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Cape League Boasts First-Overall Pick for Fourth Straight Year

Graphic by Maya Ferland
07/12/2021 4:03 AM

Article By: Taylor Viles

Opening night of the 2021 MLB Draft took place in Denver on Sunday night and for the fourth year in a row, a former Cape League player was drafted first overall. The Pittsburgh Pirates shocked major league baseball by selecting Henry Davis, a catcher out of the University of Louisville and a member of the 2019 Bourne Braves.

The pick of Davis at number one in 2021 means the four consecutive first-overall’s were produced by four different Cape League teams. The players were Spencer Torkelson (Chatham ‘18 ‘19); 2020, Adley Rutschman (Falmouth ‘18); 2019, and Casey Mize (Wareham ‘16); 2018.

Prior to the draft, Davis was projected to be picked at the fourth spot, but there was something about the catcher that appealed to the organization. Perhaps it is the .370 average with 15 home runs he compiled this spring for Louisville. Perhaps it is the awards he was in the running for such as the Buster Posey Award for the college baseball’s top catcher or the Golden Spikes Award for the best collegiate player. Or perhaps it was matching up against the best college players on Cape Cod in 2019, crushing a home run and knocking in four runs in only five games.

Davis only had 15 at-bats with the Bourne Braves but scored an important run in a one-run game during his second-to-last contest. He left Cape Cod with a .333 slugging percentage and a .263 on-base percentage.

The next Cape League alum to hear his name called on opening night was Matt McLain, a shortstop from UCLA and an all-star for the 2019 Wareham Gatemen. The Cincinnati Reds picked McLain with the 17th pick after hitting .333 with 36 RBI this spring for the Bruins in 183 at-bats. In 2019, McLain took full advantage of the bright lights on Cape Cod hitting .274 with two home runs and two triples. Although he displayed his power ability in college this season, on the Cape it was his batting average and his speed that impressed scouts. This was exhibited during the all-star game in Orleans where he was named West Division MVP. He went 2 for 2 in the contest with an inside-the-park home run.

2019 Bourne Braves pitcher Gavin Williams was taken with the 23rd pick by the Cleveland Indians. Williams only pitched in four games for Bourne during his Cape Cod summer picking up three strikeouts. He appeared only as a reliever before heading back home in early July. As a starter for East Carolina, Williams boasted a 1.88 ERA this season with 130 strikeouts over 81.1 innings pitched (IP). The selection became the second highest draft pick in ECU history.

Although the 2019 Bourne Braves experienced an early exit in the playoffs, Manager Harvey Shapiro groomed a roster perfect for cracking into the major leagues. Another former Bravo was taken with the 24th overall pick by the Atlanta Braves: Ryan Cusick. He started seven games for Bourne during the summer keeping his ERA at 3.78 over 35.2 IP. His 33 strikeouts put him thirteenth in the category for the Cape League. For Wake Forest, Cusick had an ERA of 4.24 over 70 IP. Draft pick placements aren’t only based on college stats but as they do play a part, his outstanding pitching performances for Bourne against top college competition proved his potential worth to Atlanta.

In Competative Balance Round A, given to teams with the smallest baseball markets, two Cape League alumni were taken, representing two more teams. Ty Madden (Chatham ‘19) and Matheu Nelson (Falmouth ‘19) were selected by the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds, respectively.

With the Anglers, Madden started six games and collected 28 strikeouts allowing only 10 runs. Nelson played 14 games for Falmouth beginning in mid-July. Although he only hit .163, he contributed to the Commodores’ best record in the West, hitting a two-run home run at the end of July in a 6-4 victory.

Of the 36 selections made on night one of the MLB draft (29 in the first round, one compensation pick and six competitive balance picks), 19 were taken straight out of high school and never had a chance to play on a Cape League diamond. 17 collegiate players were drafted, one-third of them did suit up for games on Cape Cod, wrapping up another dominant night for the league.

Here is the breakdown of every former Cape Leaguer taken during night one:

First Round--

1- Pittsburgh Pirates: Henry Davis, C, 2019 Bourne Braves/Louisville
17- Cincinnati Reds: Matt McLain, SS, 2019 Wareham Gatemen/UCLA
23- Cleveland Indians: Gavin Williams, RHP, 2019 Bourne Braves/East Carolina
24- Atlanta Braves: Ryan Cusick, RHP, 2019 Bourne Braves/Wake Forest

Competitive Balance Round A-

32- Detroit Tigers: Ty Madden, RHP, 2019 Chatham Anglers/Texas
35- Cincinnati Reds: Matheu Nelson, C, 2019 Falmouth Commodores/FSU

Rounds 2-10 will take place today at 1 p.m. EST on MLB Network. Rounds 11-20 will be on Tuesday, beginning at 12 p.m. EST on Follow the Cape League social media accounts for live updates for which alumni are selected.

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