Harris' Superb Season Should Culminate in Draft Selection
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  06/04/2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The University of New Mexico baseball team doesn't hand out end-of-season team awards, but if it did then Chase Harris would've been nearly impossible to beat for MVP.

The senior outfielder from Boise, Idaho, led the Lobos in virtually every offensive category in 2014: average (.377), at bats (247), hits (93), triples (5), home runs (8), RBIs (63), slugging (.539) and on-base percentage (.432). The only categories he didn't lead in -- runs (46), doubles (11) and stolen bases (13) -- he finished second in. He also started every game in right field and batted third in all 58 contests.

In two years with UNM, he did not miss a single start and his 117 consecutive starts is the sixth longest such streak in program history.

For his performance he was named to the All-Mountain West first team and a College Sports Madness Fourth Team All-American. Now his efforts should really pay off in the form of a high-round draft pick in the MLB Draft, which begins at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 5 on the MLB Network.

"I think he'll go in the top 10 or 15 rounds," UNM head coach Ray Birmingham said. "He's a very toolsy player, and he plays his butt off every game."

That means Harris's name will likely be called sometime on Friday (rounds 3-10) or Saturday (rounds 11-40) on MLB.com.

Birmingham doesn't think he'll be the only Lobo drafted, though.

"Chase will obviously go because of his tools and because he hit better this year," he said. "(Alex) Real will go with Harris because he has turned into a decent catcher. Somebody may give (John) Pustay a chance. I've heard a lot of talk about that. ... (Junior left-handed pitcher Colton) Thomson is one I worry about.

"You're in the 'kid' business and these are their dreams, but you want to make sure Major League Baseball doesn't take advantage of them financially. A college degree is a big deal."

Another player the Lobo head coach thinks has a chance to go fairly high is senior right-hander Josh Walker, whose 26 career victories are second all-time both at UNM and in the Mountain West.

"I've heard conversations about him in the top 10 rounds because of his command," Birmingham said. "I know Walker can throw harder than he threw (this year). He pitches (slower) because he can locate better, but as time goes on maybe he'll be able to throw harder and for strikes still. But he'll go because he has plus command."

Walker only walked 49 batters in 267.1 career innings, which equates to just 1.65 per nine innings. In 62 career appearances he walked more than three batters just once.

This draft likely won't mirror last year's draft, in which a record seven UNM players were selected, for one main reason: the Lobos had a very young team in 2014.

"We don't have very many draft-eligible players," Birmingham said. "We were a young ballclub and not many guys can go."

In order to be draft eligible, players must have completed at least their junior year in school or be 21 years old. Only 13 Lobos meet that criteria this seaon compared to the 18 last season.