By Sam Draut–
The University of Louisville baseball team plays this weekend for a chance to make its third trip to the College World Series in four years, and this time, as the only school to have three players selected in the 2016 MLB Draft’s first round.
Outfielder Corey Ray was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers as the fifth overall pick, making the junior the highest selection in program history. Ray was the second collegiate player selected.
Ray earned All-America honors from Baseball America after hitting .319 with 15 home runs, 60 RBI and 44 stolen bases while starting in all 62 games this season. The Chicago native ranks second nationally in stolen bases and was an All-ACC first team selection as the Cardinals leadoff hitter.
Zack Burdi was selected by the Chicago White Sox as the 26th pick. The junior relief pitcher is a Downers Grove, Ill. native, which is less than 30 miles from U.S. Cellular Field, where the White Sox play. The hard-throwing right-hander is the second-highest draft pick behind Ray in program history.
Cardinal head coach Dan McDonnell’s closer appeared in 26 games this season and tallied 11 saves with a 2.20 ERA. Burdi was named a Louisville Slugger All-American by Collegiate Baseball newspaper. With a fastball that hits 100 mph, Burdi struck out 46 hitters in 28 2/3 innings.
Louisville native Will Smith was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 32nd pick. The junior was the third highest catcher taken in the 2016 draft.
After splitting time last season as the starting catcher, Smith took on an expanded role this year and rose up the draft boards in the past month. Smith’s .380 batting is tied for the team lead while he has driven in 43 runs and hit seven home runs.
With the 62nd overall pick, the New York Yankees selected second basemen Nick Solak. As a junior, Solak was a consistent threat for the Cardinals, hitting either third or fourth in all of his starts. With a career batting average hovering close to .350, Solak’s bat will translate well in the major leagues. Solak was the fourth Card taken in the first day of the MLB Draft, setting a new school record.
In the third round, the Atlanta Braves selected starting pitcher Drew Harrington. Harrington was this year’s ACC Pitcher of the Year.
Harrington went 8-0 in his ten ACC starts this season. As the fifth Card taken in the draft, Harrington joins a Braves organization desperate for quality pitching and has a legitimate chance to be a significant impact.
At pick 100, the New York Mets took third baseman Blake Tiberi. Tiberi’s elite power at the plate earned him a spot in the top 100 as many scouts think his power is bound to translate at the major league level. His nine home runs this season have intrigued pro scouts and he’s likely to be an everyday player at third base.
Kyle Funkhouser joined the ranks of drafted Louisville baseball players at number 115, going to the Detroit Tigers. Funkhouser was picked 35th last season, but elected to return to Louisville for his senior season this year.
Funkhouser is Louisville’s all-time leader in wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, and starts and leaves U of L as perhaps its most distinguished baseball player ever. His experience and comfort on the mound has been paramount in Louisville’s climb to success and he projects to be a high quality starter at the next level.
Photo by Dalton Ray / The Louisville Cardinal