For the first time since 1971 and just the second time in the history of the MLB draft, Stanford baseball did not have a player selected. The shortened affair lasted just five rounds and 160 selections, and now players will be left with the decision to sign for $20,000 starting next week or return to school.
Last year, nine Cardinal were drafted.
The three Cardinal juniors with pre-draft hopes were outfield Tim Tawa, RHP Brendan Beck and LHP Jacob Palisch. In Baseball America’s pre-draft rankings of top amateurs, Tawa was No. 261, Beck was 243 and Palisch was 222.
None of the players were ranked in Keith Law’s Big Board of top 100 prospects or MLB’s top 200 draft prospects. High school third baseman Drew Bowser, a top prospect who is committed to Stanford, was rated 64th by MLB and 80th by Law.
Bowser went to Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, California, but was likely viewed as unsignable due to his strong commitment to Stanford. According to Law, the time in collegiate baseball will be a benefit due to “how much work he needs on both sides of the ball.”
Palisch’s draft stock improved last summer, when he went 5-1 with a 0.77 ERA in the Cape Cod League playing with the Harwich Mariners. That came after a brilliant freshman season out of the bullpen, including a 1.77 ERA in 45.2 innings with 36 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.99. Last year, though, Palisch was used initially as a starter, but went back to the bullpen and finished the season with a 4.79 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 56 innings with 48 strikeouts.
In 2020, Palisch never appeared for Stanford in the shortened season due to an injury and never received the opportunity to display the improvements from last year.
Beck, whose brother Tristan also went to Stanford (a member of the class of 2019) and is now in the San Francisco Giants organization, went 0-3 with a 2.82 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 22.1 innings as the Friday night starter this season. Brendan took over the ace role from Tristan in 2019 and pitched to a 2.74 ERA in his first 11 starts. Over his last five starts, however, the younger Beck faded and gave up five earned runs on three occasions and finished with a 5-4 record and 3.63 ERA.
His most impressive achievement of the season also occurred during that stretch. Brendan came into the regional championship game in relief and pitched 3.1 perfect innings two days after starting in Friday’s win.
After a promising freshman season, Tawa has not lived up to expectations. At West Linn High School, Tawa was the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year in 2017 and Football Player of the Year from 2014-16. In his first season on the Farm, Tawa was named All-Pac-12 and first team All-America by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and second team by Perfect Game while batting .296 with seven home runs, 41 RBI, 44 runs and a team-high 18 doubles.
Tawa rebounded in 2019 from a .188 batting average before the start of Pac-12 play to finish .253. In the shortened 2020 season, Tawa hit .213 with a 31.1% strikeout rate in 16 games.
Stanford head coach David Esquer ’87 told the San Francisco Chronicle that other juniors, including first baseman Nick Brueser, outfielder Christian Robinson and pitcher Carson Rudd, had good chances to get drafted somewhere in the 40 rounds, the length of a normal draft. MLB teams decided on a significantly shortened draft due to financial concerns arising from COVID-19.
“The scouts didn’t have enough chance to sit on somebody to tip the scales from liking them to really liking them,” Esquer said. “There’s a lot of unknown and fallout from the situation we’re in.”
This year’s junior class is the first recruited to Stanford by third-year coach Esquer. For those returning, they will have an extra year of eligibility and the opportunity to play in the inaugural Pac-12 baseball tournament.