Four baseball players taken in MLB draft

Matt Milroy, Willie Argo, Kevin Johnson and Jordan Parr all had their names called in the 40-round marathon that is the MLB First-Year Player Draft that began last Monday and ended Wednesday.

The four members of the Illinois baseball team are in very different situations. Two have signed their major league contracts and are off to the minor leagues, one player has to still prove himself to even get an offer and the youngest of the bunch still has plenty of options open.

The action for the Illini started Tuesday when the Miami Marlins selected Milroy in the 11th round. Milroy’s velocity is consistently in the 90-mph range and, coupled with his devastating slider, made him one of the top prospects in the state of Illinois. His 3.88 ERA was second best on the Illini and he struck out a team-best 65 hitters, with a strikeout-per-nine-inning ratio that ranked ninth in the nation (10.98).

Milroy became the highest Illinois pitcher drafted since Matt Vorwald went in the seventh round in 2001, and the Marlins’ offer proved to be too much for him to turn down as he has already signed his contract to play with the team for approximately $100,000 dollars.

“It’s something that I’ve been working toward for three years at Illinois,” Milroy said. “I want to thank all my coaches and everybody who helped me along the way.”

Willie Argo, the Illini’s biggest senior leader, was drafted for a third time and the highest he’s ever gone, this time by the Tampa Rays in the 22nd round. Argo, a 2012 first-team All-Big Ten player, had previously been selected in the 49th and 43rd rounds, opting to stay on his path at Illinois.

Argo almost didn’t end up with the Rays after he forgot to fill out the team’s questionnaire. Brett Foley, the Ray’s Naperville-based scout supervisor, called him and reminded him to fill it out.

“It’s a great feeling to be drafted as a senior,” Argo said. “It’s kind of your last chance, but I’m really excited to be joining the Rays organization. I’ve heard nothing but great things.”

Argo was sweating at the thought of when he would be drafted, if at all, so much so that he didn’t even watch the draft — a complete 180 from last year when he said he was glued to the computer screen for hours waiting for his name to be called. He was in another room watching TV when his youngest brother and mother yelled in excitement of hearing he’d been drafted.

Parr had nearly given up hope that his name would be called as the rounds continued to roll on and was taking a shower when his name was called. The Dodgers selected him in the 26th round and he said the two sides are still negotiating contract terms.

Parr, who has become somewhat of a journeyman, attending three different schools in the past three years, is split down the middle on the decision to stay or go. However, he expected his brother Justin to be struggling with the same decision.

“Today was a difficult day to watch,” he said. “You know Justin has been getting told all year that he was going to be a top pick and to not get that phone call today when you were really looking to it. You honestly want the best for your brother. He’s my best friend in the entire whole world. I pull for him so much and it broke my heart to not see it happen today.”

Johnson, Illinois’ most consistent pitcher all season long, including taking the ball in the Friday game of every Big Ten series, is dealing with the disappointment of not being taken as high as he was projected. Johnson was selected in the 31st round by the New York Yankees and will have to pitch his way into a contract this summer, adding a lot of pressure for the would-be senior.

The Yankees informed Johnson that he is a draft-and-follow pick, so the Yankees will pay attention to Johnson’s performance in the summer league before trying to sign him to a contract. The deadline is July 13, which only leaves about a month for him to impress the team. Johnson was selected lower than he’d hoped and than his projections indicated, but originally gave himself a cutoff that if he wasn’t drafted in the first 15 rounds he’d go back to school. Now faced with a chance at the big leagues, Johnson says he isn’t so sure he can just turn down an offer if he gets one.

“I was kind of getting discouraged watching the whole draft process because I honestly thought I was going to go in the top 15 rounds,” Johnson said. “To say I wasn’t disappointed, I definitely was.

“But knowing that I get this opportunity now, it adds pressure, but to me, I’m just so excited that I get this opportunity (where) there is no pressure. I’m just going to go out there, do what I always do and I’m just going to do my best and whatever happens, happens.”