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Willmar Stingers: Draft day is here for several current, former Stingers

Tribune file photo Mikey Reynolds, who played for the Willmar Stingers in 2010, could be selected in this year's MLB Amateur Draft. He was previously drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in 2011, but didn't sign. He played for Texas A&M this season.

WILLMAR -- The 2012 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft starts today and the Willmar Stingers have several players -- current and former -- that could be selected.

The first and supplemental rounds are today, with rounds 2-25 on Tuesday and 26-50 on Wednesday.

The Stingers already have six former players in the ranks of professional baseball: Jordan Smith, Jacob Barnes, Scott Zuloaga, Carter Bell, Carlos Leyva and Jason West.

Losing players to the draft can make constructing a Northwoods League roster quite difficult.

"You never know for sure who you're going to lose," Stinger's co-owner Ryan Voz said. "You need to get all sophomores or sign juniors who won't be high draft picks. We do want to take the best talent we can, but also knowing we may lose guys makes it tough."

They have also had players drafted who decided not to sign, including Sean Dwyer (2010-11) Isaac Ballou and Mikey Reynolds (2010) and Pat Stover (2011).

Ballou and Reynolds weren't drafted until 2011 and Stover was a 17th round pick out of high school in 2009, but Dwyer played for the Stingers the summer he was drafted as a 15th round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2010.

"Dwyer got drafted out of high school, but then came to us and proved that he could do it at the next level," Stingers' manager Matt Hollod said. "He got offered more money later in the summer and turned it down and went to college."

Willmar native Jordan Smith, who had a standout season for the Stingers in 2010 and is currently in the Cleveland Indians' minor league system, also benefitted from playing in the Northwoods League.

"The Indians said the first they saw Jordan Smith was the Northwoods League All-Star Game at Eau Claire," Voz said. "It gives these guys another stage to be seen."

Because the Stingers are only in their third season, they don't have any players in the Major Leagues yet, but there are many Northwoods League alumni currently in the bigs including Minnesota's Josh Willingham, New York Yankees' Curtis Granderson, New York Mets' Lucas Duda and Dillon Gee, Los Angeles Dodgers' Andre Ethier, Washington's Jordan Zimmermann, Philadelphia's Juan Pierre, St. Louis' Allen Craig and Chicago White Sox' Chris Sale.

This year's draft could see even more go.

MLB's draft rules state that a player is eligible as follows:

n High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college;

n College players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old; and

n Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed

Among the most likely current and former Stingers to be selected are Stover and Joe Sever.

Stover hit .297 with five home runs for Santa Clara this spring and is ranked 380th in the nation in Baseball America's annual list of the top 500 amateur players. Baseball America states that scouts believe in Stover's bat and he should go high enough in the draft to consider signing.

Sever, who played for the Stingers in 2010 and the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod League last summer, has been the best hitter on a Pepperdine team playing in the NCAA Division I Regionals. He's leading the team in with a .370 batting average, six home runs, 52 RBIs, 81 hits and a .521 slugging percentage.

Sever, who was not drafted out of high school, also cracks Baseball America's rankings at No. 431.

Ballou, who plays at Marshall University, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round of the 2011 draft, but stayed with Marshall for his junior year.

He's upped his production across the board for the Thundering Herd this season and could see his stock rise on draft day. He established career highs this year in batting average (.308), slugging percentage (.405) and stolen bases (20).

Reynolds, another 2011 draftee, was taken by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round. Reynolds has bounced around a bit since playing for the Stingers. He had just completed his freshman season at St. Mary's (Calif.) when he came to Willmar. The next season he transferred to Paradise Valley Community College (Ariz.), and when he didn't sign with the Orioles, transferred again to Texas A&M for his junior year.

Reynolds has also improved his performance in his second go-round with a Division I program. He is one of the top hitters for an Aggies team that was eliminated from the NCAA Regionals by TCU on Sunday. He's batting .303 and is tied for the team lead in runs scored.

Other current and former Stingers who could hear their name called include Jason Leblebijian (2011), Thomas Taylor (2011), Eduardo Gonzalez (2011), Mitch Delfino (2010-11), Mitch Rowan (2011-12), Dillon Haupt (2012), George Asmus (2012), Stephen Talbott (2012) and Scott Lieser (2011-12).

Hollod said it's tough to lose your best players, but that ultimately the Northwoods League is for development.

"We want to win here," Hollod said. "But when you look at the bigger picture, these kids are here for development and we're here to develop them. If they get that opportunity to go on, that's what they're here to do and you're excited for them."

Ben Brewster

Ben Brewster covers the Willmar Stingers and other area sports, as well as laying out the daily sports section cover for the West Central Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @benbrewster.

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