No matter which team drafted him, Eagle High catcher Alex Guerrero was eager to start his professional baseball career.
But hearing his name called by the New York Yankees in the 18th round of the MLB Draft on Wednesday only added to the celebration in the Guerrero household.
“It being the Yankees, it’s a big deal,” Guerrero said. “They’ve always been a good club, 27 world championships. It’s a crazy feeling to even be considered a part of that history.
“It’s just an overwhelming experience. I’m super grateful I got that opportunity from those guys. I’m really happy and excited to go play.”
Eagle High coach Tony Hilde said every MLB team visited the Mustangs’ hitting facility in the past year to get eyes on the power-hitting catcher, and Guerrero’s adviser said he could go anywhere from the sixth to the 40th and final round.
The White Sox, Mariners and Pirates called after the 10th round concluded Tuesday night to make sure he still wanted to sign. But the Yankees, the only team to fly him out for a predraft workout, ended the waiting game with the 547th overall pick.
The live broadcast of the draft fell behind with the rapid-fire picks on the third day of the draft, and Yankees scout Mike Thurman called Guerrero (6-foot, 180 pounds) to congratulate him right as his name popped up on the television screen.
“We saw my name on TV and my family started freaking out,” Guerrero, 18, said. “I was like, ‘Hey, Mike, I’ll call you back real quick.’ Everybody was hugging each other and celebrating. It was a really cool experience.”
Guerrero has signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Washington, but he said he’s “99.999 percent sure” he’ll forgo a college career and sign a professional contract with the Yankees.
Guerrero spent last summer with the Utah Marshalls baseball club, and he said the experience of waking up and spending all day at the ballpark and dedicating his entire life to baseball — like he will in the minors — convinced him that was the life for him.
“It was just the best experience ever because I didn’t have to worry about school or anything. I could just play baseball,” Guerrero said. “That was a big influence on my decision, because college baseball is a grind. You’ve got classes, everything else. You’ve got college life distractions pressing on you. It was easier for me to put myself in a situation where my job, what I’m getting paid to do, is to get better at the game that I want to play.”
Guerrero said plans aren’t set yet, but the Yankees hinted they may fly him out to their facility in Tampa, Florida, as early as Saturday and start him with their rookie-level affiliate in the Gulf Coast League.
A three-time, first-team 5A Southern Idaho Conference catcher, Guerrero hit .373 with three home runs and 30 RBIs in 27 games this spring. The left-handed hitting catcher finished his season with a .480 on-base percentage and slugged .602. He threw out 11 of the 39 runners (28 percent) who attempted to steal a base.
“He’s got a special skill set,” Hilde said. “He’s a grinder. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody in any sport work harder than him. He truly loves the game of baseball, which you have to if you’re a catcher playing at the level that he does.
“He fits the model of a big-time catcher. The other portion is he’s got the ability to hit at that level.”
Guerrero is the first Idaho-born player drafted out of high school since the Yankees took Coeur d’Alene’s Michael Hicks in the 27th round in 2015. Hicks didn’t sign and is now at the University of Portland.
The last Treasure Valley natives drafted out of high school were Rocky Mountain’s Mason Smith (Padres, fourth round) and Fruitland’s Joe Martarano (Phillies, 13th round) in 2013. Martarano didn’t sign and was later drafted by the Cubs.
TWO NORTH IDAHO PRODUCTS DRAFTED
The Boston Red Sox selected right-handed pitcher Kris Jackson, a 2014 Lakeland High grad, in the 28th round. Jackson, a sidearmer, led Corban (NAIA) with a 9-4 record and a 2.70 ERA during his senior season.
The San Diego Padres also took Post Falls High senior pitcher Jake Pfennings in the 35th round. The right-hander with a 93 mph fastball has signed with Oregon State, so the Padres likely would need a signing bonus well above slot value to convince him to skip college.
IDAHO HIGH SCHOOLERS IN MLB DRAFT
Since 2005, only eight Idaho high schoolers have been selected in the MLB Draft.