On Tuesday and Wednesday, several Penn State players were given the opportunity to advance their careers in professional baseball.
The Nittany Lions’ largest draft class since 2012, pitchers Dante Biasi and Eric Mock as well as catcher Ryan Sloniger had their names called at the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. In addition, Penn State Berks infielder Toby Welk as well as Penn State signees Braden Halladay and Tanner Cooper were selected.
Biasi was the first Nittany Lion off the board, as the Kansas City Royals took the southpaw with the 169th overall pick (sixth round) on Tuesday.
"We are so happy for Dante [Biasi] and his family." coach Rob Cooper told GoPSUsports. "He has worked so hard and truly deserves this opportunity.”
The selection marks the highest draft position for any Penn State player since 2010 and any pitcher since 2008. Furthermore, no left-handed pitcher in program history has ever been picked as high as Biasi.
Biasi was a member of the Nittany Lions for three years, pitching for two seasons. The lefty began his collegiate career as a medical redshirt while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
As a redshirt sophomore, the lefty blossomed into the Nittany Lions' ace. Biasi went 3-6 with a 2.55 ERA while leading Penn State in both innings pitched and strikeouts.
Biasi fanned 102 batters during the 2019 campaign, the fifth-highest single-season total in program history. Biasi recorded more than 10 strikeouts in three different outings.
“The Royals are getting a tough-minded, winning pitcher who loves to compete,” Cooper told GoPSUsports.
Biasi was originally selected by the Chicago Cubs with the 674th overall pick (22nd round) of the 2016 MLB Draft, but instead decided to become a Nittany Lion. He was selected 505 positions higher on Tuesday than three years ago.
Dante will now join his older brother and former Penn State pitcher Sal Biasi in the minor leagues. Coincidentally, Sal was also drafted by Kansas City in the 11th round of the 2017 MLB Draft, but now plays for the West Virginia Power -- the Class A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Fellow starting pitcher Eric Mock was the first Nittany Lion to be picked on Wednesday, the final day of the draft. The redshirt junior was taken by the Cleveland Indians with the 760th overall selection (25th round).
"We are extremely proud and excited for Eric [Mock] and his family," Cooper told GoPSUsports. "He is a true Nittany Lion and put in a ton of hard work.”
This past season, Mock became a bona fide starter in the Nittany Lions’ weekend rotation. The hard-throwing righty took the ball 12 times in 2019, posting a 2-4 record with a 3.94 ERA.
“The Indians are getting a super-competitive, winning pitcher who will continue to work hard and do well,” Cooper told GoPSUsports. “We wish him nothing but the best."
Ryan Sloniger was the third player from Cooper’s squad to hear his named called at the draft. The Toronto Blue Jays chose the senior with the 1,137th overall pick (38th round).
"We are so excited for Ryan [Sloniger] and his family,” Cooper told GoPSUsports. "Ryan [Sloniger] has worked very hard to accomplish his goal of playing professional baseball.”
A mainstay behind the plate, Sloniger appeared in 166 games over his four seasons at Penn State. Sloniger ranks fourth all-time in program history with 1,080 career putouts.
The veteran also served as a designated hitter and first baseman during his collegiate career. Sloniger posted a .246 batting average with nine home runs and 81 RBIs during his time in Happy Valley.
Mock and Sloniger were not the only Nittany Lions selected on Wednesday. Penn State Berks senior Toby Welk was also drafted, as the Baltimore Orioles took him the 618th overall pick (21st round).
"I now have an opportunity to represent every place that I came from," Welk told Penn State Berks Athletics. "I get to show what I can do on the next level and am excited to see where the game of baseball takes me."
With the selection, Welk became the first student-athlete in Penn State Berks history to be drafted by one of the major sports leagues in the United States. A four-year starter for the Nittany Lions, Welk shattered several offensive records during his time at the Commonwealth campus.
The senior ended his collegiate career as Berks’ all-time leader in hits (241), batting average (.433), doubles (53), home runs (34), RBIs (201), slugging percentage (.768) and at-bats (557). Welk also ranks second all-time in runs scored (165), triples (16), on-base percentage (.508) and starts (149).
Welk posted a .483 batting average in 2019, recording 13 dingers and 58 RBIs. The senior was named the National Player of the Year by D3Baseball.com and was a First Team All-American for the second season in a row.
Two Penn State commits were also picked by big league clubs on Wednesday. Well-known pitcher Braden Halladay was the first recruit taken off the board, as the Toronto Blue Jays chose him with the with the 957th overall selection (32nd round).
The son of the late Roy Halladay, Braden was drafted by Toronto 24 years after his father. Roy was picked by the Blue Jays with the 17th overall selection in the 1995 draft, the beginning of his hall-of-fame career.
Roy spent the majority of his career with Toronto, wearing No. 32. The Blue Jays honored the Halladay family by taking Braden in the 32nd round on Wednesday, the same number his father wore for 12 seasons.
Shortly after the pick, Braden announced via Twitter that he will still attend Penn State to play collegiate baseball. He will be eligible for the MLB Draft again in three years.
Thank you @BlueJays for drafting me in the 32nd round today! It’s a great honor! It’s with mutual understanding that I’ll still be honoring my commitment to Penn State! I look forward to college and bettering myself as a player and person, thank you to all who have supported me! pic.twitter.com/tUcKWZESPl— Braden Halladay (@BradenHalladay) June 5, 2019
Braden is a 6-foot-3 right-hander from Calvary Christian High School in Odessa, Florida. He is ranked nationally by Perfect Game as one of the top 500 prospects in the 2019 recruiting class.
Fellow signee Tanner Cooper was also selected, as he was taken by the Cincinnati Reds with the 1,044th overall pick (35th round). Cooper was slated to transfer to Penn State in the fall, but can now opt to join the Nittany Lions or the Reds organization.
An infielder and pitcher, Cooper began his collegiate career at Stony Brook before transferring to Finger Lakes Community College prior to the 2019 campaign. The two-way sophomore posted a .411 batting average and a 1.62 ERA with the Lakers this past season.