June 6, 2014 10:51:08 AM
Jacob Lindgren was drafted by one of the most prestigious franchises in professional sports Thursday night.
With its only pick on the first day of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft, the New York Yankees used the 55th pick to select the Mississippi State junior left-hander.
"Jacob has two Major League pitches that are above average and possess swing-and-miss quality," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' director of amateur scouting. "He has been extended for multiple innings and holds his stuff consistently."
Lindgren, who was named a finalist for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association's Stopper of the Year Award earlier in the day, is the highest drafted MSU left-hander since Paul Maholm went eighth in the 2003 draft.
"I am humbled and grateful to be drafted by the New York Yankees," Lindgren said. "This is an incredible feeling and a day I will remember for the rest of my life. I would like to thank Mississippi State University, my coaches, teammates, and the greatest fans in college baseball for helping me reach this point."
New York's first pick in the draft came in the second round because of compensation picks lost for signing free agents Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran in the offseason. Lindgren was ranked the 41st prospect entering the draft by MLB.com and the 50th prospect by Baseball America.
Lindgren went 6-1 with three saves and a team-leading 0.81 ERA in 26 games this season. He ranked first among all relievers with 100 strikeouts and led the nation with 16.3 strikeouts per nine innings. His best pitch is a wipeout slider that arrives at 82-88 mph with late bite. His fastball has jumped from 87-91 mph as a starter to 91-95 mph as a reliever after pitching in that role last summer in the Cape Cod League. The Yankees also are expected to groom Lindgren to be a reliever.
In 55 1/3 innings, the 5-foot-11, 203-pound southpaw allowed five earned runs, 23 hits, and 25 walks. Opponents batted just .124 against Lindgren, the lowest mark on the staff.
"Jacob has been very successful in a tough conference and has produced exceptional strikeout numbers," Oppenheimer said. "We are very happy to have selected him."
Chase Vallot was the only other player drafted Thursday night with MSU ties. The Kansas City Royals used the 40th pick to select Vallot, a power-hitting catcher from Lafayette, Louisiana. He is expected to sign with the Royals for around the slot value of the pick of $1,420,800. Vallot, who is the third-youngest player in the draft, had a .545 batting average, 13 home runs, 15 doubles, and 62 RBIs in 36 games for his high school team. He was named the Gatorade Louisiana Player of the Year after helping the Cougars win the Class 4A state championship.
"Real big power," Royals Scouting Director Lonnie Goldberg said. "We had him here at our pre-draft workout and he hit the furthest drive we've seen hit here in our pre-drafts, and we've had some big names here."
"We look at him as catching first, and we believe that's the position he's going to play. The bat was special, a unique bat. His makeup is outstanding. It's a pretty good package."
The Royals also selected Foster Griffin, a high school left-hander from Orlando, Fla., with the 28th pick. Griffin signed with Ole Miss. Kansas City received that pick as compensation for the Atlanta Braves signing free-agent pitcher Ervin Santana.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.