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St. Joseph pitcher Hunter Barnhart selected by Tampa Bay Rays; Cal Poly's Dollard also drafted
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St. Joseph pitcher Hunter Barnhart selected by Tampa Bay Rays; Cal Poly's Dollard also drafted

St. Joseph High School pitcher Hunter Barnhart was selected with the 96th overall pick in Thursday's MLB Draft.

Barnhart had 18 strikeouts in 11 innings with a 0.64 ERA this year, making a pair of starts in a shortened spring season. Scouts filled the backstop bleachers at all of Barnhart's pitching performances during this truncated spring season.

The Knights were 3-3 when play was suspended and ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Barnhart led the Knights to a Mountain League championship in football in the fall after pitching for St. Joseph in the spring of 2019. He spent his first two-plus high school seasons at Paso Robles, which is his hometown. He has signed with Arizona State for baseball and will now have to choose between signing with the Rays or following through with his commitment to the Sun Devils. The slotted value of the pick was reported to be $604,800.

"I have been in contact with teams and I don't expect anything, but I hope to be lucky enough to be selected," Barnhart said last month. "I think that it's going to be a very interesting draft and very unique."

Barnhart is the second St. Joseph baseball player to be drafted out of high school, joining Bill Simas (1990). Dustin Kelly was drafted out of Cuesta College by the Red Sox in the 15th round in 2004. Former Knight Doug Bernier made the majors after being undrafted. 

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Barnhart's fastball can touch 96 mph at times, though it typically sits between 91-94. He throws a plus-curveball that projects to be a major league out pitch. He has the makeup of a starter. 

Cal Poly reliever Taylor Dollard was later selected as the Mariners took the righty with the 137th overall pick in the fifth round. 

Other recent Central Coast pitchers selected out of high school include Righetti grad Matt Sauer, who was drafted in the second round by the New York Yankees in 2017, and Nipomo High grad Ryan McNeil who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the third round in 2012.

Sauer was selected 54th overall. He underwent Tommy John surgery last year.

Cabrillo's Danny Duffy, a left-handed pitcher, was drafted directly out of high school by the Kansas City Royals in 2007's third round. John Thomas, another lefty, was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round out of Righetti High in 1999.

Duffy won a World Series with the Royals in 2015. 

Jeff McNeil, a Nipomo High grad and the brother of Ryan McNeil, was drafted in the 12th round in 2013 out of Long Beach State and is currently at the big league level with the New York Mets. 

Other local draft picks of recent years include Ryan Church (Lompoc/Nevada), Spencer Howard (Templeton/Cal Poly), Chad De La Guerra (Pioneer Valley/Grand Canyon), Devin Lohman (Righetti/Long Beach State), Tommy Rowan (Santa Ynez/UCSB), Nate Thompson (Santa Ynez/Oklahoma Baptist), Kyle Wilson (Righetti/Fresno State), Kyle Raubinger (Arroyo Grande/LMU), Andre Lamontagne (Righetti/Long Beach State/Oral Roberts) and River Stevens (Hancock). Infielder Brooks Lee was drafted in the 35th round out of San Luis Obispo last year, but chose to play for his father Larry Lee at Cal Poly. 

Bryn Smith was drafted out of Santa Maria High School in 1973 and went on to pitch 13 seasons in the major leagues, winning 108 games. Santa Maria High has had five players drafted, including Smith, Jim Steels (1979), Pat Kelly (1973), Milton Guggia (1968) and Radford Mawhinney (1966).

Lompoc High has had 13 players play professional baseball including, Roy Howell, who was the fourth overall pick in 1972. He played over 1,100 games in the majors, hitting .261 with 991 career hits and 80 home runs. Roy Thomas was selected out of Lompoc High with the sixth overall pick in the 1971 draft. Thomas went 20-11 over eight major league seasons, throwing 420 innings in the majors with a 3.82 ERA. 

The area's greatest professional baseball player is Righetti High graduate Robin Ventura, who starred at Oklahoma State before being drafted by the Chicago White Sox with the 10th overall pick in 1988. Ventura was selected to the 2002 All-Star Game while with the New York Yankees. Ventura collected 1,885 hits over 16 seasons with 294 home runs and a .267 career batting average. He hit 18 grand slams in his career.

This year's MLB Draft was cut down to five rounds in a cost-saving measure due to the coronavirus pandemic, with organizations losing money due to a season that has yet to begin or even have a deal in place to start.

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You can support the hard work of our local sports team by signing up for a News+ Membership

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