Erich Uelmen always had the talent and mental fortitude of someone who would play professional baseball.
In high school, he was an honor roll student and a nearly-unhittable force during his three-year varsity career. But even the trajectory of his own pitches sometimes fooled him and his coaches.
“There were days he didn’t know if (his pitch) would cut or dive or just be a flat two-seam,” said Faith Lutheran coach David Anderson, then an assistant. “I felt terrible for our catchers. His ball was devastating. His arm speed was ahead of his body, but he’s really commanding it all now. Major development.”
With a developed body, an improved mental awareness and a better overall understanding of the game, the Cal Poly (California) junior — a 2014 Faith Lutheran graduate — has turned himself into one of the nation’s top right-handed pitchers. He is expected to be the top Southern Nevada prospect taken Monday in the Major League Baseball Draft.
The first two rounds will be live on MLB.com, beginning at 4 p.m. PDT. Rounds 3-10 are Tuesday, followed by rounds 11-40 on Wednesday.
“I’m excited to hear my named called and see what team it will be,” Uelmen said. “I feel good about it — just ready for that type of experience and excitement.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Uelmen is ranked as the No. 139 draft prospect in the country by Perfect Game USA, a position that would fall in the fifth round. But with the uncertainty of the draft, Uelmen “could go anywhere” the first two days, according to Anderson.
Uelmen went 4-8 with a 2.93 ERA this season to earn second-team all-conference honors. His 100 strikeouts over 98⅓ innings ranked second in the Big West Conference and No. 49 in the nation.
“Erich’s a freak,” Anderson said. “He’s going to be successful because he’s got the motor and the attitude to do so. He’s exactly what you want. He’s got the good stuff and an attitude to match.”
Other than the physical growth, Uelmen credits his improved mental strength for making him Cal Poly’s ace.
“I’ve just been developing and maturing as a pitcher,” he said. “Getting a lot more innings, going places during the summer, getting advice from different coaches. They preach mental strength at Cal Poly, so getting a better baseball IQ has made me a much better player.”
Legacy outfielder Donta Williams is the top-rated high school prospect in Southern Nevada, according to Perfect Game USA. The Arizona signee is ranked 249th out of 500 in the site’s national high school rankings. He batted .452 with seven doubles and five triples and also scored a team-high 32 runs in making first-team all-state.
Arbor View catcher Joe Fitzhugh (No. 282), a San Diego State signee, and Desert Oasis right-hander Brett Brocoff (No. 382), a Utah signee, also could be drafted.
Fitzhugh batted .432 with six home runs, 13 doubles and 24 RBIs, while Brocoff went 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 82 strikeouts in 49 innings. Brocoff also batted .421 with three homers and 37 RBIs and was the named the Class 4A Southern Nevada Player of the Year. Both were first-team all-state selections.
The Minnesota Twins have the first overall pick.
Hunter Greene, a high school right-hander/shortstop from Southern California who hit 102 mph on the radar gun in an outing in February, Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright and Louisville right-hander/first baseman Brendan McKay all have been connected to the top pick.
In the 2016 draft, 12 Southern Nevada players were selected. Former College of Southern Nevada ace Mikey York, a Basic High graduate, was the first of eight area players taken. The 6-foot-2 right-hander was picked in the fifth round (150th overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Contact Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow @af_ferguson on Twitter.