One cut his teeth in 2016 playing shortstop for Desert Oasis High School’s baseball team, the recent 2019 state champions. The other cut his winning a state championship playing shortstop for the 2016 Basic High School baseball team. For locals Bryson Stott and Ryne Nelson, tonight’s MLB Draft could be a special night for both if their names are called in the first round.
The pair, who just finished their third years playing collegiately, competed in town together as high schoolers and, now, could be linked permanently in the deep annals of Southern Nevada Baseball lore, although not as shortstops (Nelson has moved to the mound). Stott, who has been dominating with UNLV, is projected as a top-15 pick while Nelson’s (Oregon) projections are hovering around late first round and early second round.
Over the years, Southern Nevada has produced plenty of talent. The list is a who’s who of old school like Hall of Famer and former Cy Young award-winner Greg Maddux, former ALCS MVP Marty Barrett, Mike Morgan and Tyler Houston, and new school, like National League MVPs Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant, long ball specialist Joey Gallo, Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler, and plenty more.
For Stott, the buzz has only increased after another dominating season with UNLV this past spring. At 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Stott hit .356 with 10 home runs, 36 RBI and a 1.085 OPS. He also had 16 more walks (55) than strikeouts (39). The former D.O. Diamondback was named All-America Third Team last year as a sophomore and was the Tony Gwynn Co-Player of the Year this year in the Mountain West Conference.
“He is often compared to Brandon Crawford (more for his build and bat; he’s not that level of defender), and fits the various tendencies of new GM Farhan Zaidi and new scouting director Michael Holmes,” FanGraphs says about Stott.
Stott, who hits from the left side, is currently Baseball America’s No. 10 ranked draft prospect and has plenty of scouts drooling at the chance to snag him if he falls. Many believe it would be a shocker if he’s available once the draft hits its midway point. With the current trend of teams drafting mature hitters over high school projects, Stotts seems a perfect fit for a team like the Twins, Giants, Blue Jays, Phillies, Mets or — if Lady Luck would have it — the Angels.
“He’s going to get stronger as he matures and develops,” UNLV coach Stan Stolte told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “He’ll steal some bases and probably at the professional level do everything above average.”
Nelson is a different beast altogether. A former shortstop with Basic High School, Oregon recruited Nelson as an athlete. While he pitched at the high school level, he was arguably Basic’s best all-around player and was the centerpiece of a dominating era for Henderson’s oldest high school.
Once he got to Oregon, that all changed. Nelson struggled as a two-way player before focusing on his mound game on the bump. At 6-foot-3 with an effortless delivery, Nelson struggled at the plate his freshman year but showed his potential as a dominating mound presence thanks to 37 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.
Nelson finally transitioned into becoming a pitcher-only, with the results continuing to showcase his ability to miss barrels and get outs at a high level. One of his biggest moment came against in-state rival Oregon State. The righty came in to face this year’s projected first overall pick, Adley Rutschman, striking out the highly-coveted standout with a 100 mph fastball to strand the bases loaded and get the save.
The Preseason All-American finished the 2019 season 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA, striking out 104 in 65 innings pitched. He allowed 41 walks with a 1.55 WHIP. His velocity is what has scouts coveting the Vegas product as he has — according to multiple reports — hit triple digits on the radar more than once. His makeup also is a selling point and his injury history is in his past with nothing truly problematic for teams looking for a strong arm and plenty of upside.
“He is a very unselfish player and great team guy,” Oregon head coach George Horton said. “I would have liked to see his junior year unscathed, health wise, and then with a complete pitching staff, he probably could have pitched where he belonged.”
While Nelson is projected to be sit on the fringe of the first round, the compensatory picks and the second round, chances are, his name will be called tonight. As teams load up on mature bats, the bottom half of tonight’s draft projects to have a plethora of potential arms available, Nelson being one of them.
if Nelson does go in the first round tonight, it’ll be to one of the better franchises in the game today, which would be a great spot for the long-bodied fireballer to open his career. While he isn’t Major League ready yet, his growth should happen fast thanks to his maturity and velocity.
However the draft plays out, southern Nevada will have plenty of representation in the later rounds. The talent pool includes College of Southern Nevada’s nationally ranked squad and Stolte’s MWC runner-up ball club. It also includes more than a handful of former local high school products who played collegiately elsewhere, like Arizona’s Nick Quintana, and some current HS grads like Desert Oasis’ pitchers Aaron Roberts and D.J. Jefferson.
But, with all the depth of talent Vegas and beyond (Las Vegas has never had two local high school products taken in the same draft), the first two local names that will be called will more certainly be Stott and Nelson. If the two are taken in the first round, it’ll mark the first time two Las Vegas products were taken in the first round (non-compensatory) of the MLB Draft in the same year since 2011, when former Spring Valley High School and Oregon Duck lefty Tyler Anderson and Sierra Vista shortstop Jake Hager both went together.
The MLB Draft begins Monday, June 3, and will span 40 rounds over three days.
2001-Present Day First Round MLB Draft Picks from Las Vegas
Phil Bickford (CSN, 18th overall, San Francisco Giants, 2015); Erick Fedde (Las Vegas HS/UNLV, 18th overall, Washington Nationals, 2014); Kris Bryant (Bonanza HS/University of San Diego, 2nd overall, Chicago Cubs, 2013); Tyler Anderson, Spring Valley HS/Oregon, 20th overall, Colorado Rockies, 2011); Jake Hager (Sierra Vista HS, 32nd overall, Tampa Bay Rays, 2011); Bryce Harper (Las Vegas HS/CSN, 1st overall, Washington Nationals, 2010).
1990-2000 First Round MLB Draft Picks from Las Vegas
David Krynzel (Green Valley HS, 11th overall, Milwaukee Brewers, 2000); Chad Hermansen (Green Valley HS, 10th overall, Pittsburgh Pirates; 1995).
Pre-1990 First Round MLB Draft Picks from Las Vegas
Donovan Osborne (UNLV, 13th overall, St. Louis Cardinals, 1990); Tyler Houston (Valley HS, 2nd overall, Atlanta Braves, 1989); Danny Opperman (Valley HS, 8th overall, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1987); Matt Williams (UNLV, 3rd overall, San Francisco Giants, 1986); Marty Barrett (Rancho HS/Arizona State, 1st overall, Boston Red Sox, 1979); Mike Morgan (Valley HS, 4th overall, Oakland A’s, 1978).
How to watch the 2019 MLB Draft
Date: Monday, June 3; Time: 7 p.m. ET; TV: MLB Network; Streaming: MLB.com; Picks: 1-78 (Rounds: 1st, Supplemental 1st, Competitive Balance A, 2nd, Competitive Balance B, Supplemental 2nd)