It’s June 6 – the second day of the three-day annual Major League Baseball amateur draft – and Brock Burke’s phone rings. It’s the Tampa Bay Rays calling.
They couldn’t say with 100 percent certainty that it would happen, but they told the recent Evergreen High graduate to look out for the 96th pick – Tampa Bay’s fourth pick in this year’s draft and late in the third round.
It was a long wait – nearly two hours, or so it felt – but there was Burke’s name on his television screen. The 17-year-old was officially a Major League prospect after being selected by the American League East club.
“It’s definitely a great feeling. I’m really blessed to have this opportunity. It’s an honor,” Burke said.
He was the first of 12 high school players from Colorado selected in the 40-round draft and the first Evergreen High alum drafted since Kevin Kouzmanoff was taken by the Cleveland Indians in the sixth round in 2003 out of the University of Nevada-Reno.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound left-hander, who has signed to play collegiately at the University of Oregon, was 5-2 this past season, including a 1.04 earned-run average during the regular season. He struck out 90, while walking just 29.
He struck out 15 in a no-hitter against Westminster on March 19 and followed that with a 20-strikeout performance at Coors Field against Eaglecrest on April 29. In all, he threw four one-hitters to go with the no-no in 2014.
“Him being drafted in the third round was a surprise,” Evergreen interim head coach Dale Hutchings said. “Part of it is that they knew he had a scholarship to go to college. The other thing is that I think he had the numbers.”
Burke, himself, was surprised that he went as high as he did.
“I wasn’t expecting to go quite that high. It had nothing to do with talent as much as being in high school,” said Burke, noting that teams are more likely to select a college player early due to the slot system involved with where a player is drafted.
“They normally draft high school players in the later rounds, but I guess they saved up enough money,” he said.
A bevy of teams, as many as eight to 10 scouts, showed up to watch him pitch. One such scout was Ryan Henderson of the Tampa Bay Rays, who were one of three teams – the Florida Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays were the others – to express the most interest in him, Burke said.
He’s got all the mechanics, including a 90-plus mph fastball, a slider, curveball and changeup. That, and the fact that he’s a lefty, certainly work in Burke’s favor.
“He is a left-hander with great velocity,” Hutchings said. “He’s got a big frame, and he’s going to grow. That’s part of the fit. He’s going to get bigger and stronger.”
While Burke said that he and his family are still discussing the matter, he admits it would be hard to pass up on an opportunity like this after being drafted so highly.
He has until July 18 to decide whether to sign with Tampa