June 8, 2010
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Four University of New Mexico Lobo baseball players were selected on the second day of the 2010 Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft. Junior Rafael Neda has been drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 309th pick of the 10th round, senior Willy Kesler by the Seattle Mariners with the 552nd pick of the 18th round, junior Kenny Toves by the Florida Marlins with the 647th pick in the 21st round and senior Justin Howard by the Pittsburg Pirates with the 717th pick of the 24th round. Neda finished the season with a .362 batting average, 84 hits and 11 home runs and has served as the Lobos' primary catcher since arriving on campus in the fall of 2007. Kesler finished the season with a 6-3 record and posted a 3.92 ERA. Kesler tossed three complete games this season with one shutout. Toves went 5-2 with a 4.59 ERA. Howard leads the nation in hits with 119 and is tied for first in the NCAA with a .456 batting average.
"This is very exciting," said Neda. "After I heard my name I was excited and I'm really happy to play for the Brewers. The last few months there has been a lot of pressure to perform. Not just for our team but for the draft. The Brewers called me and told me before they drafted me and I was relieved."
Neda is a six-time All-America Award winner and a three-time All-Mountain West Conference performer. During his career at New Mexico, Neda has been one of the most productive catchers and prolific hitters with career marks of .367 batting average, 233 hits, 24 home runs and 158 RBIs.
"This is a dream come true," said Kesler. "I'm excited that I get to go and play more baseball. It's been a rollercoaster the last few years. I'm happy that I finished up school and got a degree. Now I have a great opportunity and I couldn't ask for anything more."
Kesler transferred to New Mexico from Lamar Community College in 2007. He got off to a hot start at 4-0 before being sidelined by an emergency appendectomy. In 2009, Kesler made a successful return from Tommy John surgery and made just three appearances. In 2010, Kesler assumed his place as the Lobos' ace on the mound and was dominant with 97 strikeouts in 101 innings pitched. Kesler allowed just 25 walks his senior season.
"This is a nerve wreaking process," said Toves. "You sit there and wait for your name to be called and I'm sure my heart stopped once or twice. I'm excited to keep playing baseball and to be drafted with Willy (Kesler), (Rafael) Neda and (Justin) Howard."
Toves, a two-year player for New Mexico, started the 2010 season as a relief pitcher but worked his way into a starting role. At 6'3", Toves is a crafty lefty with command of his fastball and has several other pitches in his arsenal.
Howard made the most of his first year in the spotlight by leading the nation in hits and batting average most of the 2010 season. Howard was named to the 2010 Louisville Slugger All-American team and to the 2010 All-MWC team.
The final 20 rounds of the MLB First-Year Player Draft conclude tomorrow beginning at 10 a.m. For more information, visit www.MLB.com.