In the Minors, a lot of the focus is on where a player is going.
Is he going up to the next level? To the Majors? On the injured list? To a new team in a trade?
But for many, where they’ve been is also important.
Currently there are 6,725 active Minor Leaguers, and 3,270 of them were selected in the First-Year Player Draft. And to drill down even more, about 2,500 were selected out of college. This year, the Draft swayed even more toward college players, given the shortened five-round format. A record seven picks were selected before a prep prospect was taken.
From the Southeastern Conference to the Pac-12, college baseball can be the perfect stepping stone from high school to pro ball as players leave their hometowns and join strangers-turned-teammates for a common goal of dogpiling near the pitcher’s mound after a hard-fought season.
Some college programs are known for producing elite talent, while others are unmatched under the pressures of the College World Series. Here, we look at the schools that are most represented in the Minor Leagues. Note, this list does not include players officially listed as Major Leaguers, including those with rookie status (e.g., the A’s A.J. Puk and the Braves’ Kyle Wright). Therefore, a team like LSU, which would have been No. 7 overall, instead moves out of the Top 10 due to graduated prospects. It's also worth noting that this list does include 2020 Draft picks, who have yet to play a pro game.
Vanderbilt Commodores, 33
Given the way Vanderbilt has remained a powerhouse in college baseball, both in terms of individual awards and team titles, it should come as no surprise that Vandy Boys hold the plurality when it comes to drafted Minor Leaguers. And all of pro ball, for that matter. Following in the footsteps of David Price and Dansby Swanson, the Marlins' JJ Bleday and the Rockies' Ben Bowden lead the next wave of Commodores. Kyle Wright is also a Vanderbilt product, and while he still has 25 innings remaining as a prospect, he is on the Braves’ Major League roster. From his vantage point on the MLB Network broadcast, head coach Tim Corbin watched the selection of four of his players this year. The group was headlined by Austin Martin's selection fifth overall by the Blue Jays, though he has not signed yet. The school certainly has an anchor in the Minors.
Louisville Cardinals, 32
Many bats -- as well as top prospects -- come from Louisville. Led by two-way Rays standout Brendan McKay, the Cardinals seem to have become more and more popular at the Draft. Since Josh Rogers was the lone pick in 2015, Louisville has grown each year, boasting eight in 2019. This year, Reid Detmers, Bobby Miller and Zach Britton were picked up and signed out of the shortened Draft. Detmers joined Corey Ray, Zack Burdi and McKay as first-rounders. With all this talent and Dan McDonnell at the helm, it’s no wonder the school has reached the College World Series in four of the past seven seasons, though the title continues to elude the Cardinals.
Arizona Wildcats, 30
The likes of Terry Francona and Trevor Hoffman have been honored with retired numbers while Arizona remains a big name in college ball with four titles over the years. The Wildcats churn out several Draft picks each year, though 2020 Yankees pick Austin Wells became the first first-rounder taken out of the school since the Pirates selected Kevin Newman in 2015. Matthew Dyer was picked up in the fourth round the following day. Boston’s Bobby Dalbec and Pittsburgh’s Jared Oliva highlight the next pack of Wildcats eyeing the Majors. The picks are fairly spread out with 19 Major League farm systems featuring at least one Arizona product, even more than Vanderbilt and Louisville can claim.
North Carolina Tar Heels, 29
While Michael Jordan might be the most famous UNC product to play in the Minors, the school has plenty of prospects drafted off the baseball team to be proud of, including the Dodgers’ Michael Busch, the Blue Jays’ Logan Warmoth and the A’s Skye Bolt. The program boasts six first-rounders currently in the Minors, and most recently, the Twins nabbed Aaron Sabato as the lone 2020 UNC pick. Through all the Draft departures, the Tar Heels remain a perennial NCAA Tournament team, making it to Regionals 19 times in the last 22 chances and losing in the College World Series Finals twice.
UCLA Bruins, 27
The Bruins have a history of success on the field and big names at the Draft, including Major Leaguers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer. UCLA won its first College World Series in 2013, with help from five current Minor Leaguers, most notably 2015 first-rounder James Kaprielian. The Rockies especially appear to love L.A., drafting six Bruins in recent years. And earlier this month, two more Bruins were picked up -- Garrett Mitchell and Holden Powell, though the former has not signed yet. Of course, the greatest baseball player to come out of the Bruins program was not drafted: Jackie Robinson.
Florida Gators, 27
While the Gators are only sixth on this list and did not add anyone in 2020, they have an exciting crop coming through the Minors right now, led by the Royals’ Brady Singer, the Reds’ Jonathan India and the Tigers’ Alex Faedo, who were all on the College World Series championship squad in 2017. Buddy Reed recently had a Gators reunion with A.J. Puk upon being traded to the A’s; however, the latter is officially listed as a Major Leaguer even though he retains his prospect status. Florida remains a strong competitor on the field, reaching Regionals every year this century except 2006 and '07. For what it’s worth, though, now-Minor Leaguer Tim Tebow was giving the school plenty to cheer for on the football field during those years.
Clemson Tigers, 25
Prior to the shortened Draft, Clemson had a steady stream of three or four players being selected each year since 2015. And even with only five rounds this year, a pair of Tigers still wound up being taken -- Sam Weatherly and Spencer Strider. The program is a contender each year, reaching the College World Series 12 times in school history, but it has yet to come up with a title (only Florida State has more appearances without a crown at 23). In terms of top prospects, the D-backs’ Seth Beer and the A’s Logan Davidson called Clemson home before making their way through the Minors. And the list doesn't change much if you include Major Leaguers; the Cardinals' Brad Miller would be the only addition.
Ole Miss Rebels, 25
In 2014, Ole Miss returned to the College World Series for the first time in 42 years. That squad featured five current Minor Leaguers, including Tigers prospect Colby Bortles, the brother of NFL quarterback Blake. Meanwhile, 2018 Draft pick Ryan Rolison is on the up-and-up with the Rockies and 2019 second-rounder Grae Kessinger is beginning to translate his college success to the Minors with help from his Major League grandpa, Don, who also played for Ole Miss. As for this year, 2020 picks Anthony Servideo (Orioles) and Tyler Keenan (Mariners) lead the next wave from the Rebels.
Texas Tech Red Raiders, 25
Texas Tech’s baseball program in its current iteration has been around since the '50’s, but the team didn't become competitive until the past 20 years. And in the last six, the Red Raiders have become a powerhouse, reaching the CWS four times. Continuing with the trend, 24 of the 25 Texas Tech products in pro ball are currently in the Minors with Robert Dugger the lone Major Leaguer at this time. The next generation of Texas Tech alum is highlighted by Rangers' 2019 pick Josh Jung, as well as 2020 selections Clayton Beeter (Dodgers) and Bryce Bonnin (Reds).
Other programs with strong showings: Arizona State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State and the University of Virginia all boast 24 Minor Leaguers. ASU was the big name of this month's Draft, not only claiming the No. 1 pick Spencer Torkelson, but also as the only school with five picks. Virginia, the 2015 CWS champs, has had a strong program over the past 20 years, producing Sean Doolittle and Ryan Zimmerman, but slipped in the rankings after only generating three picks in the last two Drafts.
Kelsie Heneghan is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan.