss and be in a great program for two years and hopefully go through this again. Hopefully get my name get called a little earlier.”
Schanuel said the process was definitely interesting.
“It’s kind of like I’m betting on myself to get better,” he said. “I’ve still got some growing to do and the coaches at Ole Miss will be great. They’re going to teach me a lot of things.”
Highland High graduate and Lindenwood-St. Charles right-hander Geoff Hartlieb, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior, was draft in the 29th round (885th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2015, Hartlieb was drafted in the 37th round by the New York Mets.