W.F. West pitcher Mitch Gueller drafted by Phillies at No. 54

W.F. WEST STAR: Right-handed pitcher must decide whether to sign pro contract or keep commitment to play at WSU

mwochnick@theolympian.comJune 5, 2012 

Within moments of hearing his named called as the 54th overall pick in Monday’s draft of amateur free agent baseball players, Mitch Gueller’s nervousness turned into disbelief.

His dream of being drafted came true when the Philadelphia Phillies selected Gueller, a W.F. West High School senior, with their second selection on the first day of the draft.

“This is a new chapter,” Gueller said from his family’s home in Rochester, where his family and friends gathered for the draft. “It’s pretty cool. … I was nervous to begin with. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Then, all of a sudden, boom, everything changed. I can’t believe it.”

The Phillies didn’t have a first-round pick but used their two compensation-round picks on right-handed high school pitchers – Gueller and Shane Watson of Lakewood, Calif.

The compensation round falls between the first and second rounds, with picks awarded to organizations that lost certain free agents during the offseason. Philadelphia was awarded the 54th pick after losing former Seattle Mariners outfielder Raul Ibañez, who signed with the New York Yankees.

Gueller becomes the highest drafted South Sound player since 1999, when Centralia’s Jason Strumm was taken No. 15 overall by the Chicago White Sox.

Last year, Olympia’s Adam Conley was drafted in the second round, No. 72 overall, after his junior season at Washington State.

Gueller said it’s too early to decide whether to go pro or stick with his commitment to Washington State, where he signed a letter of intent last November.

“I love the guys at Wazzu,” he said.

Philadelphia was one of many teams that scouted Gueller, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder, at games this spring. He posted a 6-0 record on the mound with a 0.80 ERA and recorded 70 strikeouts in 432/3 innings pitched, leading the Bearcats to the Class 2A Evergreen Conference title and a regional berth in the state tournament.

His fastball is consistently clocked in the low-90-mph range and has touched 95 mph. He also has power at the plate, with five home runs and a .323 batting average this season.

Gueller said Philadelphia scouted him as a pitcher, and former Phillies and Mariners general manager Pat Gillick attended three of Gueller’s games this spring.

Gueller said the Philadelphia organization has had “big-time success”, winning the National League East title the past five seasons and appearing in the World Series in 2008 and ’09. The Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

“They’re a good organization with good player development,” Gueller said. “I’m excited to be a part of the Phillies and to be drafted by them.”

Gueller also earned first-team all-Evergreen Conference status in football and basketball. As the Bearcats’ starting quarterback last fall, he guided the team to the 2A state semifinals. In basketball, he averaged 13.5 points per game as a forward.

The first-year player draft continues today with rounds two through 15.

Two local players – Olympia High School shortstop Cabe Reiten, a Gonzaga signee, and Centralia outfielder Andrew Pullin, an Oregon signee – are expected to be drafted.

Olympia coach Todd McDougall said Reiten could be taken in the second through fifth rounds. Pullin has been projected as a seventh- to 10th-round pick.

mwochnick@theolympian.com 360-754-5473 www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @MegWochnick

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