Why is 2021 so nice? As the world has adapted to the pandemic, parts of life have returned to normalcy. Kids have returned to school, restaurants have opened for business, and fans have poured into stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams. This past month minor league baseball passed the nine-million mark for attendance.
For eight former San Diego State Aztecs, this return has meant experiencing their first taste of professional baseball and one big step closer toward reaching their lifetime dream of playing on an MLB roster.
Here is a breakdown of how each player has fared so far.
2020 Aztecs Draftees
Casey Schmidt 3B, Drafted: Round 2, Pick 12 by the San Francisco Giants
Schmidt was one of two Aztecs drafted following the crazy 2020 season. The draft was reduced to just five rounds, making every selection more important. After being selected, he had to wait nearly a year because the minor league season was canceled. As the Giants’ #17 prospect, he jumped straight into Single-A ball. Right now, he has a .247/.318/.406 slash line. He is on an upwards trajectory, having raised his on-base percentage by nearly .05 in the last month.
Anthony Walters SS, Drafted: Round 2, Pick 17 by the New York Mets
Walters was the second Aztecs’player drafted in 2020. While he was a second-round pick, he was not a second-round talent. He was a strategic pick to save money and spend it on other players. Nonetheless, the Mets do believe in him. He started the season in single-A and had a .536 OPS. The Mets were aggressive and promoted him to their A+ affiliate. There Walters has pretty much been the same player with a .527 OPS.
2021 Aztecs Draftees
Mike Jarvis SS, Drafted: Round 6, Pick 1 by the Pittsburgh Pirates
The 2021 draft was a step closer to normal. This draft had 20 rounds which may be the new norm with the reduced minor league teams. This Aztec class was stacked with talent, but it was surprising that Mike Jarvis was the first to hear his name called. It was a breakout 2021 season that caught the eyes of Pirates. He has not disappointed in the minors. In fact, his $7,500 signing bonus already looks like a bargain. He played 13 games in Rookie ball before leapfrogging Single-A and going straight to A+ ball. So far, he has a .354/.456/.667 slash line across both leagues.
Wyatt Hendrie C, Drafted: Round 7, Pick 1 by the Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates must like what they saw in San Diego. Right after selecting Jarvis, they drafted Wyatt Hendrie. Hendrie was one of the most complete players at SDSU. He was one of the best hitters in the Mountain West and a great defender behind the plate. Right now, he is in Rookie ball, where he will likely remain for the whole season. His .237/.348/.769 slash line is serviceable. The only delay is that he is a catcher. That position takes longer to develop due to the two-way demand.
Matt Rudick OF, Drafted: Round 13, Pick 10 by the New York Mets
For Matt Rudick, the only thing holding him back in the draft was his height. According to baseballscouter, the average center fielder is 6’1.5″, Rudick stands 5’9″. Despite the small size, he has some sneaky pop and uses his speed to collect extra-base hits. This has translated in Rookie ball, where he has a 138 wRC+(wRC+ is a stat that helps compare players while noting for factors like ballpark and the era of baseball. 100 wRC+ means they are an average hitter). He earned that through collecting 6 extra-base hits in his first 19 games.
Jaden Fein OF, Drafted: Round 15, Pick 11 by the Washington Nationals
Jaden Fein was one of the biggest threats in the Aztecs’ lineup this past season. Every time he stepped up to the plate opposing defenders had to be ready for a hard-hit ball. Unfortunately for Fein, he has not been able to bring that talent to the next level yet. In 18 games, he has a .150/.235/.200 slash line. The biggest problem is the massive uptick in strikeouts, which contributed to him cooling down at the end of the college season.
Mike Paredes RHP, Drafted: Round 18, Pick 27 by the Minnesota Twins
So far, only position players had been drafted. Well, the Twins finally had enough of that and selected one of the best Aztec pitchers from the 2021 season. He is currently fighting for playing time, only logging four innings at this point.
Kohl Simas Undrafted free agent signed by the Chicago White Sox
Earlier, we commented how Mike Jarvis’ $7,500 signing bonus is looking like a bargain, but among former Aztecs, Jarvis’ contract is not the best deal. Kohl Simas might be the steal of the 2021 class. A victim of the draft no longer having 40 rounds, Simas went undrafted. The White Sox were quick to sign him. This was a great fit for Simas. Mostly used as a starter in college, the White Sox moved him to the bullpen. The organization has been aggressive with college arms that have transitioned to a relief role. Simas was quickly promoted to Single-A ball and has made his bosses look like geniuses. Out of the bullpen, he has 1.13 ERA in 16 innings pitched.
In addition to these Aztecs getting their first taste of professional baseball, one former star on the Mesa made his MLB debut. Alan Trejo has logged 28 games with the Rockies this season. He has yet to figure it out in the MLB but is raking in the Minors. In Triple-A, he has a great .296/.344/.595 slash line. The Rockies are not expected to compete for a few years, and this should give Trejo every opportunity to show his worth in the MLB.