Senior center fielder Willie Argo was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 22nd round on Wednesday.
June 6, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Three University of Illinois baseball players were selected on the final day of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, plus one Illini signee as senior center fielder Willie Argo (Davenport, Iowa/Assumption), redshirt-sophomore first baseman Jordan Parr (Chillicothe, Ill./Illinois Valley Central/Parkland College) and junior right-handed pitcher Kevin Johnson (Midlothian, Ill./Mount Carmel) all heard their names called Wednesday.
Argo was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 22nd round, Parr was picked by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 26th round and Johnson was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 31st round. In addition, Illini right-handed pitcher signee Ryan Castellanos (Davie, Fla./Archbishop McCarthy HS) was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 34th round.
With Argo, Parr and Johnson joining junior right-handed pitcher Matt Milroy - who was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 11th round on Tuesday - Illinois has four current players drafted for the second-straight season. Prior to 2011, that hadn't happened since 2005.
"It's a great feeling to be drafted as a senior," Argo said. "It's kind of your last chance, but I'm really excited to be joining the Rays organization. I've heard nothing but great things. They like to grow and develop players and get them to the big leagues, so I'm really excited to start my professional career. I just decided that I would be happy with whatever happened and to go so much higher (than last year) is just a cherry on top."
Argo posted a strong senior season, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors after hitting .318, which ranked second on the team, and leading the squad with 22 stolen bases, 47 runs and 34 walks. He ranked third in the Big Ten in steals, sixth in on-base percentage (.430), seventh in walks and eighth in runs. His 22 steals broke the Illinois career stolen bases record, as he finished his four years with 98, shattering the 30-year-old mark of 83 set by Todd Schmitke from 1979-82. His 98 steals also finished fifth in Big Ten history. Argo also broke the Illinois mark for career steals in Big Ten play, finishing his time at Illinois with 38, besting Kyle Hudson's 36 steals in conference play from 2006-08.
Parr, who was drafted by the Dodgers as a third baseman, keyed the Illini offense in 2012, leading the team with a .348 average and a .517 slugging percentage. He had a team-high 70 hits, 13 doubles and 45 RBIs while scoring 37 runs and tying Brandon Hohl for the team lead in home runs with five. Parr ranked seventh in the Big Ten in RBIs and eighth in slugging percentage. He also led the league in fielding chances, putouts and double plays, contributing to an Illini defense that led the nation in double plays per game (1.3). Parr hit a team-best .424 with two outs and had 22 two-out RBIs, which led the Illini, and hit a team-best .397 with runners in scoring position.
"It's been my dream since I was a little kid," Parr said. "My experience in college has been very unique; it's been three schools in three years, so to get that call and have a professional team say they want you to play baseball for them, it's an incredible feeling."
Johnson served as Illinois' No. 1 starting pitcher in 2012 - the second-straight year he started on Fridays - totaling a career-high seven wins with a 7-5 record and a career-best 3.97 ERA. He struck out 43 in 88 1/3 innings, while walking 27 and holding opponents to a .292 batting average. He broke the Illini record for career innings pitched in Big Ten play, now holding 153 2/3 innings in conference action, and he stands sixth in career innings pitched with 267. Johnson won five consecutive starts from March 2-30, becoming the first Illini pitcher to accomplish that feat since 2005. He tossed a complete game against then-No. 18 Oregon, which is hosting an NCAA Super Regional this weekend, allowing one run while striking out five in Eugene, Ore., on March 9, and struck out a season-high nine hitters in a complete-game shutout at Northwestern on April 27.
"It was amazing," Johnson said of being drafted. "I've never really felt like that. It was something that I was really looking forward to, then when it happened, I was at a loss for words. I'm 50-50 with what I'm going to do. At this point, what the Yankees want to do with me is they want me to go to my summer league team, they'll have some cross-checkers come out to my games and evaluate me some more, then they'll make me an offer."
Castellanos recently helped Archbishop McCarthy to an unprecedented third-straight Florida state title, when the Mavericks won the Florida Class 6A state title game on May 19. It marked the first three-peat in Florida high school baseball history when a school moved up in school size (Archbishop McCarthy was a 4A school the previous two years), and only the second three-peat ever in Florida high school baseball. The Mavericks were named national champions by USA Today, Perfect Game, Baseball America and the National High School Baseball Coaches last year and could earn that designation again this year. Castellanos went 5-1 with a 1.66 ERA in 2012, allowing only nine earned runs in 38 innings of work.