Every year, hundreds of young baseball players take another step towards their goals of reaching Major League Baseball stardom when one of 30 professional organizations calls their names in the first-year player draft. While the 40-round odyssey of a draft offers a far less straightforward path to the Bigs than in other professional leagues, any draft selection nevertheless means opportunity for the next generation of professional ballplayers.
In total, 13 Ivy League standouts — 10 pitchers and three position players from five different schools — were selected in the 2017 MLB Draft. While the next Lou Gehrig or Red Rolfe may not be among them, Down The Field takes a look at their resumes and how they stacked up against the Bulldogs as their professional careers kick off.
Beau Sulser, Dartmouth pitcher
Draft position: 10th round, 298th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates
Following in the footsteps of 2015 Ivy League Pitcher of the Year and former teammate Duncan Robinson, Sulser — the 2017 winner of Robinson’s accolade — became the second the Big Green hurler in as many years to earn a top-300 draft pick. Dartmouth’s fifth-year senior compiled a 6–1 record in his final tour through the Ivy League, owning opponents with a 0.80 WHIP ranking second best in all of Division I college baseball. Sulser did not miss a beat in his lone 2017 appearance at Yale Field, recording eight strikeouts and scattering four hits over seven innings in a 7–2 win to anchor a doubleheader split on April 24. Sulser’s pick value, per MLB.com, is approximated at $134.2 thousand.
Billy Lescher, Penn pitcher
Draft position: 17th round, 515th overall by the Detroit Tigers
Having never logged an outing of more than three innings during his entire season, Lescher exemplified the reliever role as an anchor the 2017 Quaker bullpen. The junior second-team All-Ivy selection made a team-high 16 appearances on the year and blanked his opponents in 13 of those instances, finishing with a 3.18 ERA and four saves.
Michael Danielak, Dartmouth pitcher
Draft position: 19th round, 561st overall by the Oakland Athletics
Though not having compiled as sparkling of a career resume as Sulser, Danielak demonstrated consistent upside for professional scouts after improving both his workload and his ERA over his last three seasons with the Big Green. In his senior campaign, the 6-foot-4 righty picked up a second-team All-Ivy nod with a 7–2 record and a 2.64 ERA in 58.0 innings pitched. Danielak’s last outing against the Bulldogs, however, was one he would rather forget — the eventual Ivy League champions clobbered 11 hits and put up eight runs before chasing the Dartmouth starter after just 4.2 innings in a wire-to-wire shutout rout on April 23.
Jake Cousins, Penn pitcher
Draft position: 20th round, 613th overall by the Washington Nationals
The second non-Dartmouth Ivy Leaguer selected in the 2017 Draft, Cousins made his mark on Ancient Eight competition from the onset of his college career. The righthander earned an All-Ivy honorable mention as a freshman and a second-team selection as a sophomore before climbing the ladder in his senior season. In his final season as a Quaker, Cousins worked 68.2 innings en route to a unanimous first-team All-Ivy honor. Though finishing with a career mark of 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.91 ERA, the Penn veteran couldn’t get the job done on May 16 in New Haven, where the Elis tagged him for a decisive five runs in the Ivy League Championship Series opener.
Paul Balestrieri, Cornell pitcher
Draft position: 26th round, 784th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals
Though failing to break into the ranks of the All-Ivy First Team in his final season with the Big Red, Balestrieri proved his mettle in a stingy senior campaign. The 6-foot-2 reliever-turned-starter surrendered just 14 earned runs in 57.2 innings while holding opponents to a 0.229 batting average on the season. His 5–4 overall record was highlighted by a dominant seven-inning performance against the Bulldogs in the season’s opening weekend; Balestrieri struck out seven and gave up just two earned runs in a 6–4 win, becoming the first of two Ivy League pitchers to best Yale on its home field in 2017.
Adam Bleday, Penn pitcher
Draft position: 27th round, 811th overall by the Houston Astros
Bleday’s final season with the Blue and Red was also his first as a starter; while his marks in conventional starter metrics — a 2–5 win-loss record and a 4.77 ERA — don’t suggest success, his 11 strikeouts per nine innings and game-saving performance in the Lou Gehrig division playoff against Princeton might indicate otherwise. The first Ivy League selection in this year’s draft to not receive 2017 All-Ivy honors did little to help his case in his final start of the season on May 16, when the Elis erupted for eight runs on 11 hits in Bleday’s 2.2 innings start of the Ivy League Championship–clinching game.
Richard Slenker ’17, Yale third baseman
Draft position: 28th round, 841st overall by the Houston Astros
The Astros’ second of back-to-back Ivy League selections, Slenker became the first non-pitcher from the Ancient Eight picked in this year’s draft and the first Bulldog to hear his name called since pitcher Chasen Ford ’17 was selected in the 27th round of last year’s draft. The 2017 Yale captain proved his leardership time and again on the field for the Bulldogs over the course of his career, leading his team in nearly every offensive category as a junior and batting 0.500 in the Ivy League Championship Series a year later. Though he received a second-team All-Ivy selection in 2017, Slenker’s captainship of the winningest team in Yale baseball history will certainly endure far longer in Yale fans’ minds.
Peter Lannoo, Cornell pitcher
Draft position: 28th round, 846th overall by the San Francisco Giants
The seventh Ivy League pitcher selected in the 2017 MLB Draft joined Michael Danielak on the West Coast just five picks after Slenker. Lannoo was a surprise first-team All-Ivy selection in 2017 after saving eight games in 17 relief appearances and posting a 3.84 ERA for the 9–11 Big Red. In his senior season, the Terre Haute, Indiana native turned in a pedestrian 1.24 WHIP and a strikeout rate of just under seven per nine innings. Against the Bulldogs, Lannoo finished off the work of another 2017 draftee, hurling one inning of one-hit ball to seal Paul Balestrieri’s April 2 win.
Justin Lewis, Cornell pitcher
Draft position: 28th round, 850th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers
Lewis logged just 45.2 innings for the Big Red in 2017, giving up 27 runs for a 5.32 ERA. The junior, who retains a year of college eligibility should he turn down a minor-league contract offer from the Dodgers, could revisit his existing role as a consistent strikeout thrower in the 2018 Cornell bullpen — he recorded one fewer punch out than inning pitched in 2017.
Harrison White ’17, Yale right fielder
Draft position: 31st round, 929th overall by the Miami Marlins
The job of Marlins right fielder — currently safe with 6-foot-6 home run titan Giancarlo Stanton — couldn’t be much further out of reach for White, but the newly-minted Yale alumn has his chance to dream courtesy of Stanton’s club. White assembled a remarkably consistent college career at the plate, hitting 0.289 and recording 138 hits in 155 career games for the Blue. The Laguna Niguel, California native’s highest productivity came against conference opponents; in 18 appearances during Yale’s 16–4 Ancient Eight campaign this season, White slashed 0.377/0.479/0.508 en route to a second-team All-Ivy honor.
Jake Nelson, Penn pitcher
Draft position: 33rd round, 995th overall by the Detroit Tigers
Though just a sophomore, Nelson showed promise out of the 2017 Quaker bullpen during its Lou Gehrig title run, finishing the season with a 2.25 ERA and a team-best 0.193 opponent batting average. Nelson was saddled with a loss in his only action against the Bulldogs this season after spoiling a one-run outing from teammate Gabe Kleiman on April 9 in an eventual 5–4, 10-inning Yale win.
Christian Taugner, Brown pitcher
Draft position: 37th round, 1104th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers
Taugner started all 26 of his college appearances for the Bears, and despite missing his entire sophomore season due to injury rebounded with nearly identical numbers to his freshman season. In three complete campaigns, Taugner pitched to the tune of a 2.64 ERA and a rate of 6.49 strikeouts per nine innings. The 6-foot-3 starter turned in one of his best outings of the season against the Bulldogs, throwing seven innings of one-run ball in a 12–1 blowout on April 29.
Rob Henry, Brown center fielder
Draft position: 39th round, 1164th overall by the Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers doubled down on Brown with the third and final non-pitcher of the Ivy League’s 2017 Draft crop. A first-team All-Ivy selection in his senior season, Henry batted a career-best 0.317 and spent what felt like the entire Ivy League season on base — in 20 games against Ancient Eight competition, the Cranston, Rhode Island native tallied seven multi-hit games while going hitless on just one occasion, an 0–3 outing against Princeton on April 2. Henry stayed true to form in his final collegiate series against the Bulldogs, recording four hits and batting in four runs in four games.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article forgot to include Billy Lescher’s 17th-round selection by the Detroit Tigers. It has since been updated accordingly.