The Major League Draft—the effect it has on the cape league and each individual athlete

Catcher Dylan Leach (Missouri State) on Opening Day at home against Bourne. Leach is eligible for the draft beginning Sunday evening. Photo credit: Sadie Parker

By Mark Rappaport

BREWSTER—On a warm Monday in July 2022, Alex Freeland (Central Florida), in his second year as a Whitecap, sits tirelessly staring at his phone with his teammates, waiting for the most important call of his life that may never even come—whether a Major League Baseball team will select him in the draft.

Ultimately, Freeland was drafted in the third round with the 105th overall pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers. That phone call finally came, and the countless hours of hard work he put in before picking up all seemed worth it.

Shortstop Alex Freeland in 2022 with the Whitecaps. Freeland was a staple of Brewster’s offense for two years in 2021 and 2022 and is now in the Dodgers organization. Photo credit: Bill Pomeroy

Major league clubs spend eons preparing for the draft, hoping to dig out the next diamond on the diamond.  For most rebuilding teams like the Baltimore Orioles in the latter half of the 2010s, the draft is critical as it is considered the season’s most important event, given the talent available.

However, the draft is not just an important event for each major league club; it is also the event in an athlete’s career. It can decide whether or not an athlete will get the crucial opportunity to play professional baseball in the minor—and potentially major—leagues.

The draft is stressful for all players, including former Cape League stars like Adley Rutschman, Spencer Torkelson (Chatham, 2017), and Zach Neto (Brewster, 2021). That trio came into the draft as clear first-round draft picks, knowing they would be selected by a team in the first round with a high likelihood of eventually making the major leagues.

However, the draft is a complete wild card for many other players, including Freeland and much of Brewster’s active roster in 2023. Forget the details of who and when, for many players their main concern is simply if they get drafted.

“Most people don’t even know,” pitcher Joey DeChiaro (Rutgers) said. “It’s a crazy thing.”

There’s no specific guidebook on how to prepare for such a high-stress event. For everyone, it’s a little different.

“It is definitely super stressful,” DeChiaro said about his mindset about the draft. “It’s really a dream of ours, you know. Like it would make my world, it would make my family’s world.”

In addition, Whitecaps’ catcher Dylan Leach (Missouri State) is also draft eligible and, of course, has been consumed by it, though he is trying to relax and not let it consume him.

“If I go, I go; if I don’t, you know, I’ll go back to college and try another year and go from there,” Leach said. I’m just mentally preparing for a phone call.”

To alleviate stress, many draft-eligible Cape League players focus on the present and the game right in front of them; they understand that the draft is entirely out of their control and that nothing can be done about it.

“I’m focused on being with Brewster,” DeChiaro said. “Last thing I want to do is have that affect my performances for Brewster. So I just try and forget about it.”

DeChiaro definitely has kept his performances at a high level and possibly even elevated his draft stock with his outings in Brewster. Through his seven appearances, he holds a 1.89 ERA and has not allowed a hit in five of them.

DeChiaro pitching for the Whitecaps in Brewster’s 9-5 win over the Bourne Braves at Doran Park. Photo credit: Sadie Parker

After the initial shock and happiness that comes with a call wears off, the details of a contract and location become the key issue. Some are drafted much later than initially anticipated or are not given a contract they feel they deserve and have to decide whether or not they want to sign and if not, what’s the backup plan? 

“Depends on where they’re drafted and how high they’re drafted and how much money is offered to them,” Whitecaps manager Jamie Shevchik said. “It changes every year.”

In addition to the players, the draft also has an enormous effect on each Cape League roster, as a handful of players on each team leave because of the draft. Therefore, each franchise and its coaching staff, including Brewster’s, work tirelessly before and after the draft to replace those players.

Trevor Werner (Texas A&M) is one example. Werner played for Brewster at the end of the year in 2022 and came back for two weeks in 2023. Werner recently left to prepare for the draft, where he will likely be chosen. Brewster has been forced to replace Werner, the Whitecaps’ hottest bat, while he was active.

Werner pleased after Brewster’s win at home against the rival Chatham Anglers. Werner led the Whitecaps, hitting two doubles along with two RBI and two runs scored. Photo credit: Sadie Parker

However, as a result of the draft, there are many more players who either were not drafted or chose not to sign year after year. Many of these players turn to the Cape League to show off their skills on a national stage throughout the remainder of the summer. 

“Unfortunately, there are going to be thousands of kids that do not get their name called. So we have got to do a good job if we lose players, go find those players,” Shevchik said. “There’s going to be a lot of players that are coming in and out in the next couple of weeks.”

They’re used to it, though. Brewster and most other teams are relatively successful despite the difficulties of replacing key players after the draft. 

Brewster lost high-level talent in 2021 and still won the championship that year,and was the runner-up a year ago in 2022, partly because of the work Shevchik and his coaching staff put into scouting available talent.

The draft is a fascinating event that fans worldwide watch very closely. However, although players are athletes, ultimately, it is about more than just baseball.

“My only thing that I’m looking for is what’s in the best interest of the player,” Shevchik said. “We’re going to always do what I feel like is going to be best for the kid.”

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: