Baseball – Shore Trio Selected in MLB Draft
Three Shore Conference baseball standouts - both past and present - heard their names called on the final day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.
Figuratively speaking, anyway.
"I was listening to all of the picks (on the MLB.com live feed) and I stepped away for just a minute or two, and of course, that's when I got picked," Red Bank Catholic senior pitcher/shortstop Al Molina said.
"I didn't want to just sit there watching the screen," Felecian College red-shirt junior pitcher and Henry Hudson graduate Jerry Vasto said. "If it was going to happen, it didn't matter if I was listening to it. I just kind of did my own thing and waited for someone to let me know."
Whether preoccupied with other things or anxiously waiting to hear their name on the live stream, Molina, Vasto and Wake Forest right-hander Connor Kaden - a Toms River South grad - were all selected on the draft's final day, ranging from rounds 24 to 29.
The Colorado Rockies selected Vasto in the 24th round with the 713th overall selection and the San Francisco Giants nabbed Kaden less than 100 picks later in the 27th round with the 808th selection.
The Philadelphia Phillies made Molina the 862nd overall player taken by using their 29th-round pick on the Caseys' two-way talent. Molina was the lone Shore Conference high school player selected during the draft and was the fourth of 10 New Jersey high school players selected.
According to Molina, he attended two pre-draft workouts, the second after the Phillies invited him back following his first workout.
"I got the feeling that they had some real interest in me just from the conversations I had with their people and based on the pre-draft workouts," Molina said. "I got a call earlier today telling me that they were working on getting the pick done, and then I didn't hear for a little while. Next thing I know, I got picked."
Molina was a three-year starter at shortstop for Red Bank Catholic and was drafted by the Phillies as an infielder. He also emerged as one of the more dominant pitchers in the Shore Conference over the last two seasons thanks to a fastball that topped 90 miles-per-hour and a wipe-out breaking ball.
This past season, Molina hit .451 with two home runs, a triple, seven doubles and a .615 slugging percentage. He also struck out 62 in 36 2/3 innings while walking 16 and pitching to a 0.57 ERA.
Molina is currently committed to play at Coastal Carolina University, but will consider an offer from the Phillies to forego college and begin playing in their system, citing a desire to ultimately play professional baseball, as well as the draw of potentially playing in nearby Lakewood with Philadelphia's low Class-A affiliate.
Like any other player in Molina's situation, however, he also acknowledged that the price has to be right.
"I've been given a great opportunity to play at Coastal (Carolina)," said Molina, whose offer will likely depend on how the Phillies allocate their $8 million-plus MLB-mandated draft budget. "I've had a good time with those guys when I've been down there and in order for me to turn down that opportunity, it's going to take a good offer. My ultimate goal is to play professional baseball, but I don't want to play for peanuts."
MLB advises its 20 teams with recommended draft slot values through the first 10 rounds, with the final 16 picks of the 10th round carrying a slot value of $137,600 each, according to Baseball America.
Vasto just finished a red-shirt junior season at Felician during which he helped lead the Golden Falcons to a Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference championship and an NCAA Division II National Regional appearance. He also established his draft profile by increasing his top fastball velocity from 87 miles-per-hour as a red-shirt freshman to 94 mph this past season.
During his red-shirt junior campaign, Vasto went 6-3 with a 1.84 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings while walking 29 and allowing 53 hits.
"I hit 91 (mph) in the fall of my sophomore year in school and it took me by surprise," Vasto said. "I got a chance to go down and play in the Coastal Plains Summer League in North Carolina and that gave me the confidence to pitch against really good competition. Once this past fall came around, I was throwing the ball pretty well and the scouts started to show up, and that's when I knew I had a chance to get noticed."
A 2010 Henry Hudson graduate and the first alumnus of the Atlantic Highlands school to be drafted since 1986, Vasto led the Admirals to the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship game as a senior and was an All Shore Media All-Shore selection as a utility player thanks to a potent bat to go with his left arm.
He went into his freshman season at Felician expecting to compete for playing time at first base, but Golden Falcons head coach Chris Langan had other ideas for the left-hander and began his conversion to a full-time pitcher by red-shirting him during the 2011 season.
"It's all been pretty crazy," said Vasto, who was scouted and chosen by Rockies Northeast Scouting Supervisor Mike Garlatti. "I'm just glad a team thought enough of me to give me a chance. I'm excited to have a chance to pitch for the Rockies organization, and I can't wait to get my pro career started."
Kaden completed his third season on the mound with the Demon Deacons with a 3.52 ERA in 61 1/3 innings while striking out 52 and walking 26. Kaden topped out in the low-90-miles-per-hour range during his senior year at Toms River South with a big curveball for an out-pitch. His 2011 senior season with the Indians netted him a second-team All-Shore selection.