BASEBALL: After fifth-round MLB draft selection, former Yale pitcher Rohan Handa starts career with Giants
Despite not playing with the Bulldogs since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 baseball season, former Yale left-handed pitcher Rohan Handa was selected with pick 146 in the 2021 MLB Draft.
Courtesy of Rohan Handa
On July 12, Yale left-handed pitcher Rohan Handa was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the fifth round of this year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Handa’s selection was the culmination of a monthslong story that captivated scouts due to the Yale lefty’s rapid rise. When he started at Yale, Handa’s fastball was sitting around 83 to 85 miles per hour, but by the time of his selection, his primary pitch was averaging between 93 to 97 mph. The new San Francisco Giants player only threw one full season during his time at Yale due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which shortened the 2020 season and completely canceled the 2021 season.
“After our 2021 season was canceled, I told all my pitchers that since they were not going to be pitching, it would be the perfect time to work on improving their velocity,” Yale baseball head coach John Stuper said. “They all improved, but what Rohan did was off the charts. In all my years in baseball, I have never seen a velocity jump like [that]. I’m really proud of him. I think he could move [up] quickly.”
Handa is the 37th Yale baseball player who has been drafted since Stuper took control of the program in 1992. Four Bulldog baseball players were selected in the MLB Draft in 2019, including Simon Whiteman ’19, who currently plays for San Francisco’s Double-A affiliate. Across the bay in Oakland, Kumar Nambiar ’19 was another Indian American Yale pitcher who was drafted by the A’s and currently plays for their Low-A affiliate.
Back in March, Handa discussed his time away from New Haven in an interview with the News. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native had been working with Tread Athletics and Dynamic Sports Training in Houston to improve. He remained remotely enrolled at Yale and took four classes in the spring while coaching his old high school’s junior varsity team.
“The goal was always to get drafted,” Handa told the News in a phone call from his Rookie Ball posting in Arizona. “I honestly couldn’t be more thankful for my agents, coach Stuper simply putting my name out there. Obviously Tread Athletics has been a huge help as well. It’s been tremendous.”
Handa’s draft stock started to really take off earlier this year during the Atlantic Coast Conference’s baseball tournament, which was hosted in his hometown of Charlotte last spring, when he threw an extended bullpen organized by an advisor. According to Handa, scouts from around 15 teams attended his bullpen. Among those scouts was Arnold Brathwaite, the Northeast supervisor for the San Francisco Giants.
Besides watching his bullpen, Brathwaite got the opportunity to talk to Handa. While the talk only lasted for 10 minutes, the conversation inspired Brathwaite to dig into the Yale lefty’s background.
“I think the combination of the stuff and the person,” Brathwaite said when asked about what impressed him the most about Handa after first meeting him. “Obviously the stuff speaks for itself from where he was at a year and a half ago to where he is now. But you know just [the] person too and the work he put in, and just having a plan and understanding what he needed to do to get where he wants to go. And that’s always a good combination.”
Before selecting Handa, Brathwaite said that the Giants wanted to make sure that they got different looks at him before making the decision to draft and sign him. Brathwaite told the News that in total, five different people from the organization ended up scouting him.
Some of these evaluations came during Handa’s 2021 season in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, a summer league for college baseball players. The 6-foot-3 pitcher played for the Mystic Schooners and threw a total of 17 innings in which he struck out 25 batters to the tune of a 0.52 ERA. Handa drew on his two-seam fastball, slider, changeup and a developing splitter. Scouts have called both his slider and fastball “plus” pitches.
The repeated evaluation and his strong performances ultimately culminated in his MLB Draft selection in July. Late in July, MLB.com reporter Jonathan Mayo reported in a Tweet that Handa had signed with the San Francisco Giants for a bonus of $347,500.
Handa told the News he is currently on a two-term leave of absence from Yale, but his contract with the Giants gives the organization his MLB rights for several years. The former Yale pitcher is currently activated on the Arizona Complex League roster for the Giants but has yet to make his professional debut.