Michael Carpentier and Tyson Heaton broke a seven year drought for the Yucaipa High School baseball team by getting drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays and California Angels respectively in last week’s Major League Baseball draft. The Thunderbirds, known for the number of professional baseball prospects they produces had not had a player drafted directly out of YHS since Taijuan Walker in 2011.
Carpentier and Heaton were selected late in the draft so it’s unlikely that either will sign a contract. Carpentier, a catcher has committed to play next year on scholarship at Arizona State University and Heaton agreed to pitch for BYU. Those educations could equal more than playing four years in the minor leagues. But Dan Davidsmeier says there are numerous considerations a professional baseball draft pick must consider. Davidsmeier was a 1978 Yucaipa High School graduate who was drafted in the third round in 1981 by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Davidsmeier said a switch hitting catcher is a premium.
“If you want to get to the big leagues in a hurry, pitching is the way to get there,” explained Davidsmeier. “Do your homework. Is your organization rebuilding. Who's in front of you? What kind of contract do they offer?”
Davidsmeier was a middle infielder who was buried in the minors behind hall-of-fame members Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. “It’s a good idea to learn new positions.” Davidsmeier received $25,000 to sign as the 71st pick overall, equating to about $840,000 today.
Carpentier and Heaton join about 25 former YHS players who have been MLB draft selections. Lance Hallberg and Ty Hill were both No. 1 picks who were also both 15th overall selections. Hallberg played at YHS for Coach Jack Rainy before the Minnesota Twins signed him in 1977. In 1991, Hill was the first of three No. 1 draft picks coached by Jeff Stout. Hill was a 6-foot-6 left-handed pitcher with immense talent until a sore arm ended his career.
The next three number one picks coached by Stout were: Mark Teahan (2002), Matt Davidson (2009) and Taijuan Walker (2010). Along with Davidson and Walker, the 2009 team also consisted of draft picks Adam Miller and Garrett Hicks. Although not drafted, Pedro Cota was on those teams and for two seasons was arguably the best pitcher in the league. Cota was said to be too small and his 86 mph velocity was too slow.
Former MLB baseball scout and player Mel Nelson said in his day Cota would have been an attractive prospect.
“A player was once judged on his tools and ability, not how big and strong they are,” said Nelson. “If a smaller guy doesn't throw that hard but has a different type pitch that gets guys out, then I would try to draft him. Believe me I don’t have a clue anymore.”
Nelson retired after 48 years in the game. He signed with the St. Louis Cardinals out of San Bernardino High School in 1954 for the standard rate of $4,000. It was an era prior to the draft system.
“Getting a $400 million contract today is ridiculous,” said Nelson, whose teammates included Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Roger Maris, Harmon Killebrew, and Satchel Page.
Like Nelson, Yucaipa’s Corky Miller is enjoying a long career in baseball. He was drafted by the California Angels in 1994 and after playing 11 seasons for six big league teams, Miller is a roving instructor for the Cincinnati Reds. Of all YHS alumni in MLB, Mark Teahan has been the most successful, serving as one of Kansas City’s leading hitters for three seasons. Teahan’s 2002 YHS teammate Matt Carson put in a good MLB career as well. 2008 YHS grad Scott Snodgress got his feet wet with the White Sox and is now listed as a free agent.
Taijuan Walker is still active but is on the Arizona Diamondbacks disabled list while recuperating from arm surgery. Walker’s YHS teammate Matt Davidson continues to be a power hitter while anticipating a trip back to the majors. He is a member of the Texas Rangers Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, Tenn.
YHS coach Ralph Grajeda said it was great to see Heaton and Carpentier chosen in the pro draft.
“Being picked late is not indicative of their ability,” said Grajeda. “Heaton was taken in the 30th round as a matter of formality. He was actually taken in the 11th round by the California Angels but the dollar amount offered was not significant. He’ll play on scholarship at BYU where he will work on becoming a two-way player.”
Grajeda was not sure about Carpentier’s future plans. He was picked in the 40th round by Tampa Bay but had previously committed to catch on scholarship next season at Arizona State University. Grajeda thinks Carpentier will accept Arizona State’s offer.