Navy's Preston Gainey
June 6, 2012
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - The Patriot League has enjoyed one of its best-ever showings in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, as five student-athletes were selected all in the top 25 rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Navy outfielder Alex Azor was the highest pick as he went in the 10th round (325th overall) to the Toronto Blue Jays. Six picks later, Army catcher J.T. Watkins was selected by the Boston Red Sox at 331st overall. Navy pitcher Preston Gainey was selected in the 11th round by the Milwaukee Brewers at pick 365 to complete Tuesday's draftees. It marked the first time in Patriot League history that three players were selected in the first 11 rounds of the draft. The trio joins four other Patriot Leaguers to be picked in the first 11 rounds.
On Wednesday, two more players were added to the list as Holy Cross left-handed pitcher Nate Koneski was taken in the 19th round (581st overall) by the Seattle Mariners and Army first baseman/pitcher Kevin McKague went in the 23rd round (719th overall) to the Atlanta Braves. The five selections were just one off the Patriot League record of six set in 2008, and it was the first time that five student-athletes were picked in the top 25 rounds.
Azor led Navy with a .322 batting average and was voted to as a first-team All-Patriot League selection for the second time in his career in 2012. In League play, the center fielder led all players with 28 hits and his .364 batting average was third. After missing 11 games due to injury, he returned on March 14 and went on to reach base safely in a team-high 27 consecutive games. His 49 hits ranked second on the team.
Azor is the highest Patriot Leaguer selected since Army's Nick Hill was picked in the 7th round by the Seattle Mariners in 2007.
A two-time All-Patriot League selection, Watkins holds Academy career and single-season records for percentage of base runners thrown out. Watkins batted .310 during his career with 10 home runs, 22 doubles and 104 RBI. He was named to the Watch List for the Johnny Bench Award each of the last two seasons.
In his first year as a starting pitcher, Gainey went 3-3 with a 3.25 ERA and earned second-team All-Patriot League honors. Gainey proved to be one of Navy's best pitchers in League games with all three of his victories coming during that part of the schedule. The right-hander held opponents to a .216 batting average and posted a 2.30 ERA in five conference starts, earning wins over Bucknell, Holy Cross and Lafayette.
Koneski had a stellar senior season on the mound for the Crusaders as he posted a 7-3 record and 2.43 ERA. His 82 strikeouts were a Patriot League and team-best. He was named first-team All-Patriot League and was a first-team NEIBA All-Star pick. He ranked 37th nationally in strikeouts per nine innings and 84th in ERA. He finished his career ranked second all-time in program history with 229 career strikeouts. In his career, Koneski boasted a 17-13 record on the mound with a 4.76 ERA.
A 2012 Louisville Slugger All-American and one of five national semifinalists for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award, McKague was selected as the Patriot League Player of the Year while also collecting his fourth career all-Patriot League certificate as a senior. He led the Patriot League with a .379 batting average, .475 on-base percentage, 75 base hits, 16 doubles and 106 total bases. McKague also ranked tied for third with five home runs. He also finished the campaign with a 1-0 record to go along with a 1.46 earned run average and five saves in 12.1 innings pitched over 11 appearances. He had 12 strikeouts and opponents batted a paltry .182 against the hard-throwing righty.
For all of the selections in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, go to MLB Draft Tracker