The annual Major League Baseball first-year player draft is a sports staple in early June.
It falls either on the week of the Class 3A and 4A high school sectionals, or on the week of the state tournaments in those classes.
This year, it’s the latter. While defending champion Providence is back in the Class 4A Final Four at Silver Cross Field in Joliet for the third time in five years, a half-dozen of our players came out of the draft with an opportunity to begin their professional careers, should they choose to sign.
Illinois junior left-hander Tyler Jay, of course, was the sixth overall pick, going to the Minnesota Twins in Round 1. If memory serves, Jay is the highest pick from our area since former Joliet Catholic pitcher Bill Gullickson went No. 2 overall to the Montreal Expos in 1977, after the White Sox selected Harold Baines No. 1.
Following Jay this season, Illinois junior lefty Kevin Duchene (JCA) was the next pick from the area. The Illini’s No. 1 starter all season went in the fifth round, the 158th overall selection, to the Oakland A’s. Duchene posted an 11-2 record and a 1.75 ERA. He was 11-0 with a 1.64 ERA in Big Ten games.
For his career, Duchene ranks second in Illinois history with a 2.11 ERA and is tied for seventh with 24 wins. His 24-4 overall record (.857) is tied with Tanner Roark (Wilmington, 12-2) for the sixth-best career winning percentage at Illinois.
Duchene is the sixth Illini to be drafted by Oakland. The first was former major leaguer Scott Spiezio (Morris) in 1993.
Meanwhile, junior second baseball Josh Altmann (Lockport) enjoyed a huge 2015 season at Olivet Nazarene and was chosen by the Texas Rangers in the 22nd round, the 648th selection. The All-Chicagoland College Athletic Conference first-team pick hit .432 with 15 doubles, two triples, six homers, 36 RBIs and 23 steals in 28 attempts. He sported a .671 slugging percentage and .535 on-base mark for a 1.206 OPS.
The next to go from this area was Northwestern senior right-hander Brandon Magallones (Providence), who was selected by the White Sox in the 24th round.
Magallones did not have a particularly good year from a numbers standpoint – he finished 4-5 with a 5.55 ERA – but he made his final outing a keeper. In his NCAA Division I-leading 16th start, he threw a two-hit shutout and beat Maryland, one of the Big Ten’s top teams, 1-0. He struck out seven, walked one and needed only 91 pitches to complete the shutout and earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors.
Magallones finished his career with 226 total strikeouts, seventh on Northwestern’s all-time list.
Josh DeGraaf (Morris), a senior right-hander at Taylor University in Indiana, was chosen in the 31st round by the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA this season.
JCA catcher Nick Dalesandro heard his name called by the Detroit Tigers in Round 33, the 1,000th overall selection. He will play college ball at Purdue if he does not sign.
Dalesandro is among the top players in Illinois whom we will not be seeing in action this weekend at Silver Cross Field, as JCA was ousted by Lemont in the Class 3A Lemont Regional final.
However, there will be plenty of talent on display as four of the state’s best in Class 3A and four of the best in Class 4A vie for state championships.
That Providence is among the Class 4A semifinalists comes as no surprise from the standpoint of recent history. The Celtics were second in 2011 and won the state championship last season.
In each of the last two seasons, observers have come away from virtually any of the Providence postseason games with a comment similar to, “Isn’t it amazing how the Celtics keep finding ways to win?”
There is nothing fluky about it. The Celtics do find a way to stay alive, which is to their credit. Last season, Providence beat mighty St. Rita for the title. With due respect to Oak Park River Forest and Jacobs, I would not be surprised to see another all Chicago Catholic Blue championship game Saturday evening between Providence and Mount Carmel.
• Dick Goss can be reached at email@example.com.