By Kelly Hayes
Each year, only about 1 percent of the players eligible for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) First-Year Player Draft will actually be drafted, and only 10 percent of all players who sign a professional contract will ever play one day in the majors.
Even with these dismal statistics, several seniors from UCSB baseball could see their names on the list of 2005 MLB draftees on June 7 and 8.
With seven seniors on the roster, draft day could be a big day for UCSB. Seniors right fielder Matt Wilkerson, shortstop Chris Malec, catcher Matt Kalafatis, right-handed pitchers Alex McRobbie and Loren Fraser, third baseman Dave Figoni and left fielder Matt Stevens will all play the last series of their collegiate careers next weekend at Northridge. Over the last two years, the Gauchos have had six players taken in the draft and are expecting that number to increase this June.
“I think five of the seven have a decent shot at being drafted…. I think Malec, Wilkerson and McRobbie will [get drafted] and I think Fraser and Kalafatis should get drafted,” Head Coach Bob Brontsema said.
After being drafted straight from high school by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2001, senior right fielder Matt Wilkerson opted to attend UCSB. Now, four years later, he appears to be the senior with the best prospects of having his name called on draft day.
“You have to look at Wilkerson in just his raw tools. You certainly think that’s what the scouts like,” Brontsema said. “He’s always working on his swing and if he can cut down on his strikeouts, he has a chance to go far.”
Wilkerson’s toolbox includes a 6’4″, 225-pound frame, a quality arm in right field and a swing built for driving in runs. In his four years as a Gaucho, Wilkerson has compiled some impressive statistics. His 41 career home runs tie him for the UCSB all-time record, while his 181 RBI are good for fifth highest in Gaucho baseball history.
All of the draft prospects have been playing in front of a steady audience of major league scouts throughout their Gaucho careers. Yet they still understand the uncertainty of the draft.
“You talk a lot with scouts, but it’s just talk. They just try to get a feel for the type of person you are,” Wilkerson said. “It really comes down to what scout sees you on the right day and what teams like you and when they decide to pick you. A lot goes into it and there is very little that we can control about it.”
Malec has been a staple in the Gaucho infield since his freshman year, earning All-Big West First Team honors in 2004.
After finishing last season with a 1.51 ERA, this year McRobbie has set new career and single-season saves records at UCSB with 16 and 12, respectively.
Kalafatis and Fraser came to UCSB after two-year stints at junior colleges. Fraser has been the Gauchos’ go-to setup man, throwing 110.2 innings in his two years, while Kalafatis earned the starting job behind the plate last year with his .322 average.
Despite their many accolades and successes, Santa Barbara’s potential draftees have no way of knowing their professional fates until draft day. They can only wait and see if they can avoid becoming just another statistic.
“It’s the day these players have waited for their whole lives, so they bring in lots of expectations and things don’t always go the way they want,” Brontsema said. “With great expectations come great disappointments and that’s what comes with the draft.”