MLB Draft sees record three Bobcats drafted
The GC Baseball Team capped off a successful 2018 campaign by having a record three players selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. Major League teams picked Logan Mattix, Brandon Purcell and Brandt Stallings to compete at the next level in their baseball careers.
“I think it’s awesome,” said head baseball coach Jason Eller. “I think it says a lot of the caliber of player that were already in the program when we got here. We’ve been able to retain those players, and we’ve also been able to bring in some guys like Brandt Stallings who was a big-time prospect.”
Of the three players drafted from GC in June, Mattix heard his name called first. The Houston Astros selected the athletic, 6-foot, 185-pound outfielder in the 25th round with pick No. 762.
“It was awesome,” Mattix said of being drafted. “I mean, it’s a dream come true, just dreaming about it my whole life since I’ve been playing at such a young age. Growing up just watching MLB on TV, it’s always been a dream of mine to get drafted and play professional baseball, and it’s just cool to see it come true.”
Mattix, a native of Loganville, Georgia, displayed potential early in his college career when he batted .316 with five home runs and 46 RBI as a freshman in 2015.
After a solid 2016 campaign, Eller said assistant coach Jake Sandlin worked with Mattix to change his approach at the plate. Though he displayed a powerful bat, Mattix had never hit higher than .333 in any season prior to his junior year.
“I asked him to hit .400,” Eller said. “I was like, ‘That’s how you’re gonna get drafted, not by hitting 12 tanks.’ Because defensively, he’s about as fun to watch.”
Mattix, who received a Rawlings/ABCA Gold Glove Award for his defense in 2017, progressed in the average department during his next two seasons, hitting .366 as a junior in 2017 and .400 as a senior in 2018.
As a senior, he set career-highs in average (.400), hits (90), doubles (19), triples (four), RBI (67), walks (30), on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.640), which netted him PBC Player of the Year honors.
After being named a PBC gold scholar twice during his GC career for having a year GPA between 3.75 and 4.0, Mattix completed his degree in marketing before being drafted.
Stallings saw his name fly off the board next as the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 28th round. Stallings said he was on his way to Sandersville, Georgia, to celebrate his girlfriend’s mom’s birthday when he received the call.
“My agent called me first and asked me if that was something I wanted to do, and I said absolutely,” Stallings said. “Then I saw it on Twitter. I was trying to keep up with it, and the area scout John Poloni actually gave me a call as well to congratulate me. I was actually in downtown Sparta when that happened. I remember the gas station I was pulled over at, and mom got out and gave me a hug.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound outfielder wowed scouts with his power potential in high school. In 2014, he competed at San Diego’s Petco Park as a Perfect Game All-American and won the home run derby competition.
Stallings played two years at Georgia Tech before transferring to GC in the fall of 2017. He showcased his power at GC in his junior season in 2018 and finished the season second in home runs (seven) and tied-first in doubles (19) in roughly three-quarters the at-bats of most of his teammates.
Eller said he thinks the best is yet to come for the physical slugger.
“Physically his body is still connecting,” Eller said. “Once everything in him just gets on one frame and he gets some pro at-bats under his belt, I mean strength and leverage-wise, he’s as big as Giancarlo Stanton... And I just think that he needs some at-bats, and he needs to figure out what his set up wants to be, what kind of hitter he wants to be.”
Next up for the Bobcats was Purcell, who heard his name called by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 32nd round.
“I think Purcell’s the one that just played so well within the system,” Eller said. “He hit a home run Friday night [April 13] against Flagler that just rocked this place, and if there was any scout in the stands that night, I would’ve signed him.”
After redshirting his freshman year in 2014, Purcell split time at catcher with senior Steve Hazel and took over the job in 2016 when he batted .349 with seven home runs, eight doubles, 31 stolen bases and a .461 OBP. He posted similar numbers the next two seasons and helped the Bobcats to back-to-back PBC Championships.
According to GC sports information director Al Weston, Purcell is just one class away from completing his accounting degree.
Including Brandon Benson, who was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017, GC has produced four draft picks in the two years under Eller. According to NCAA.org, Division II players accounted for 73 of the 1,215, or six percent of the players drafted by Major League teams in 2017.
Eller said there are a variety of factors that go into a player being selected in the draft.
“I think the first thing they have to do is put up numbers,” Eller said. “And then the second thing they have to do is they have to look like a professional baseball player when the scouts come evaluate them. So they have to fill out their uniform and they have to look probably bigger than everybody on a Division II field.”
While he acknowledged that he never played professionally, Eller said that professional baseball is much different than college baseball because of the amount of games on the schedule. In college, teams usually play three or four games a week, but in professional baseball, teams usually play every day. Stallings and Benson noted the same concept.
“Playing every day is definitely something to get used to. It’s more of a grind for sure,” Benson said. “It’s a grind to get your body ready. You’ve got to pay attention to what you put into your body and all that, so it’s just a grind.”
With the Minor League seasons winding down over the next few weeks, Eller said he hopes the players will come back at some point to talk and workout with the team.
Looking forward to the 2019 MLB Draft, Eller mentioned Wesley Wommack, Cal Gentry and Bradley Cammack among a handful of other players who potentially could follow in the footsteps of Benson, Mattix, Purcell and Stallings.
After a season in which the team won the conference, led Division II in batting average and placed a record number of players on the PBC All-Academic Team, Eller said he hopes the program can continue to consistently produce draft picks.
“There’s just so much history here, at our university, at John Kurtz Field, to me that’s how it should be,” Eller said. “And I’m hoping that we can continue that little streak that we started in the 2019 draft.”