Baseball Notebook: Nick Paciorek, Alex Erro, Jack Dunn selected in 2019 MLB Draft


(Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson)

Nick Paciorek unleashes a strike. The junior right-hander was taken in the seventh round of the 2019 MLB Draft

Peter Warren, Print Managing Editor

In the seventh round of the 2019 MLB Draft, Northwestern junior right-hander Nick Paciorek was selected with the No. 225 pick by the New York Yankees. According to MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis, he signed for $162,000, slightly below the pick value of $190,100.

He was the first Wildcat to be chosen since 2015 when Matt Portland went to the Kansas City Royals with the No. 519 overall pick in the 17th round and Brandon Magallones went to the Chicgo White Sox with the No. 712 overall pick in the 24th round. He is also the first player to go within the first ten rounds since current Texas Ranger Luke Farrell was nabbed in the sixth round by the Kansas City Royals in 2013.

With the selection, Paciorek became the first player in the Spencer Allen era to be drafted. Allen said he was in his office watching the livestream of the draft when Paciorek was selected.

“It’s always a fun feeling to hear their name called,” Allen said.

Paciorek’s path to the draft has been remarkable. After playing as a backup catcher as a freshman, Paciorek saw very little playing time as a sophomore before NU started experimenting with him on the mound. The Cats liked what they saw and Paciorek soon became a full-time pitcher. His development over the last year-plus has been exponential, and it culminated in him being the best pitcher on the team.

The California native was the fifth pitcher selected by the Yankees. Three of those twirlers were lefties — Missouri’s T.J. Sikkema, East Carolina’s Jake Agnos and St. Mary’s Ken Waldichuk — with Sam Houston State’s Hayden Wesneski being the only righty.

Only one NU player had been drafted in the seventh round before Paciorek. That player was Mark Loretta, who was chosen with the No. 203 pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993. Loretta had a 15-year major league career and is currently the bench coach of the Chicago Cubs.

Alex Erro selected in the 17th round

Junior infielder Alex Erro was chosen with the No. 527 overall selection — the last pick of the 17th round — by the Boston Red Sox. Erro announced Thursday on Instagram that he will be signing with the club.

Allen said Erro’s story is “pretty amazing,” as he was a preferred walk-on to the program who was not recruited anywhere else.

“It’s just a pretty cool story. Literally a walk-on — no one recruited him — to a junior draft,” Allen said. “That just shows his development in his work.”

Allen was in Boston when he heard Erro was drafted, which he called “ironic.”

The twitter account @MLBDraftTracker lists Erro as a second baseman, while’s draft tracker has him labeled as an infielder. Erro started at second base for his first two-and-a-half seasons before shifting to third base this spring to accommodate freshman Shawn Goosenberg.

Erro was the first non-first baseman infielder selected by the Red Sox since the second round. Boston’s first two picks in the draft were shortstops — Arizona’s Cameron Cannon and high school senior Matthew Lugo.

Jack Dunn chosen in the 20th round

The Washington Nationals snagged senior shortstop Jack Dunn with the No. 603 overall pick in the 20th round of the draft.
The four-year starter is one of the most decorated players to ever wear the purple “N.” He started every game during his four seasons and finished his career with a first team All-Big Ten recognition.

Barret Arthur, Dunn’s adviser, had alerted Dunn that he thought Washington was going to select him. However, Dunn said he did not want to get his hopes up.

He was walking along Ridge Avenue when he saw the tweet announcing the news. He said his parents called him right away.

“It’s been kind of a roller coaster to be honest,” Dunn said. “You always hear things and you really don’t know what to believe. I’m just happy that the Nationals picked me and I’m really excited to play for that organization.”

Dunn was the fourth shortstop chosen by the Nationals. BYU’s Jackson Cluff was drafted in the sixth round, Fresno State’s J.T. Arruda was taken in the 11th round and Western Oklahoma State’s Junior Martina in the 16th round.

When Dunn signs, he will be the second NU alumnus in the organization. George Kontos, who pitched for the Cats from 2004-2006, is currently with the Fresno Grizzlies, the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate.

“Why it took so long for him to get popped, who knows,” Allen said. “I just could not be more happy for Jack.”

Allen added he has been in contact with all three drafted players and is excited for them.

First since 2004

The last time three players from NU were selected in the MLB Draft was 2004. J.A. Happ was chosen in the third round, Dan Pohlman in the 15th round and Dan Konecny in the 17th round. Pohlman and Konecny were both out of baseball by the end of the 2007 season, but Happ is still playing. The southpaw is currently a starting pitcher for the Yankees.

Allen said the plan is for players to get drafted every year, and he hopes the program gets to that point.

“This has been a special couple of days for the programs but especially for those three guys,” Allen said.

NU compared to the Big Ten

The three NU players drafted was tied for the fifth-most from one team in the Big Ten. Indiana’s team had 10 players selected over the three-day draft — Matt Gorski was their highest-drafted player at No. 57.

After Indiana, Illinois had six players selected, Michigan had five players and Minnesota had four. Tied with the Cats at three players were Michigan State and Penn State. Every Big Ten team had a player chosen in the draft.

Allen said he has coached teams before with multiple guys being drafted, but this time around is much different.

“This is just special to me because its two guys that we recruited all three that we helped develop,” Allen said. “That’s something for me, as an assistant whos bounced around, it’s just fun to play a very, very small part of their journey, but ultimately those guys turned themselves into great players.”

Quinn Priester and what could have been

The first player from the state of Illinois selected in the draft was Quinn Priester, a right-handed pitcher out of Cary-Grove High School. Priester was the first prep pitcher chosen in the draft.

NU offered the 6-foot-3 hurler between his freshman and sophomore year, and before he even pitched a varsity game. According to The Athletic’s Patrick Murphy, Priester’s father was “blown away” by the offer.

And Allen was not the only one interested in his services. The football team also showed interested in Priester as a quarterback, and the high schooler thought about being a two-way athlete. He ended up committing to TCU, though it appears he will never even compete for the Horned Frogs.

Before the draft, Allen told The Daily that offering the Illinois native was not a difficult decision, and added Priester may be in the majors sooner rather than later.

“That was kind of an easy one,” Allen said with a chuckle. “You knew he was going to be good and it’s worked out. It looks like he’s going to have a chance to sign for a pretty good price tag. Being local, we got to know him and his family — great people. I wish him the best of luck.”

C.J. Abrams continues the Blessed Trinity Catholic shortstop legacy

C.J. Abrams was chosen by the San Diego Padres with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. Abrams played high school baseball at Blessed Trinity Catholic in Georgia. Abrams was the starting shortstop for the past two seasons. The two starting shortstops before him were Jack Dunn and David Dunn.

Jack Dunn said he does not know Abrams, but the fact that two shortstops from Blessed Trinity were drafted illustrates how well the school works with its players.

“It speaks to the high school, there’s a lot of talent there,” Dunn said. “Great coaches, they develop their players really well.”

Wildcats faced a lot of talent in 2019

NU played 21 teams this past spring, and those teams had a combined 28 players chosen over the first two days of the draft.

The top Cats opponent to hear his name called was California’s Andrew Vaughn, who went No. 3 to the local Chicago White Sox. Vaughn — the 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner — was considered by many to be the best hitter in the draft. When he went against NU in the first week of the season, Vaughn went 2-for-2 with three walks. For the final two at-bats, the Cats went with a four-man outfield.

Before the game against the Golden Bears, assistant coach Josh Reynolds said that Vaughn does a great job of going where the pitch is thrown.

“He’s just a professional hitter,” Reynolds said on February 6. “He just does a good job of not getting himself out. He has a good approach. He has a good, efficient swing. He is consistent with it and he does what he’s supposed to do.”

But Vaughn was not the only Cal player drafted over the first two days. Korey Lee went with the No. 32 overall selection, Cameron Eden went in the sixth round and Jared Horn in the seventh round. The four Golden Bears chosen on day one and two were tied for the most players selected by a Cats opponent over those two days this season. Georgia Tech also had four players chosen in the first ten rounds of the draft, with two-way star Tristin English being the highest-drafted Yellow Jacket going in the third round.

Six drafted players NU faced were chosen on the first day of the draft. In addition to Vaughn and Lee, Michigan pitchers Tommy Henry and Karl Kauffmann were taken in Competitive Balance Round B and Missouri’s Kameron Misner and Sikkema were selected in Competitive Balance Round A.

Before the Cats played the Tigers in March, Allen called Sikkema one of the best arms in the SEC and Misner of the most “dynamic players” in the country. For Misner, Allen said the outfielder’s plus speed makes him a tough hitter to pitch against.

“We want to be a little bit more aggressive attacking him but you just have to mix your patterns on him,” Allen said on March 6. “You can’t just try to pitch him one way or feed him one pitch. You got to really try to mix and hope he chases out of the zone a little bit.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @thepeterwarren