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Canadian lefty Ryan Kellogg ready for NCAA season, second MLB draft

02/12/2015 01:25 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT
Ryan Kellogg knows exactly what to expect from this June's MLB draft.

After all, he's been there before.

The Whitby, Ont., native and star southpaw at Arizona State University is draft-eligible for a second time as he begins his junior season at the NCAA Division I school on Friday.

Last time he was in this situation was his senior year of high school in 2012 when he turned down his favourite childhood team, the Toronto Blue Jays, after they selected him in the 12th round. Instead, he went to college.

"Going through it the first time was really nerve-racking," Kellogg said. "Now, just having that sense of familiarity with it, knowing how it all works, that helps.

"It's not less important or less exciting, but I'll be more comfortable with the process this time around."

While he admits he occasionally wonders what life would have been like had he signed with Toronto three years ago, Kellogg says he's confident he made the right choice.

The six-foot-five pitcher recently changed his major from mechanical engineering to business management and is enjoying the academic side of ASU.

"It's going a lot better than engineering was," Kellogg chuckled. "Engineering was fun but it became a lot to handle with baseball. ... I can get an engineering degree at any point in my life but baseball is here and now. I can only enjoy college ball for three or four years."

Kellogg's draft stock has improved thanks to his 3.45 earned-run average and 19-4 record through two seasons, including an 11-1 freshman campaign in which he pitched a no-hitter against the then No. 3-ranked Oregon State. Through 206 innings, he's walked just 39 batters.

Perfect Game ranks Kellogg 65th on their list of draft-eligible college players in the U.S., while the Canadian Baseball Network has him third among players born north of the border — high schoolers Demi Orimoloye of Orleans, Ont., and Josh Naylor of Mississauga, Ont., are currently ahead of him.

But Kellogg doesn't think much about rankings.

"When I start focusing on that, the pitching's not going to go well and the draft's not going to go well either," he said. "It's a big year but at the same time nothing really changes — it's still baseball — and you have to treat it that way. All I can do is go out there and pitch and help the team win some games."

The Sun Devils finished last season unranked after exiting the playoffs in the Regionals round. Kellogg expects this year to be different.

With a new coaching staff fronted by former Indiana University head coach Tracy Smith, who earned Big Ten conference Coach of the Year honours after leading IU to its only College World Series appearance in 2013, Kellogg says the tone has already been set for a more successful season.

Smith believes his No. 2 starter — Kellogg takes the mound Saturday against Oklahoma State — could be a big part of that.

"He's one of our better, most talented kids," Smith said. "But more importantly to me, he goes out every day with a consistent work ethic and that's a good model for our younger guys."

Kellogg is one of approximately 750 Canadians playing at U.S. colleges this year, with 116 of those at D1 schools. Among them, Cole Bauml of Muenster, Sask., (Northern Kentucky), Brendan Hendricks of Cochrane, Alta., (San Francisco), and Daniel Pinero (Virginia) and Connor Panas (Canisius), both from Toronto, are also ones to watch.

Then there's right-handed sophomore Cal Quantrill, Stanford's opening day starter and son of former Blue Jays pitcher Paul Quantrill. The 20-year-old from Port Hope, Ont., is projected to be the first Canadian selected in the 2016 draft.

Kellogg and Quantrill played together on the junior national team, winning silver at the IBAF 18-U world championship in 2012. Last April they pitched against each other for the first time in a Pac-12 game. Kellogg got the decision in the rare all-Canadian matchup, giving up zero earned runs through seven innings.

But he says Quantrill is the one to look out for.

"That kid has all the right tools to become a really good pitcher," Kellogg said. "I can't wait to see what he does in the future."

As for his own future, Kellogg, who turned 21 last Wednesday, can't wait for that either.

"The draft is going to be a big part of my life," he said. "I'm excited to do it again and see how it plays out this time."

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