Two Arizona Wildcats left-handers were selected during the third and final day of the 2019 MLB draft. One is expected to begin his professional career imminently. The other has a decision to make.
The soon-to-be pro is junior Andrew Nardi, whom the Miami Marlins picked in the 16th round Wednesday. Nardi spent one season at Arizona after transferring from Moorpark (California) Community College. Blessed with ideal measurables (6-2, 190), Nardi had an up-and-down campaign, at times struggling with his control and command.
Nardi finished 4-5 with a 6.75 ERA. He struck out 66 batters in 66º innings but also walked 40, hit 12 and threw 12 wild pitches.
Randy Labaut had to wait until the 35th round for his name to be called. The Cleveland Indians grabbed him with the 1,060th pick. Whether that’s enough for the redshirt junior to forgo his final season of eligibility remains to be seen.
Labaut migrated to the United States from Cuba with his family when he was 13 years old. He redshirted as a freshman at Arizona and had emerged as the Wildcats’ most effective pitcher in 2018 before having to undergo emergency surgery for compartment syndrome in his left leg.
Labaut made a full recovery and posted an 8-3 record with a 5.19 ERA this season. He struck out 79 batters in 85 innings, won his final five starts and recorded a quality start in six of his last eight appearances.
He isn’t likely to get much of a signing bonus as a 35th-round pick. If Labaut returned for his senior year, he could get drafted significantly higher, as happened to UA lefties Avery Weems this year (sixth round) and JC Cloney in 2017 (ninth).
Labaut also has dreamed of playing pro baseball since he was a child in Cuba.
He was asked after his final home start of 2019 whether it was also his last outing as a Wildcat at Hi Corbett Field.
“I don’t know,” he said. “That could be it. If it was, I left everything on the field out there. If it wasn’t … whatever happens, happens.”
The signing deadline for draft picks who aren’t college seniors is July 15.
Q’s ‘awesome experience’
Nick Quintana isn’t prone to hyperbole or excessive displays of emotion. But getting picked in the second round by the Detroit Tigers on Monday had the UA third baseman feeling positively giddy.
“I had been looking forward to this day for a really long time,” Quintana told the Star on Wednesday. “I was really ecstatic, happy, overfilled with joy. I was all of the above. It was an awesome experience.”
Shortly before teammate Cameron Cannon went to the Boston Red Sox, Quintana’s agent received a call from the Tigers. He relayed that news to Quintana, who was monitoring the draft at home in Las Vegas with his family and girlfriend.
Detroit picked four spots after Boston. Sure enough, the Tigers tabbed Quintana, who finished his three-year UA career with the fourth-most home runs (35) in school history.
Quintana described being selected within five picks of Cannon — his classmate, roommate, workout partner and fellow infielder — as a “really cool” experience. Quintana said he might not have processed something like that the same way as a high school senior.
“Out of high school, there’s a little bit of animosity,” Quintana said. “It’s like, ‘How did he go before me?’
“I was so proud of him. I texted him right away. We can both say that we were second-round draft picks.”
UA freshmen honored
Arizona’s stellar freshman class received more acclaim Wednesday.
Catcher-first baseman Austin Wells and infielder Dayton Dooney were named to the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America Team.
Wells, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, hit .353 with a league-high 73 runs scored. Wells’ 78 hits included 15 doubles, seven triples and five home runs. He finished with 60 RBIs and a .462 on-base percentage.
Dooney, who made the Collegiate Baseball squad as a designated hitter, batted .323 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. The latter was the third-highest figure by a UA freshman since 1976.
- Another would-be UA pitcher, graduate transfer Davis Vainer, was selected by the Houston Astros in the 21st round. The right-hander announced last month that he would be transferring to Arizona from Alabama, where he posted a 3.34 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 29º innings last season. Vainer is expected to follow through with his transfer plan.
- UA signee Garrett Irvin was the final pick of the draft. The left-hander from Riverside City College is expected to enroll at Arizona this summer and should be a key part of the staff next season.
- The Diamondbacks selected Pima Community College outfielder Phillip Sikes in the 33rd round. Sikes hit .369 with 12 doubles, six triples, seven homers and 39 RBIs in 179 at-bats for the Aztecs this season.
- Arizona had six players picked in this year’s draft. Since Jay Johnson‘s first season in 2016, 26 of his players have been selected.