DRAFTED: Three local grads picked up in 2016 MLB Draft
LOCAL MLB DRAFT PICKS
Rd. Player Pos. School Team
6 Stephen Nogosek RHP Oregon (Woodcreek) Boston
8 Aaron Knapp OF Cal (Granite Bay) Miami
8 Dalton Blaser OF/1B Cal State Fullerton (Roseville, Sierra) New York Yankees
One of the most storied rivalries in Major League Baseball just got a lot more interesting for the folks of Roseville.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have competed for American League supremacy for over 100 seasons, through the Curse of the Bambino and the great Yankees trade that brought Babe Ruth to New York in 1919.
That rivalry gained a pair of local prospects this week after Woodcreek High graduate Stephen Nogosek was drafted by the Red Sox in the sixth round of MLB’s First-Year Player Draft and Roseville High alum Dalton Blaser was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round last Friday.
“That would be one hell of a story,” Nogosek eluded to if the pair eventually make the majors. “But what better team to go to than the Boston Red Sox? The rich history there and the incredible fan base — it’s given me all sorts of nerves and excitement to be a part of such a great organization.”
Blaser and Nogosek are longtime friends who grew up together in the Roseville area, played on the same travel team together, played each other in high school on opposing teams and, to this day, still share a close friend in Dalton’s cousin, Austin Blatnick.
Nogosek was snatched up by Boston with the 178th overall pick to become the 39th player drafted out of the University of Oregon since 2009 and 60th all-time. The junior closer was a Pac-12 Conference first-team all-league pick and earned third-team Louisville Slugger All-America honors after finishing the 2016 season with a 2-2 record, a 1.11 ERA and a total of 16 saves — third-most in Oregon history.
“I actually had a final on Friday at 8 a.m., so I was trying to focus on that, but at the same time my life was going to change in a matter of hours,” Nogosek recalled. “There were lots of opportunities to get picked and my family, girlfriend, a couple friends and I were all waiting nervously. But when that time finally came it was a huge relief and I was really excited.”
Celebrating with his family, Nogosek knew it wouldn’t be long before he boarded a plane for Boston, began contract talks, physical exams and met his new teammates in the farm system. But he could feel a bit better thanks to the MLB Draft signing bonus for a first-year player in the 6th round, which is upwards of $280,000.
Meanwhile, Blaser entered last weekend’s festivities all too familiar with the Draft.
The former Roseville High standout, who helped the Tigers win the 2011 section championship, was originally drafted in the 39th round in 2012 after his senior season. But he chose to spend two years at Sierra College before transferring to Cal State Fullerton instead. While with the Wolverines, Blaser registered 57 combined RBIs, and, as a sophomore, earned Co-MVP honors in the Big-8 Conference, First Team All State, and All-American honors before moving down south.
“He came in as a freshman and he was a pretty polished player,” Blaser’s high school coach Hank DeMello said. “But to see how he has grown as a baseball player and as a human being has been incredible.”
By declining his first MLB offer, Blaser improved his stock by 31 rounds and he was selected by his childhood team.
“He was always a big Yankees fan,” DeMello pointed out. “I heard he was going to the Yankees and I thought, ‘Ha! Figures.’”
En route to 2016 Big West Conference Field Player of the Year honors this past season, Blaser led the Titans with a .359 batting average and played in 58 of the team's 59 games. He led the team in hits (74), RBIs (38), slugging percentage (.485), on-base percentage (.439) and walks (30). Blaser also belted four home runs in 2016, including a pair of jacks May 8 against UC Riverside to help the Titans complete a three-game sweep at Goodwin Field.
Blaser was also named to the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA)/Rawlings All-West Region first team, where he joined Nogosek, who found his name on the All-West Region second team list.
“As a coach, you see kids like that and it makes you proud,” DeMello added.
But the two childhood friends weren’t the only locals to be drafted Friday.
Granite Bay High graduate Aaron Knapp heard his name called by the Florida Marlins with the 233rd overall selection, following his older brother, Andrew, into the big leagues. Former Granite Bay and Cal catcher Andrew Knapp was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round in 2013 and has undoubtably shared some wisdom with his younger brother.
“We’ve got about six guys in the big leagues right now,” Grizzlies coach Pat Esposito acknowledged. “We’d like to take credit for that, but we tend to just polish their skills. They put in the hard work to get to that level and earn that contract.”
While at Granite Bay, Knapp was the catalyst for the Grizzlies and earned SFL MVP honors during his junior year thanks to a .434 batting average, nine doubles, two triples, a home run and 20 RBIs.
Knapp’s prowess on the baseball diamond poured over to the gridiron as he helped lead the Grizzlies to a state championship in 2013 and earned the State Final Player of the Game selection, on top of first-team all-league, all-city, and all-section honors. But he ended that season with a torn labrum and was forced to sit out the rest of the year.
“He spent his entire senior year with us rehabbing so he would be ready when he went to Cal in the fall,” Esposito recalled. “But he’s bounced back really well.”
The Marlins pick up Aaron Knapp after a breakout 2015 sophomore season when he hit .310 with 12 stolen bases for the Bears. Known as one of the fastest players entering the Draft, Knapp’s speed carried over to 2016 as he registered seven triples this past season — second most in program history.
Knapp could make upwards of $182,000 for his 8th round selection.
“As far as baseball is concerned, this area is a pretty good hotbed,” Esposito added. “Every year, you’re finding two or three guys that move on to play college baseball, get drafted or do something big.”