Baseball – On the Clock: 2023 MLB Draft Hopefuls from the Jersey Shore
At the beginning of this past week, Major League Baseball wrapped up its First-Year Player Draft for 2022 and four Shore Conference alumni were selected -- all in rounds four through seven.
The Shore has maintained a presence in the draft, whether supplying Big-League teams with talent out of the college ranks or straight out of high school. In 2023, that trend is not only likely to continue, but it could be a banner year for the Shore Conference. The Shore had two players drafted in the 2016 first round (Jay Groome out of Barnegat and Jackson Memorial alum Matt Thaiss out of Virginia) and next year has the potential for another first round that includes to Shore Conference talents -- both out of the college ranks.
Beyond that duo, there are a collection of players to follow over the next calendar year leading up to the 2023 Draft in Seattle next July. Here are some names already on the radar, with the potential for more to arise.
Ryan Lasko, OF, Rutgers (Jackson Memorial)
Fueled by a major breakout in 2022, Lasko was a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, presented to the top player in college baseball. He slashed .359/.431/.643 with 16 home runs, 81 runs, 52 RBI and 13 stolen bases in 14 attempts while playing centerfield. With his impressive numbers, athleticism and potential to add strength, Lasko is slated to be one of the top college outfielders available and another strong season with the Scarlet Knights could land him in the first round.
Pat Reilly, RHP, Vanderbilt (CBA)
Reilly hasn’t yet had the big breakout statistical season that Lasko had this past spring, but he has shown the skillset of a first-rounder and has been a competitive as one of Vanderbilt’s better arms while pitching in the SEC. This past season, Vanderbilt used Reilly mostly in relief, although the 6-foot-4 right-hander was fourth on the team with 52 1/3 innings and third on the team with 65 strikeouts. As of this moment, Reilly might not be on 30 first-round boards, but he is probably on a few and every scouting department will be watching him closely, ready to move him up.
Teddy Sharkey, RHP, Coastal Carolina (Wall)
The results have been mixed for Sharkey out of the Chanticleers bullpen in his two collegiate years, but the former Wall standout has an impressive freshman season in 2021 on his resume and eye-catching velocity and athleticism on the mound. Two Shore alumni (Noah Dean and Liam Simon) were drafted this past week with reliever profiles, but both have some advantages – Simon his starting track record and Dean his left-handedness – over Sharkey that suggest Sharkey would be more of a third-day consideration at this point with a chance to rise.
Ron Cole, RHP, Old Dominion (Neptune)
After starting his college career at Kentucky, Cole made his way to Alvin Community College in Texas this season and got himself back on track after missing 2021, as well as a spot at Old Dominion for 2023. Cole works with a fastball at 95 miles-per-hour and his size and athleticism gives him the potential for a few more ticks.
Chris Sparber, C, Red Bank Catholic (Virginia Tech)
Sparber bet on himself by taking a spot on the roster at Louisburg College – a junior college in North Carolina – and turned in two dominant seasons as the team’s catcher. The huge numbers (.429/.516/.843 with 26 homers and 104 RBI in 266 plate appearances across two seasons) were not enough to get him drafted this season, but he will still only be three seasons removed from high school when he arrives at Virginia Tech in the fall, when he will have an opportunity to be the Hokies starting catcher.
High School Hopefuls
A.J. Gracia, OF/LHP, Ranney
Gracia is widely considered the top high school player in New Jersey for the Class of 2023 and among the top players in the Northeast. He projects as a legitimate two-way talent if he ends up at Duke and next season will give MLB teams a chance to determine if they see him as a five-tool outfielder or if his pitching ability progresses to the point that he becomes an in-demand left-handed starting-pitching prospect.
Ben Schild, RHP, Middletown South
Schild has put together a sparkling high-school resume in two years at Middletown South and increased his velocity to 93 miles-per-hour for his junior year. He is committed to pitch at UConn, which had a first-round pick this year (outfielder Reggie Crawford) and a top recruit drafted No. 7 overall and signed out of high school (Frank Mozzicato) last year. With another dominant season and a few more ticks on the radar gun, Schild could be a top-four-round pick, but he could also round into a potential first-rounder with three years at UConn.
Charlie Meglio, SS, Jackson Memorial
With one of the best returning bats in New Jersey, Meglio has already caught the eye of scouts who were following 2022 teammate Zach Crotchfelt. Meglio may move from shortstop to third base soon after he leaves Jackson Memorial, but he has the makings of a good fielder either at third base or in the outfield. He is committed to play at Campbell, a rising program that just had a shortstop (Zach Neto) drafted No. 13 overall in the 2022 first round.