The 2016 season was a disappointment for the USC baseball team with the Trojans finishing an even 28-28 and 13-13 in Pac-12 play. But over the weekend, the 2016 MLB Draft showed that Dan Hubbs has been assembling talent over at Dedeaux Field.
USC set a school record (since the modern era of the draft began in 1980) with 12 players being picked by MLB teams. After Jeremy Martinez, Brooks Kriske and Bernardo Flores were selected in rounds 3-10, nine more Trojans’ names were called on the final day of the draft.
Texas A&M was the only program in the country to produce more draft picks with 13 Aggies selected.
Here’s a look at the Trojans selected in rounds 11-40:
USC’s senior ace had interest from teams in the top 10 rounds of last year's draft before being selected in the 29th round by the Blue Jays, but chose to come back to get his degree. He accomplished that goal, but like many things for the Trojans this year, his senior season didn't go the way he hoped. He compiled a 5-8 record with a 4.70 ERA.
Expected to be the Friday night ace throughout the year, Davis was up and down this year. He went through a brief dead arm period in the middle of the season and missed two weeks. In the start before sitting and the three after returning, Davis allowed 18 runs in 18.2 innings. Take out that stretch and his ERA drops to a much more commendable 3.50. But the more disconcerting thing for scouts was that Davis' strikeouts dropped after the injury. He had six or more strikeouts in four of his five starts before the injury. He struck out more than five just once in his last eight starts.
A strong senior campaign likely would have pushed Davis into a similar situation as Kriske, who signed for $100,000 after being drafted by the Yankees in the sixth round. Instead, the 2014 national leader in ERA fell to the 14th round where he was scooped up by the Mariners -- a team that was high on Davis throughout the scouting process the last two years. He's being shipped to Seattle's short season Lo-A affiliate in the Northwest League where he will play for the Everett AquaSox.
After also returning for his senior year, Brent Wheatley saw his draft stock move up 15 spots. Not 15 rounds, but 15 overall picks as Wheatley became one of the few players in MLB Draft history to be selected in the same round two years in a row. Wheatley's senior season was a bust. He finished 0-2 with a 6.03 ERA. While his velocity ticked up to 93-95 with an occasional 96 or even 97 mph, Wheatley had his worst walk rate and opponent's batting average.
Early in his career, the younger son of a former USC volleyball player and USC Song Girl produced quality numbers as more of a pitch-to-contact right-hander. His freshman year, Wheatley stuck out 28 and had 22 walks in 42.2 innings and had a 3.80 ERA. He walked and struck out 33 in 73 innings as a sophomore weekend starter, producing a 4-3 record with a 3.58 ERA. Last season, he started the year in the rotation where he was excelling until a back injury derailed things. He finished 4-4, 4.50 with 63 strikeouts and 34 walks in 70 innings. This year, he even produced more than a strikeout per inning with 37 K in 34.1 innings over 14 appearances, but he walked 22 and gave up 40 hits.
But if Wheatley can regain the command he displayed early in career to go along with the improved velocity and slider later in his USC career, he could quickly cut his way through Miami's farm system.
The Pac-12 batting champ finished off an impeccable season at the dish with a .376 batting average. The senior outfielder really embraced hitting in the two-hole spot in the lineup and gave the Trojans a contact-happy slap hitter that lined singles to all parts of the field.
Oppenheim was a pest to opposing pitchers because of his ability to foul off good pitch after good pitch until getting a pitch he could do something with. He also showed good plate discipline, drawing a team-high 39 walks, healping him produce a .500 on-base percentage. Oppenheim's one true tool is his hitting ability so he's going to have to prove that he can continue to do that over and over in the minor leagues.
Honestly, it's a bit of an enigma to me why Huberman didn't command more scouting interest either last year or this season. He proved to be the Trojans' best pitcher two seasons in a row out of the bullpen. When he throws strikes, Huberman is pretty much lights out, finishing with the team's lowest ERA for the second season in a row.
He opened the season as the team's designated closer, but lost that role to Kriske when he walked himself into trouble multiple times early in the year. But Huberman corrected his issues and came on strong down the stretch with his crossfire motion helping to hold hitters to a .159 batting average in Pac-12 play. He stuck out 30 and had a 0.70 ERA in 25.2 innings over 13 appearances against conference foes.
Sitting 89-91 mph, how far Huberman can progress in professional baseball could come down to how he commands the baseball and the continued development of a changeup to go with his fastball and slider.
With a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame and a fastball that can get into the mid 90s from the left side, Andrew Wright possesses the prototypical size major league teams are looking for, but the production hasn't been there. Wright had thrown only 3.2 innings before this season and compiled an 8.16 ERA in 11 appearances this year. The problem isn't the stuff, but the confidence to command it. Wright walked 17 batters and hit another three in 14.1 innings.
As a junior, Wright is the first Trojan drafted that will have a big decision. While Jeremy Martinez and Bernardo Flores are likely to get significant signing bonuses as underclassmen drafted in the top 10 rounds, a team can't give any player drafted after the 10th round more than $100,000 without it counting toward their draft pool for the first 10 rounds. Does Wright take a signing bonus that is possibly minimal or come back for his senior year and hope to correct his flaws? If he thinks he can produce a strong senior year at USC, Wright could easily vault into the top 10 rounds. But there has to be some production to go with the projectability.
Joe Navilhon came out of nowhere to become USC's most valuable player. He held the pitching rotation together and kept the Trojans hovering around .500. A Cal State Fullerton bounce back, Navilhon started the season in a non-essential bullpen role, but worked his way up week over week eventually moving into the starting rotation and all the way to the Friday night role. He finished 5-5 with a 3.38 ERA and led with 82.2 innings and 71 strikeouts.
Navilhon is an interesting place. As a redshirt junior, he could return for another year, but coming off such a strong campaign, it might be worth trying to cash in now while he still has the leverage of threatening to return to school. He's one piece that Dan Hubbs will definitely be hoping to see back in uniform going forward.
Robinson finished with a .282 average, 18 doubles, eight homers and 46 RBIs, but like Davis -- his best friend -- it wasn't the year he had aspirations for leading into the season. Robinson started the season with a shoulder injury that forced him to open as the team's designated hitter rather than centerfielder. He was hitting just .191 through the first 12 games before coming to life. The Yankees were on Robinson throughout the year and really like his potential, so despite the 21st round drafting, Robinson could be a player they really give an opportunity to.
Junior right-hander Jeff Paschke will have to choose between going for his childhood dreams with the local Dodgers or returning for his senior season and hoping to emulate the success Kriske had as a senior this season. If Paschke returns, he would be the frontrunner to be the team's closer next season after going 3-2 with a 4.25 ERA and four saves in 25 appearances this season.
It is likely that if Corey Dempster had to make a decision today, he would return to college because the Yankees probably aren't willing to offer him much of a bonus. But that bonus number could rise before the July 15 deadline if Dempster has a strong month in the Cape Cod wood bat summer league leading up to it. The Cape Cod League has the most pro prospects each summer and can play a big role in making or breaking a player's draft prospects.
Dempster burst on the scene this season, taking over the left field role vacated by Bobby Stahel's signing last year after his monster season. Dempster hit .290 from the leadoff spot and showed some pop with 11 doubles, two triples and six homers while leading the teams with 10 stolen bases.