Five SCV products selected in third day of MLB First-Year Player Draft

Valencia grad Cole Kleszcz was drafted by the New York Mets in the 33rd round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Photo courtesy Azusa-Pacific University

The 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft came to a close as rounds 11-40 were announced on Wednesday.

On the third day of the draft, five players that were selected were Santa Clarita Valley products with four of the five playing Foothill League baseball for Saugus High or Valencia High in their high school careers.

Former Valencia player and current University of Hawaii pitcher Dylan Thomas was selected by the Minnesota Twins with the 389th selection in the 13th round.

Thomas was selected by the Twins a year earlier in the 38th round but decided to return to the Rainbow Warriors as a redshirt junior.

“He was picked late and Minnesota actually drafted him and they were taking a chance on signing, but he went back and had another stellar year and moved up to the 13th round, which is awesome,” said Valencia head coach Mike Killinger.

Over the last three seasons, Thomas made 63 appearances with an overall record of 8-6 and a 1.96 ERA. He collected 27 saves with 14 of them coming in 2018 and ends his time at the University of Hawaii with 122 strikeouts in 115 innings pitched.

In 2019, Thomas was named to the All-Big West Second Team as a closing pitcher and was 25th in the nation with a 2.01 ERA.

The Master’s University shortstop and the 2019 NAIA Player of the Year, Aaron Shackelford, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 14th round with the 424th pick and is the second Mustang to be drafted by the Pirates in school history.

TMU senior Aaron Shackelford heads home in a matchup with Arizona Christian at Lou Herwaldt Stadium earlier this season. Cory Rubin/The Signal

“I’m just super thankful, honestly,” Shackelford said. “I’m glad the process is over and I get to play. When I was a freshman I never expected to get to this point, so just the journey has been so awesome and so rewarding and this day is a culmination of that in a sense. I’m just super thankful and super excited.”

Shackelford was a lethal hitter that led the NAIA in 2019 in multiple categories including slugging percentage (1.096) runs scored (83), RBIs (99), home runs (36) and total bases (206).

He exits The Master’s as the all-time leader in home runs (67), RBIs (231), total bases (534), runs (215) and triples (15).

“I’m going to give it all I can until somebody rips the cleats off my feet and I don’t get to play anymore,” Shackelford said. “I’m going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can and try and make it.”

Shackelford’s teammate and Valencia alumnus, Anthony Lepre was the second Mustang taken on the third day of the draft with the Seattle Mariners taking him in the 28th round with the 846th selection.

After transferring from the University of California, Riverside to Master’s to finish out his final year of eligibility, the catcher hit 28 home runs in 2019 breaking the single-season record in hits with 91 on the way to 80 RBIs on the year.

“He was a four-year starter at Valencia,” Killinger said. “It shows these guys that it doesn’t matter where you end up or where you play. We had a D1, D2 and NAIA guys that all got drafted.”

The third and final Vikings alumnus, Cole Kleszcz was drafted by the New York Mets in the 33rd round with the 988th selection. Kleszcz played at College of the Canyons and most recently Azusa-Pacific University.

Valencia grad Cole Kleszcz was drafted by the New York Mets in the 33rd round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft. Photo courtesy Azusa-Pacific University

Spending two seasons at Canyons, redshirting the first year, Kleszcz came into his own during his redshirt freshman year to lead the Western State Conference with 20 doubles and 18 home runs. He earned Junior College All-American honors and was drafted in the 40th round by the Cleveland Indians in 2017, but decided to return to school.

Kleszcz then transferred to the University of Santa Barbara for his sophomore year before enrolling at Azusa Pacific University for the 2018-19 season.

Spending one year at Azusa Pacific, Kleszcz finished his junior year leading the team in RBIs (63) and in home runs (27). He was second on the team in batting average (.374) and in hits (79).

“I’m super excited and I’m just happy to be a Met and that it worked out today,” Kleszcz said. “It’s been a long road, long journey, a lot of hard work and a lot of ups and downs, but I found a home at Azusa Pacific and it worked out for me. I’m super excited.”

MORE: Hart alumnus Jack Ralston picked by St. Louis in MLB Draft

California State University, Stanislaus right-handed pitcher, Chase Wheatcroft, a Saugus and Canyons alumnus, was taken by the Oakland A’s in the 37th round with the 1,124th selection.

The righty graduated from Saugus High in 2015 before playing his first two years of college for the Cougars from 2015-2017 before transferring to Stanislaus State.

During his time at Canyons, Wheatcroft made 29 appearances, starting 28 times, for an overall record of 14-3 in 156 innings of action.

Over the course of his two-year career at Stanislaus State, Wheatcroft compiled a record of 6-4 with a 2.64 ERA to pace the Warriors’ pitchers. In 2018, Wheatcroft showed his versatility and primarily came on as a closer in 16 appearances going 1-2 with 11 saves.

Wheatcroft finishes 2019 at Stanislaus State pitching a total of 75.7 innings, recording 55 strikeouts and a selection to the 2019 All-CCCAA first team.

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About the author

Diego Marquez

Diego Marquez

A native Angeleno, Diego is a sports aficionado that has played and covered multiple sports since he was a child. He is a graduate of California State University, Northridge and is a sports writer for The Signal.