Hazleton Area’s Biasi, Valley West’s Vought selected by Royals in MLB Draft

By Derek Levarse - [email protected] | June 14th, 2017 1:03 pm - updated: 11:36 pm.

Sal Biasi didn’t have a long wait on Wednesday. And Justin Vought ended up getting the call from the same team as the fellow Wyoming Valley Conference alum.

Biasi, a Hazleton Area grad, had an eye on the MLB draft as his junior season at Penn State wound down. That goal was quickly realized Wednesday as the right-handed pitcher was the 15th player to be selected on the third day of the draft, going to the Kansas City Royals in the 11th round (330th overall).

A few hours later, Vought, who just finished his senior season at Wyoming Valley West, was also taken by the Royals in 31st round (930th overall).

Vought, an all-star catcher for the Spartans, had previously signed to play in college at Maryland.

Both players have roughly a month to decide between pro or college ball. If Biasi stays at Penn State, he would be eligible for the draft again next June. If Vought heads to Maryland, the next time he could be drafted is in 2020.

Regardless of what happens next, this was a day they won’t soon forget.

“It’s unreal, man,” Vought said. “Obviously it’s a dream come true. It’s awesome — a great feeling, getting picked out of high school. It’s every kid’s dream.”

The selections of Biasi and Vought mean the Wyoming Valley Conference has had a player drafted in 11 of the last 14 years for a total of 13 players in that stretch. Six of them played at Hazleton Area, including Biasi’s younger brother Dante, who was taken by the Chicago Cubs last June but elected to join Sal at Penn State.

“It’s pretty cool,” Sal Biasi said earlier this spring. “I think Hazleton is definitely on the map a little bit more with athletes. Especially (since) a lot of these younger kids are pretty good, too.”

As the Nittany Lions’ Friday starter, Biasi had a career year in 2017, recording a 3.48 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 72.1 innings. He was second in the Big Ten in both hits allowed per nine innings and strikeouts per nine, ranking among the national leaders in both categories.

“We are very excited for Sal,” Penn State coach Rob Cooper said in a school release. “He has worked extremely hard for this opportunity and now has an opportunity to chase a childhood dream.”

Hazleton Area head coach Gino Cara and assistant Brian Rubasky both echoed Cooper’s thoughts, immediately bringing up Biasi’s drive.

“Extremely happy for him and his family,” said Cara, who was following the draft live on his computer when it started back up at noon. “He absolutely worked hard to get where he is. He’s an incredible talent and he couples that with one of the strongest work ethics I’ve seen. He deserves to be where he is.”

Three pitchers from Hazleton Area’s 2014 District 2 championship team have now been drafted — both Biasi brothers and Tony Hernandez, who was picked by the Yankees last year.

“How about that — wow,” Rubasky said. “Really, really excited for Sal. I saw him about a week ago and to his credit, he was keeping things very low-key and humble. Just Sal being Sal.”

Vought, meanwhile, had been a mainstay in the Valley West lineup for the last three seasons, delivering a game-tying RBI single in the seventh inning of the 2015 state championship game.

The Royals had been one of the teams to show the most interest in him, even inviting him out to Kansas City earlier this month for a workout.

Both Vought and Biasi had the potential to be drafted on Tuesday in the first 10 rounds, but now they could end up as teammates down the road in the Royals organization.

“I slid a little further than I expected to,” Vought said. “…But once I saw (the Royals scout) was calling me, I went from being a little upset to it being the best day of my life, honestly.”

Surprise, surprise

As it turned out, Sal Biasi wasn’t the first Hazleton Area student to be drafted this year.

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted pitcher Jhordany Mezquita in the eighth round. Mezquita, a 19-year-old who hails from the Dominican Republic, was not eligible to play for the Cougars this past season because of his age.

But his talent was obvious when he showed up at an open intramural workout last fall and Cara and Rubasky got to see him for the first time. And when they first put the radar gun on him, the left-hander topped 90.

“Oh, he made an impression,” Cara said. “We saw him and it was, ‘Holy crap. Who bestowed this on us?”

“He was poised. He was in control,” Rubasky said. “At the time, we had no idea he was too old” to play high school ball.

Wyoming Valley West’s Justin Vought will decide in the next month between playing college ball at Maryland or in the pros for the Royals organization.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/web1_WVW-CrestBB_2-CMYK.jpgWyoming Valley West’s Justin Vought will decide in the next month between playing college ball at Maryland or in the pros for the Royals organization. Bill Tarutis file photo | For Times Leader
Hazleton Area grad Sal Biasi was one of the country’s leaders in strikeouts per nine innings as a junior for Penn State in 2017.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/web1_biasi12017614122524222-4.jpegHazleton Area grad Sal Biasi was one of the country’s leaders in strikeouts per nine innings as a junior for Penn State in 2017. Penn State Athletics

By Derek Levarse

[email protected]

Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse