While it has been awhile since Washington State has had a top MLB prospect, each year a significant number of Cougars are drafted into the professional ranks. WSU had five players drafted in 2017, and eight combined in the two years before that. More than a few former Cougs are working their way through the minors in hopes of a shot in the big leagues.
Three players were drafted off Marty Lees’ first team at WSU in 2016, but only relief pitcher Ian Hamilton is still playing this year. Hamilton was drafted in the 11th round by the Chicago White Sox. He was assigned to their Single-A affiliate and recorded eight saves with an era of 3.69 in his first season.
Hamilton started this year playing for Double-A Birmingham, but was sent back down after giving up 11 earned runs in 17.2 innings pitched. He’s yet to give up a run since being demoted, but his path to the White Sox isn’t an easy one.
Layne Bruner and Trek Stemp were also drafted in 2016, but both only lasted one season in professional baseball.
From WSU’s 2015 class, Ian Sagdal, Joe Pistorese, and Matt Bower are still on minor league rosters.
Sagdal, an infielder in the Washington Nationals system, hit .303 with 10 home runs for Single-A Hagerstown in 2016. This year, he’s playing for High-A Potomac and his bat is taking some time to adjust. Sagdal’s batting average has slipped to .252 but he’s already left the yard seven times in 2017.
After starting for the Cougs, Pistorese has transitioned into a relief role in the Seattle Mariners Organization. He’s pitched well with High-A Modesto this year. Striking out 20 in 18.2 innings with a 2.89 ERA. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got promoted before the season is over.
Bower, a starting pitcher drafted by the Houston Astros, has had a rough start to 2017. In seven starts for High-A Buis Creek, Bower has an ERA of 6.08 and has given up eight home runs. He has shown upside, however, as last year he struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings.
Overall, the odds are stacked against any of the three eventually breaking through and making it to the major’s. If I had to pick one, I would go with Bower because the ability to generate swinging strikes is highly coveted. Maybe a move to the bullpen could help his career.
From less recent drafts, Cougs still playing professionally are Nick Tanielu, Tanner Chleborad and Taylor Ard. Tanielu is currently in the Houston Astros organization but out with an ACL injury; Chleborad has a 2.93 ERA in 27 2⁄3 innings out of the bullpen for the Frederick Keys at the A level of the Baltimore Orioles organization; and Ard is with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, the AA affiliate of the Miami Marlins, hitting .237/.321/.366 in 63 games.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the most notable Cougar alum playing professional baseball currently in Adam Conley.
Drafted in 2011 by the Miami Marlins, Conley made his major league debut in 2015. He had an ERA of 3.85 in 25 starts in 2016, but struggled at the start of this season and was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans.
You can find the full list of drafted Cougs here.
How long do you think it will be before a Coug besides Conley makes it to the majors, and who will it be?
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