If you were like me, you spent Monday night and as much of Tuesday and Wednesday watching MLB.com’s Draft Tracker and Twitter’s #MLBDraft. Of course, I was interested in which of the University of Illinois baseball players would get picked, by which team and how early.
Monday night’s draft was limited to the first round (and the subsequent supplemental round). On Tuesday, it didn’t take too long before we saw an Illini name scroll by. In the 11th round, pitcher Matt Milroy was chosen by the Miami Marlins. Day 3 of the draft on Wednesday was a long day, I’m sure for some of the UI hopefuls. Then, within ten rounds, three Illinois baseball stars were picked. Center fielder Willie Argo was tagged by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 22nd round. Four rounds later, first baseman Jordan Parr was taken by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and finally, Kevin Johnson, our Friday night starter, was chosen by the New York Yankees in the 31st round.
Here is the Class of 2012 Draftees:
Matt Milroy 11th round (347th overall) Miami Marlins JR P
If you had asked me this season which Illini player I thought would get drafted, I would have told you Matt Milroy. Turned out I was right. You would have to look past his 2-6 record which fortunately, scouts are smart to do. What they did see are his 65 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings and only 37 hits allowed. Well, that and his blazing fastball.
It wasn’t Milroy’s first time drafted, by the way. He was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school in 2009 but opted to attend the U of I. We were glad to have you here, Matt!
Willie Argo 22nd round (692nd overall) Tampa Bay Rays SR CF
I don’t think any college player will ever match Willie Argo’s debut. In his first game as an Illini, he hit three home runs in his first three at-bats against the #1 LSU Tigers. Illinois lost that game but the message was sent and they won the other two games against the Tigers and put Illinois on the college baseball map.
Argo always struck me as the prototypical five-tool baseball player. He could hit, hit for power, run (he holds the team record for career steals with 98), and play excellent defense in the outfield. Coach Hartleb could put him in any spot in the lineup and he could produce. Throughout his four years here, Argo’s intensity and will to win never wavered. The Rays got a good one in Argo.
Jordan Parr 26th round (806th overall) Los Angeles Dodgers SO 3B
Illini fans only got to see one year of Jordan Parr. A transfer student from Parkland College, the word on Jordan was that he was the real deal and he didn’t disappoint the home crowd. Starting every game of the season, he led the Illini in practically every major offensive category including hitting (.348), RBI (45), home runs (tied with 5) and doubles (13).
You’ve probably heard this since it’s been played up in the media but it’s worth mentioning that baseball runs in Parr’s family. Jordan’s older brother Josh is currently in the minor leagues and his twin brother Justin is a favorite on the Illini. Rumor has it, father Cam was a star shortstop in his day too.
You’ll notice that the Dodgers drafted Parr as a third baseman. He is that versatile. Rumor has it that he also plays a decent center field, too.
Kevin Johnson 31st round (967th overall) New York Yankees JR P
There’s no doubt that win or lose, Kevin Johnson has been the most consistent presence on the Illinois pitching staff for the past two years. Johnson holds the team record for most career innings in conference play with 153 2/3 innings pitched.
This year with the help of better offensive support, Johnson really broke out and had a fantastic year, going 7-5 with a 3.97 ERA. He completed four games and won five straight starts in the month of March.
Some quick draft notes:
Now that these players have been drafted, the process isn’t over yet. Keep an eye on fightingillini.com in the next several weeks for any news on when the Illini draftees get signed and to which minor league teams they get assigned.
It’s interesting to note that of the four Illini draftees, only Willie Argo is a senior. Milroy and Johnson just finished their junior year and Parr was a draft-eligible sophomore. While the Illinois baseball program and fans are incredibly excited for all the players and their futures, it WILL leave some holes to fill for the Illini especially given the caliber of these players.
In all, thirty Big Ten players were chosen in the MLB 2012 draft. Not surprisingly, Big Ten champion Purdue led the conference with seven selections, including catcher Kevin Plawecki, who was the first player drafted from the conference. He was picked 35th overall.
Finally, congratulations and good luck to Matt Milroy, Willie Argo, Jordan Parr and Kevin Johnson! Remember guys, you are representing the University of Illinois wherever you go!