Cullowhee, N.C. – Western Carolina had two players selected on the third day of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft which concluded Wednesday evening. Catamount senior outfielder Matthew Koehler was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 31st round while draft-eligible redshirt sophomore RHP Chase Walter was taken one circuit later as the 32nd round pick of the Los Angeles Angels.
Koehler was taken with the 944th overall pick on Wednesday while Walter – who is eligible to return to WCU – was selected with the 961st overall selection. WCU’s two draft picks were among nine players from the Southern Conference drafted during the three-day, 40-round event. Regular-season champion Samford led five SoCon schools with a total of three draft picks while Mercer and WCU had two apiece with UNCG and VMI securing one apiece.
All told, a combined 1,217 players were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft.
Koehler closed his five-year Western Carolina playing career with his best season in the Purple & Gold. He batted a career-high – and Southern Conference-leading – .361 with 10 doubles, five triples, and 13 home runs to lead the league with a .649 seasonal slugging percentage with 45 RBI. The Raleigh, N.C., product earned first-team All-SoCon plaudits at the season’s end, the first of his career. Along the way, he collected Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week honors after homering three times against Conference USA foe, Marshall, on the road.
Over 199 career games, Koehler made 181 starts and finished with a .292 career batting average with 199 hits including 37 doubles, nine triples, and 23 career homers. His nine triples tied him for ninth in WCU’s career record book. He also recorded 41 career stolen bases, a mark that ranks him tied for 16th in the program career ledgers.
After transferring from Spartanburg Methodist prior to the 2018 season, second-year Catamount Chase Walter finished second in the SoCon with 114 strikeouts in 2019 with a team-high five victories (5-6). He was twice dubbed a Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week; doing so after striking out 13 against Mercer on April 13 and punching out a career-high 17 during his second career complete game in a win over Furman in game two of a doubleheader on April 20, also collecting SoCon Pitcher of the Week accolades. Walter’s 17 Ks are the third-most recorded in a single game in the NCAA in 2019.
Over the past two seasons, Walter has posted 188 strikeouts in 36 appearances to already rank 19th in WCU program history. He has eight career victories with a save recorded in 2019 against eventual Big Ten champion, Ohio State, at Fluor Field.
Since Western Carolina head coach Bobby Moranda has been at the helm in Cullowhee, a combined 23 players have been drafted by MLB clubs with three – Jordan Smith (Tigers, 2014), Korey Anderson (Padres, 2017), and Brendan Nail (Red Sox, 2017) – signing free agent contracts to play professional baseball.
Additional WCU Draft Notes:
* On Wednesday afternoon, Western Carolina had a player selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft for the 32nd year dating back to 1977 … This year marked the 18th time since 1977 that Western Carolina had multiple players selected within the same MLB First-Year Player Draft;
* WCU did not have a player drafted in 2018, halting a streak of 12-consecutive years of hearing a Catamount name called during the three-day event … Since 2000, WCU has had a player drafted in 16 of the 20 years, missing just 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2018 … During that same span, WCU did see Jared Greenwood sign a free agent contract with the New York Yankees in 2005 and Matt Price sign as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001;
* Koehler became the third Catamount drafted by the Oakland Athletics franchise all-time and the first since former Major League reliever, Jared Burton in 2002 … Burton was later a Rule 5 Pick by the Cincinnati Reds, making his professional debut with the red stockings in 2007 as a part of an eight-year career that was spent with both the Reds and Minnesota Twins … Another ex-big leaguer in former Catamount RHP – and 2008 WCU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee – Jason Beverlin was drafted by Oakland with the 93rd pick in the fourth round of the 1992 draft;
* WCU has only had one player advance to the MLB club with Oakland as former 2000 Atlanta Braves draft pick Charles Thomas played for the A’s in 2005 after making his professional debut with Atlanta in 2004;
* Walter is the first-ever Catamount baseball player drafted by the Los Angeles Angels organization all-time;
* WCU has had three players taken inside the first 100 picks all time, headlined by Rick Adair with the 53rd pick of the third round by the Seattle Mariners in the 1979 draft – WCU’s highest selection all-time ... Brad Tweedie (3rd round, 92nd pick by Cincinnati Reds in 1993) and Jason Beverlin (4th round, 93rd pick by Oakland Athletics in 1994).
2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft
Western Carolina 2019 MLB Draft Picks
|31||944||Matthew Koehler||OF||Oakland Athletics|
|32||961||Chase Walter||RHP||Los Angeles Angels|
Southern Conference 2019 MLB Draft Picks
|RD.||PICK||NAME, SCHOOL||POS.||MLB TEAM|
|6||179||Sawyer Gipson-Long, Mercer||RHP||Minnesota Twins|
|9||265||Zak Kent, VMI||RHP||Texas Rangers|
|10||301||Chad Sykes, UNCG||RHP||Los Angeles Angels|
|21||628||Branden Fryman, Samford||SS||New York Mets|
|21||639||Stephen Jones, Samford||RHP||Colorado Rockies|
|25||751||Anthony Mulrine, Samford||C||Los Angeles Angels|
|33||1000||Kevin Coulter, Mercer||RHP||Cleveland Indians|