Story courtesy–MSU Athletics
Missouri State first baseman Justin Paulsen and pitchers Doug Still and Jordan Knutson added their names to a distinguished list of Bears with their selections in the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, as the San Francisco Giants tabbed Still in the 11th round (336th overall), before the Detroit Tigers picked Knutson in the 24th round (725th overall) and the San Diego Padres took Paulsen in the 39th round (1,158th overall) on the final day of the 40-round amateur draft Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to the selections of Still, Knutson and Paulsen, MSU junior squad member Anthony Herron, Jr., was taken by the Chicago White Sox in the 19th round (567th overall), while 2017 signee Matt Russell (Kansas City, Mo.) was chosen by the Los Angeles Angels in the 40th round (1,195 overall). That group joins fellow Bears Jake Burger (first round, 11th overall) and Trey Turner (10th round, 313th overall), who were taken over the first two days of the draft by the White Sox and Washington Nationals, respectively.
The Bears’ total of five selections from their active roster match their top draft showing since 2003, when a school-record seven MSU players were taken on the heels of the school’s first NCAA Division I College World Series appearance.
Still bolstered the Bears’ weekend rotation with an impressive 8-3 mound mark to go along with a 2.88 ERA en route to becoming the first MSU starting pitcher to earn first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors since 2015. The Sikeston, Mo., native, who also picked up ABCA/Rawlings All-Midwest Region recognition Wednesday, allowed just 39 runs in a team-best 103.0 innings spanning 17 starts to match a program record in the latter category.
In his first season with the Bears, Still became the ninth MSU standout to earn the MVC’s Newcomer of the Year honor, ranking second in the league in innings pitched and third in ERA, as well as sixth overall with 89 strikeouts on the year. He tossed the first complete-game shutout by a Bear since 2014 with his 8-0 road blanking of New Mexico on April 15 and logged a perfect 4-0 mark in league play.
Knutson, a four-year letter-winner for the Bears, finished his MSU career with an 8-4 mound mark in 23 total appearances this spring, including 15 starts as a part of the Bears’ weekend rotation. The Lee’s Summit, Mo., product struck out 90 hitters over 93.1 total innings, picking up a pair of wins and a save during MSU’s NCAA Fayetteville Regional title run earlier this month.
A second-team 2017 All-MVC choice and MVC Defensive Team pick, Knutson capped his collegiate career ranked among the Bears’ top 10 hurlers for all-time appearances (68), starts (46), innings pitched (281.0), victories (21) and strikeouts (247), logging all 21 of his wins over the last three seasons to help MSU complete the best three-year period in program history with 130 victories.
A three-time All-MVC selection at first base, Paulsen finished his MSU career with a strong 2017 campaign, earning honorable mention all-conference honors after hitting .322 with seven home runs and a career-high 49 RBIs. The Ballwin, Mo., product was second on the squad with 79 hits and ranked among the MVC’s top 10 hitters in both overall batting and hits for the season.
For his three-year MSU career, Paulsen hit an even .300 with 22 home runs and 145 RBIs, finishing in the Bears’ all-time top five for walks and sacrifice flies. In the field, he turned in a .986 fielding percentage, with a program-record 1588 putouts and 122 double-play turns, which rank fourth on the Bears’ career list.
Herron joined the Bears as a junior college transfer last fall, before sitting out the 2017 campaign. The right-hander from St. Charles, Mo., was previously selected by St. Louis in the 32nd round of the 2014 MLB Draft, before being picked again in last year’s draft by the New York Mets in the 36th round.
Under the terms of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, professional clubs must sign drafted underclassmen and high school seniors by July 7, or the rights to that player are relinquished and he may re-enter the draft in 2018.