Baseball is the oldest varsity sport at Villanova, and the Wildcats' program is the thirst-oldest in the college ranks. The 'Cats have seen the dead-ball era come and go from their home base on the Main Line and they've placed a number of former athletes into the professional ranks -- starting with Denny Mack with Rochester of the American Association in 1871, though Baseball Almanac starts their list with Red Donahue in 1892.
The professionals out of Villanova included Mickey Vernon, a Washington Senators first baseman who hit a game-winning walk-off homerun on opening day of the 1954 season to lift his team over the Yankees. That helped to cement Vernon as the favorite of President Dwight Eisenhower, who reportedly tried to storm the field before his security detail stopped him -- and brought the batter to him. He was included in a 2009 list of ten former players who began their careers before 1943 who were considered for Hall of Fame induction by the Veterans Committee.
Since 2002 (13 seasons), a Wildcat has been drafted by an MLB team twenty-two times and at least one pitches has been selected in 11 out of the last 12 years. Four of those picks have come in the top-five rounds.
This Summer, four players have been the subject of heavy scouting by the majors, and are considered prospects in the draft that kicks off tomorrow: junior pitchers J.B. Kole, Max Almonte and Josh Harris, along with senior outfielder Connor Jones.
Kole is a power righty who can throw his fastball consistently in the mid-90s with late movement. He also has a well-developed slider that he can use to confuse batters. He has pitched in both the starting rotation and out of the bullpen at Villanova.
Almonte is another right-hander who throws a fastball with good velocity in the low 90s and topping out in the mid-90s. He also deploys a curveball among other secondary pitches to make a name for himself in the 'Cats' rotation. He has shown a good repertoire of pitches and allowed three or fewer earned runs in 21 of 29 collegiate starts. He did not allow any home runs in the 2014 season.
Harris is not quite Randy Johnson in proportions, but he is a tall lefty with an above-average fastball that is well-complemented by a curve that he can throw for strikes. He has shown good command of all of his pitches and started 14 of the 15 games he appeared in this Spring.
Jones is the lone senior on the list. Hailing from Chandler, Arizona, he is a Five-tool player who hits for power and has demonstrated great speed. He batted .272 with a .388 OBP and .441 slugging percentage this season, leading the conference (and tying a school record) with seven triples. He also had four home runs and five stolen bases. Jones was Villanova's top power-threat in the middle of the batting order, aligning in either center field or right field defensively.
Five former Villanovans are currently active in the minor leagues, including 2010 fifth round selection Matt Szczur (Iowa Cubs) and 2011 fourth round pick Kyle McMyne (Bakersfield Blaze), 2012 30th round pick Kyle Helisek (Palm Beach Cardinals), 2013 13th round selection Pat Young (San Jose Giants) and 2013 27th round pick Tyler Sciacca (Schaumburg Boomers).
The most recent Villanovan to reach the majors has been Kevin Mulvey, who pitched for the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks between 2009 and 2010 after being the New York Mets' top pick in 2006.