TMU Insider: Mustang trio is in the mix at MLB Draft

TMU's Anthony Lepre, left, and Aaron Shackelford are hoping to hear their names called this week during the MLB Draft. Photo by Tony Berru

The most prolific power hitter in the history of The Master’s University has no expectations when it comes to this week’s Major League Baseball Draft.

“I’ve heard top 10 rounds and I’ve heard day three,” said Aaron Shackelford, a recent graduate and the school’s all-time leader in a host of offensive categories. “So, we’ll see. I’m just ready for the actual draft to get here.”

The 2019 MLB Draft started Monday with the first and second rounds. Rounds three through 10 are Tuesday. And the final 30 rounds will play out Wednesday.  

It will be hard for teams to ignore Shackelford’s video-game-like numbers.

Shackelford hit 36 home runs as a senior, two shy of matching the NAIA’s all-time single-season record set by Beau Mills in 2007. He racked up 99 RBIs, slashed .415/.519/1.096 and might have added to his numbers had the Mustangs (34-17-1) advanced to the NAIA postseason.

Instead, Shackelford has spent the last month training at TMU’s Newhall campus and traveling to Huntington Beach and Scottsdale, Arizona, to work out for professional teams.   

In the process, Shackelford, a shortstop during his final three seasons at Master’s, has turned his attention to a new defensive position.

“A lot of the scouts and teams are interested in a lefty hitting catcher who can run and play multiple positions,” said Shackelford, who played right field as a Master’s freshman but never previously spent time at catcher.

Shackelford has been working on receiving the ball behind the dish with TMU assistant coach Nick Jorgensen, who was a catcher in his time as a Mustang.

“It’s been fun,” Shackelford said. “Obviously just receiving from Jorgy is nothing like what it’s going to be like catching guys throwing 95-plus, so we’ll see.”

Valencia grad Anthony Lepre knows a thing or two about catching – and slugging at an elite level. The Mustangs’ primary catcher in 2019 hit 28 home runs with 80 RBIs and a team-high .438 batting average.

TMU coach Monte Brooks called it one of the greatest single-season performances in program history, and it built on Lepre’s body of work at College of the Canyons and NCAA Division 1 UC Riverside, where he spent his junior year before transferring to Master’s.

Robby Gutierrez, who operates a popular NAIA baseball podcast, surveyed coaches and scouts around the country, compiling a draft preview. He projected Lepre would be selected on Day 3 of the draft.

Gutierrez forecasted Shackelford, TMU’s all-time leader in RBIs (231), runs (215), triples (15), total bases (534) and home runs (67), to be selected somewhere in rounds three through 10.

Shackelford would be the sixth Master’s baseball alum selected in the top 10. The others are Mark MacArthur (eighth round, 1990, Cardinals); Mark Redman (first round, 1995, Twins); Chris Beck (seventh, 1994, Mariners); Jerry Owens (second, 2003, Expos); and Charlie Gillies (10th, 2012, Tigers).

Redman – who transferred to the University of Oklahoma after playing one year at Master’s – and Owens each went on to play in the big leagues: Redman with eight teams over a 10-year career, Owens in parts of four seasons with the White Sox.

It’s impossible to predict who will select Shackelford, but recent history might provide a clue.  

A Master’s product has been selected by San Francisco in each of the last three years, with four total players from Master’s going to the Giants in that time. Conner Menez, selected in the 14th round by the Giants in 2016, has since established himself as one of the franchise’s rising prospects and a candidate to appear in the majors as soon as this season.

Saugus grad Robert Winslow, TMU’s ace in 2019, hopes to follow in Menez’s footsteps.

In recent weeks, Winslow has mostly rested his right arm after a season in which he compiled 104 strikeouts and a 3.59 ERA in 82 2/3 innings. He was 10-1 and his low 90s fastball has drawn the attention of scouts with whom he has recently been in contact.

“They were mostly just getting to know me and seeing where I stand with the draft,” Winslow said.

If all three Mustangs are selected it would be TMU’s biggest draft class since 2003, when Owens, Kenny Durost (28th round, Brewers) and Timothy Alvarez (36th round, Giants) were all picked.

TMU has had a player drafted in nine of the last 10 years.

For more info on TMU Athletics, visit GoMustangs.com.

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