Draft : : State Preview
Monday, May 30, 2011

State Preview: South Dakota

David Rawnsley        

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

South Dakota State-by-State List

South Dakota Overview:
Despite Treinen Efforts, South Dakota State Misses First NCAA Berth

Slowly but surely, South Dakota is making its presence felt as a relevant baseball state.

For the second year in a row, South Dakota State went to the brink of landing its first NCAA Division I tournament berth, before succumbing again to Oral Roberts in the deciding game of the Summit Conference tournament.

The state should also produce its highest draft pick in more than 30 years as South Dakota State senior righthander Blake Treinen has a realistic shot of being drafted in the top 5-6 rounds.

And high-school baseball continues to establish a foothold in the state after South Dakota went years without a structured interscholastic program.

Most of the attention this year was again focused on South Dakota State, and its strong senior class, featuring Treinen. The Jack Rabbits (37-20) entered the Summit Conference tournament hoping to upset perennial conference power Oral Roberts, after securing an unexpected No. 1 seed a year earlier and narrowly losing to the Golden Eagles in post-season play. As a No. 2 seed this year, they gave Oral Roberts all it could handle in the regular season, but again fell just short in the tournament as the Golden Eagles gained their 14th straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

Oral Roberts won both games in the tournament between the two teams, 7-1 and 5-4 (11 innings), and swept the three-game, regular-season series against the Jack Rabbits, as well.

Still, the emerging quality of the South Dakota State program, in only its seventh year of Division I play, and with 26-year-old Ritchie Price as its head coach, is noteworthy. Along with posting 102 wins during Price’s three years at the helm, including a school-record 39 in 2010, South Dakota State will also have at least one player drafted for the fourth straight year in 2011.

Not only is Treinen a sure thing to continue that draft string, but it’s possible that he could become the highest-draft pick ever from the state, a distinction currently held by former Jack Rabbits righthander Mike Adamson, a fourth-round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 1978.

Treinen has a unique resume for a potential high-round pick as he didn’t throw a pitch at the varsity level during his first three years in college.

A Kansas native, Treinen played on the junior-varsity team as a freshman in 2007 at local Baker College, an NAIA school, before subsequently transferring to Arkansas. He did not pitch there in 2008, and transferred again a year later to South Dakota State, where he was required to sit out the 2009 season per NCAA transfer rules.

After he posted a 7-1, 6.09 record for the Jack Rabbits a year ago, with a fastball that peaked at 94 mph, Treinen was drafted in the 23rd round by the Florida Marlins. He initially agreeed to sign with the Marlins for $20,000, but the club voided the contract because of what team doctors determined to be a pre-existing shoulder injury.

Treinen has never had a known shoulder injury, but with no options other than to return to South Dakota State as a fifth-year senior, his snub by the Marlins could prove to be a career break as Treinen dialed up his fastball 2-3 more notches to a high of 97. He also became a more-complete pitcher this spring with the development of his slider and by throwing strikes more consistently with his improved mechanics. He went 7-3, 3.00 on the season with 25 walks and 84 strikeouts in 84 innings.

Though he turns 23 in July, scouts believe that Treinen has areas as a pitcher that are still developing, which might even enhance his value as a draft pick more than a typical college senior pitcher.

Two other mainstays in the South Dakota State program, righthander Trevor Vermuelen and third baseman Jesse Sawyer, could also be drafted, though both saw their production slip significantly as seniors.

Vermullen (9-1, 1.45, 10 SV in 2010; 2-4, 2.98, 10 SV in 2011) is a sidearm-style reliever whose fastball tops out in the mid-80s, but his release point and competitiveness should enable him to survive in the lower minors. Sawyer hit .359-19-73 with 50 walks as a junior, but dipped to .267-12-42 with 23 walks as a senior. He had trouble adjusting to the new bats in college baseball, and didn’t drive balls as consistently.

Maybe the best news of all for South Dakota State, going forward, is it doesn’t appear the cupboard is dry. A pair of freshmen righthanders, Kolton Emory (7-1, 5.09) and Marcus Heemstra (3-1, 4.88), already have prospect-level raw stuff and are both South Dakota natives, to boot. The 6-foot-9 Heemstra also played for the South Dakota State basketball team as a freshman, though saw limited action.

South Dakota has a long, rich history in American Legion baseball, and Rapid City righthander Tanner Chieborad, playing for Post 22, put himself on the prospect map recently when he went head-to-head with top Wyoming prospect Brandon Nimmo and retired the potential first-rounder three straight times, including once on a strikeout. Significantly, the game attracted a couple of dozen scouts. Chieborad, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound Washington State signee, reportedly pitched in the 84-87 mph range, touching 89, and had a sharp, deep curveball as a secondary pitch.

Chieborad is the top-ranked high-school player in South Dakota. And while he may be no more than a late-round selection, South Dakota has had only three players drafted out of its high-school ranks in the last decade and he would represent another indication of South Dakota’s growing relevance in baseball.

South Dakota in a Nutshell:

South Dakota State seniors.
WEAKNESS: High-school position players.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 4.

South Dakota State.
BEST HIGH SCHOOL TEAM: O’Gorman HS, Sioux Falls.

Draft History: Wade Adamson, rhp, South Dakota State U. (1978, Reds/4th round).
2006 Draft: Ben Jukich, lhp, Dakota Wesleyan U. (Athletics/13th round).
2007 Draft: Jake Rogers, ss, South Dakota State U. (Nationals/22nd round).
2008 Draft: Craig Parry, of, South Dakota State U. (Pirates/50th round).
2009 Draft: Cale Thielbar, lhp, South Dakota State U. (Brewers/18th round).
2010 Draft: Blake Treinen, rhp, South Dakota State U. (Marlins/23rd round).


(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

1. BLAKE TREINEN, rhp, South Dakota State University (Sr.)
Fifth-year SR, but fresh arm; FB 92-94/T-97, power SL, developing CH; 2010 draft, intriguing background.

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