Coming off of a season that resulted in a College World Series run, Virginia baseball’s talented roster had a number of MLB draft-eligible players ready to take the next steps in their playing careers. Ultimately, four Cavaliers were selected and now look to progress to “the show.”
Despite being the seventh best player in the draft by MLB.com, superstar junior catcher Kyle Teel slid all the way down to the No. 14 overall selection, held by the Boston Red Sox. His highly unusual slide was caused by an unexpected run on specific lesser rated prospects. The Kansas City Royals selected an unproven high school catcher instead of Teel at a more expensive signing slot with the No. 8 pick. Teel was the last player to be drafted among top 10 prospects.
Draft stock aside, Boston wasted little time taking advantage of a premier prospect being available. Teel now becomes one of their top prospects and the future starter at catcher. Signing for $4.0m —- just under his expected slot value of $4.66m —- he was easily the biggest steal of the first round. Teel joins a promising young core that includes infielders Nick Yorke and Marcelo Mayer, who is MLB’s No. 3 overall prospect.
While Teel fell about seven picks lower than expected, Gelof fell all the way down to the bottom of the second round — where the Los Angeles Dodgers happily selected him 60th overall. Teel might have been the steal of the first round, but Gelof was arguably the steal of the entire draft. He will face competition with fellow top prospects Miguel Vargas and Michael Busch in a talented Dodgers infield, but has a very good chance to find a spot at first base like he did in 2021, if not at third base.
The 2023 class was expected to feature multiple outstanding third base prospects. However, Gelof was the ninth one to be selected, surprisingly being passed on multiple times by teams looking to save draft slot money.
Returning to Boston, the Red Sox selected Virginia southpaw Connelly Early 151st overall in the fifth round. The battery duo of Teel and Early will be a formidable force for Boston in the near future.
Junior outfielder Ethan O’Donnell was then selected 168th overall in the early sixth round by the Cincinnati Reds, and signed a worthwhile $307.50k contract with Cincinnati. He has the chance to fight for a major league starting spot in a Reds organization that features far more infielders than outfielders. O’Donnell will likely aim to contribute towards a promising youth movement in Cincinnati after a lengthy rebuild.
All four will be heading to historic organizations with a reputation of developing talented collegiate prospects. Teel became the 10th Cavalier first round pick in the last decade — Virginia is second nationally in MLB first round picks since 2010.
With the four selected, The Cavaliers ranked in the top 10 of selections in the first half of the draft.
Starting pitchers Nick Parker and Brian Edgington signed professional deals as well, with the Independent MLB Partner Atlantic League and the MLB Draft League, respectively. Junior pitcher Jake Berry also signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Cleveland Guardians, while Westfield High School outfielder Jonny Farmelo — Virginia’s top 2023 commit — was selected 29th overall by the Seattle Mariners. The Cavaliers will return rising sophomore Harrison Didawick and rising junior Casey Saucke, but now have an interesting opening at center field with the departure of O’Donnell and Farmelo.
Virginia earned the commitment of former Indiana outfielder Bobby Whalen via the transfer portal July 12. Whalen was the starting centerfielder for the Hoosiers in 2023, posting a .993 fielding percentage with 17 extra base hits — somewhat in the mold of O’Donnell.
As for current Cavaliers, junior infielder Griff O’Ferrall hit .463 with an absurd .511 on base percentage and 9 RBI for the USA Collegiate National Team’s 10 games. Rising junior pitcher Jay Woolfolk also starred, posting a 1.93 ERA and earning a win.
Virginia also boasts a massive influx of young talent soon to be dominating the majors, if not already making an impact now. Former infielder Zack Gelof was called up to MLB by the Oakland Athletics after the All-Star break, while former pitcher Mike Vasil just played in the Futures Game featuring some of the best prospects in all of baseball. Another pitcher, Griff McGarry, has risen to become the No. 4 prospect of the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Cavaliers finished second in the ACC in draft picks within the first six rounds, trailing only No. 3 Wake Forest. Again, losing quality players and recruits to the draft will affect the 2024 team but is simultaneously a major win for the Cavalier baseball program as a whole.