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By Zach Cavanagh
After a historic 2021 season for the JSerra baseball program, senior Lions were still making their names on the biggest stage.
Three JSerra graduated senior pitchers—Eric Silva, Gage Jump and Wilson Cunningham—were selected in the 2021 MLB Draft on July 12-13 in Denver, Colorado.
JSerra has had players selected in five of the past six MLB Drafts, including No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis in 2017 and six players in the 2019 MLB Draft. Last season’s MLB Draft in 2020 was shortened to five rounds, and the 2021 draft was shortened to 20 rounds due to financial concerns amid the pandemic. Prior to 2020, the MLB Draft was 40 rounds.
Right-handed pitcher Eric Silva was the first Lion off the board after being selected 115th overall by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round. Silva threw one of JSerra’s three no-hitters this season, as the Lions stormed to the Trinity League championship, the CIF-SS Division 1 title game and the CIF SoCal Regional Division I championship.
Silva has committed to UCLA, and as of press time, he had not signed with the Giants. According to MLB, the pick value for Silva’s slot was $502,300, which may not be enough to pry him away from the Bruins.
The next JSerra pick was left-handed pitcher Gage Jump, who was selected 550th overall by the San Diego Padres in the 18th round. Jump was part of another no-hitter for JSerra this season and also posted a 9-0 record and 0.63 ERA. Jump was projected to be an early pick in the draft and was ranked as the No. 43 prospect by MLB. However, like Silva, Jump is committed to UCLA, and it would have taken a lot of money for Jump to sign with the Padres instead of playing in college.
Silva and Jump are not the first UCLA-committed players to turn down guaranteed money from being drafted early with the hope of improving their status at UCLA under coach John Savage. The most high-profile pitching name to do so was also out of the Trinity League: Orange Lutheran graduate and current New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole.
Cole was drafted out of Orange Lutheran 28th overall by the Yankees, but he turned down a $4 million signing bonus to go to UCLA. It paid off, as Cole was eventually selected No. 1 overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates and earned an $8 million signing bonus. He later signed a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees.
JSerra has also established a strong pipeline to UCLA, with four Lions signing with the Bruins this season. Silva, Jump, right-handed pitcher Luke Jewett and shortstop Cody Schrier all have committed to going to Westwood. Schrier was ranked as the No. 63 draft prospect by MLB, but due to his commitment to UCLA, Schrier went undrafted.
The third JSerra player selected was left-handed pitcher Wilson Cunningham, who was picked 604th overall by the Chicago Cubs in the 20th round. Cunningham has also yet to sign with the Cubs, but one way or another, he will be headed to the Windy City. Cunningham has committed to the University of Illinois at Chicago.
JSerra had no players selected in the shortened 2020 Draft, but the Lions had six players picked in 2019: Davis Wendzel was selected 41st overall out of Baylor by the Texas Rangers; Chase Strumpf was selected 64th overall out of UCLA by the Chicago Cub; Micah Pries was selected 400th overall out of Point Loma Nazarene by the Cleveland Indians; Lyle Lin was selected 422nd overall out of Arizona State by the Arizona Diamondbacks; Jake Pries was selected 735th overall out of UCLA by the New York Yankees; and Michael Curialle was selected 939th overall out of JSerra by the Colorado Rockies. Curialle did not sign and is at UCLA.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.