MLB Draft Review: Four HBCU Players Get The Call

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Updated: June 14, 2016
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By BASN Wire Services

NEW HAVEN, Ct. (BASN) — After 40 rounds and thousands of players named and profiled for public edification, the three-day MLB Amateur Draft was finally completed over the weekend. Four HBCU players were chosen. Today, we take a capsule look at the draftees.

The players are listed by the order they were taken.
7TH ROUND
Michael Cruz, Bethune-Cookman (Cubs, 224th overall)
An All-MEAC First Team performer in 2016, Cruz led the league and finished the regular season in the top-15 nationally for home runs, completing the season with 16 overall. He was also third on the Wildcats squad with a .325 batting average, adding a team second-best 65 hits, 41 RBI’s and scoring a team-high 50 runs. As both a catcher and designated hitter for the 2016 MEAC Champions, Cruz was the only student-athlete on the squad to play and start in all 56 games.
A transfer from Clarendon College, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico  is a product of the acclaimed Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and High School – a school that has sent a number of noteworthy names to The Wildcats throughout the years.

He becomes the first Wildcat drafted since Keith Zuniga (Marlins), Montana Durapau (Pirates), John Sever (Pirates) were all taken in 2014. Under the direction of head coach Jason Beverlin, Cruz becomes the fifth student-athlete drafted in his five-year span in Daytona Beach.

20TH ROUND

Angel Alicea, Alabama State (Blue Jays, 612th overall)

Alicea, the Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, native, mainly appeared out of the bullpen for the Hornets in 2016. He made three starts in 17 appearances, throwing 36.2 innings, including collecting the win over Tennessee on April 27, as well as getting the start and the win in the SWAC Championship over Texas Southern.

Alicea (3-0) also got the call to start for the Hornets NCAA Tournament elimination game against South Alabama on June 4. The junior hurler collected two saves while putting together a 1.47 ERA, only allowing seven runs (six earned) on 29 hits while striking out 51.

He becomes Alabama State’s 11th player in program history to be drafted.

28TH ROUND

Andrew Vernon, N.C. Central (Brewers, 831st overall)

The reliever from Raleigh became the first Major League Baseball draft pick from NCCU when he was selected by Milwaukee on Saturday, June 11. Vernon pitched four seasons for the maroon and gray and ended his career as the modern-era leader in career saves with 15 and kept a career ERA of 3.89 which tops the list as well.

Over his four years on the mound Vernon made a career-record 83 appearances with seven starts as he had an opportunity to move from the bullpen to the mound in his senior campaign.  He was a 2016 First Team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference selection after he nailed down four saves and led the league with 85 strikeouts, which set a new single season mark in the modern era at NCCU.

With those 85 strikeouts, Vernon also finished the regular season 12th in NCAA Division I in strikeouts per nine innings with an average of 11.93 punchouts. Vernon is also high in the NCCU career leaderboards in pitching as he is second in the modern era with 181 strikeouts and holds the second lowest opposing batting average of .243.

22ND ROUND

Clay Middleton, Bethune-Cookman (Rangers, 669th overall)

A 6-foot, 205-pound catcher from Oviedo, Florida, Middleton finished the 2016 season second on the Bethune-Cookman roster in batting average, hitting at a .335 clip on the campaign. The Hagerty High alum earned a spot on the 2016 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) First Team, in addition to helping the Wildcats to their league-leading 18th conference title and a berth in the NCAA Gainesville [Fla.] Regional.

In 2016, Middleton played and started in 47 games, most of them coming behind the dish for the Maroon and Gold. He collected 56 hits, adding 31 RBI’s, three home runs and scoring 25 runs. He fielded at a .983 clip, recording 204 putouts and 30 assists.

Across his three-year career, Middleton batted .261 in 138 career games. He added 114 hits and three home runs, all of the latter coming in 2016. In 2014, Middleton made eight appearances starting behind the dish for the Wildcats before an injury sidelined him for the season, using a medical hardship waiver and a season to rehabilitate.

He would go on to earn a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA.

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