After becoming an elite Mountain West baseball player, UNLV’s Bryson Stott had the chance last summer to prove himself on a national scale.
He started 13 games at shortstop for the Collegiate National Team, batting .262 with a team-high seven RBIs and key hits against Coastal Plain League Select Team, Japan and Cuba.
“You don’t get that many chances to put on that USA jersey,” Stott said. “You’re playing with the best kids in the country and those big Power Five schools, so just to show that the Mountain West can play with anybody and have that kind of confidence going forward is huge.”
He soon will learn what it’s like to play at an even higher level.
The Major League Baseball amateur draft is Monday through Wednesday, and Stott, a junior, is widely projected to go early in the first round.
“I don’t think anyone would be shocked if he went inside the top 10 picks,” D1Baseball.com draft expert Aaron Fitt said. “I doubt he slips out of the first half of the first round.”
Living up to expectations has been nothing new for Stott after he signed with UNLV out of Desert Oasis High School. His father, Derek, was the Rebels’ starting quarterback from 1989 to 1991. His mother, Shana, was a UNLV cheerleader.
In carving out his own path, Stott batted .294 with 29 RBIs and 31 runs in 2017 to become a Collegiate Baseball freshman All-American.
He followed that performance last season by hitting .365 with 32 RBIs, 61 runs and a nation-leading 30 doubles. Collegiate Baseball and Perfect Game named him a third-team All-American, and Stott made first-team All-Mountain West.
He then followed by batting .356 this season with 36 RBIs, 65 runs and a career-high 10 home runs. He also had 20 doubles and a personal-best 16 stolen bases. Those numbers earned Stott co-Mountain West Player of the Year and another third-team All-America honor by Collegiate Baseball.
Projecting to the next level
UNLV coach Stan Stolte said he thought Stott’s production at the college level would translate to the pros.
“He’s going to get stronger as he matures and develops,” Stolte said of the 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pounder. “He’ll steal some bases and probably at the professional level do everything above average.”
A former National League scout who has seen Stott play several times said he has serious potential.
“My opinion of Bryson is if he is not the top shortstop in the country, he’s right there in the top three,” said the scout, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I definitely feel that he is a first-rounder. Bryson is going to be a high-average hitter. He has very good bat control, and he is equipped with good power.”
Stott is being drafted as a shortstop, which gives him options. He could play that position in the majors, but he has the flexibility to move to a different spot such as third base or in the outfield.
“I think just being a shortstop, you’re one of the best athletes on the field,” Stott said. “Having versatility there is a big thing.”
Fitt said that though Stott is known more for hitting, his defense should not be overlooked. Stott proved that with the national team, and Fitt said he was impressed by the shortstop’s range to get to one ball “deep into the hole” and another up the middle that Stott grabbed and spun to throw out the batter at first base.
“Those are big league plays that a lot of guys don’t make,” Fitt said. “I think a lot of scouts sell him a little bit short on the defensive part of it because he’s shown he can make the spectacular play. If you look at how steady he’s been this year, he’s shown he can make the routine plays pretty well. I give him more than a chance to stick at shortstop.”
Other locals could get drafted
Stott, who had a .969 fielding percentage this season, isn’t the only player with local ties expected be drafted.
Oregon relief pitcher Ryne Nelson, who went to Basic High, is projected by Baseball America to go anywhere from late in the second round to the middle of the fourth.
Arizona third baseman Nick Quintana, who graduated from Arbor View, is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 82 prospect, placing him in the third- or fourth-round range.
UNLV doesn’t expect to lose many players to the draft. Stolte said pitcher Ryan Hare could get drafted, and outfielder Max Smith was the next most likely to be taken.
Stott’s expected first-round selection will cap an impressive recent run for those with local ties:
— Shortstop Cadyn Grenier went 37th overall as a supplemental pick last year to the Baltimore Orioles.
— Outfielder Bryce Harper went first to the Washington Nationals in 2010.
— Pitcher Tyler Anderson went 20th in 2011 to the Colorado Rockies and infielder Jake Hager 32nd to the Tampa Bay Rays.
— Third baseman Joey Gallo went 39th to the Texas Rangers as a supplemental selection in 2012.
— Third baseman Kris Bryant went second to the Chicago Cubs in 2013 and pitcher Aaron Blair 36th as a supplemental selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
— Pitcher Erick Fedde went 18th to the Nationals in 2014.
Now Stott is expected to join that list. He said he didn’t get caught up on projections, opting to focus on the season.
“You dream about that when you’re a little kid,” Stott said of the draft. “Hopefully, it happens, and I’m excited. You’re just lucky enough to get your name called. Not everyone gets to experience that. Just to get to be in consideration is awesome.”
What: Major League Baseball amateur draft
TV: 4 p.m. Monday, MLB Network
Online: All 40 rounds will be streamed at MLB.com.
Stott’s draft projections
Baseball America: Ninth
The Athletic: 10th
Baseball Prospect Journal: 10th
Bleacher Report: 10th
CBS Sports: 10th
Perfect Game: 10th
The Big Lead: 13th