There was natural anxiety for players entering this year’s Major League Baseball draft. Their 2020 high school or college seasons had been cut short or canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They lost that chance at increasing their individual stock, and furthermore, the draft had been reduced to just five rounds.
Lefthanders Shane Drohan and Jeremy Wu-Yelland felt some of that anxiety.
The two were in their junior years of college. Drohan attended Florida State and Wu-Yelland played at the University of Hawaii. There was a chance both could have gone undrafted and thus would have been tasked with the tough decision of signing a free agent deal capped at $20,000 or returning to school for their senior year.
“I didn’t know if I was going to get drafted,” Wu-Yelland said in a phone interview. “My agent was kind of telling me that it might happen, it might not. Just be ready for anything.”
Said Drohan, “I knew the scouting report on me was I have the stuff to shoot up on draft boards but I haven’t really put it together yet. I felt like I was doing that this year and then once [the season] got shut down, that definitely played into the stress of it, like, ‘Did I show enough?’ ”
As it turned out, both players showed enough. The Red Sox selected Wu-Yelland in the fourth round and Drohan in the fifth. Both players plan on signing.
“Overall, it’s exciting,” Drohan said. “I’m ready to get going.”
There are some similarities in Wu-Yelland and Drohan’s college careers. First, they have a limited sample size. Wu-Yelland’s career high in innings came in 2019 at just 46⅓. Drohan’s season high came that same year (51⅔ innings).
As freshmen, both began in the bullpen. Wu-Yelland’s career has been a blend between starter and reliever, while Drohan’s role as a starter became a bit more defined by his sophomore season, and it’s a role he would like to remain in.
“I see myself as a starter,” said Drohan, who made four starts this year. “Like we said, the sample size has been small, so I’m still really figuring out how to pitch just because I didn’t really start pitching until late junior year of high school.
“For the most part, I’m fairly new to it. If you really dive into the numbers, each year I’ve made drastic strides.”
Wu-Yelland, on the other hand, is indifferent about being a starter or reliever.
“I don’t really get into roles too much,” Wu-Yelland said. “I just want the ball when it matters and help my team win games. That’s what the Red Sox are getting out of me, is someone who wants to win more than anything else.”
Wu-Yelland made his biggest impression during the summer of 2019 in the Cape Cod League. In 25⅔ innings, he struck out 26 and posted a 3.15 ERA.
“We had seen him pitch in the Cape Cod League, where he threw great,” Red Sox amateur scouting director Paul Toboni said. “He threw great again this season. [Area scout] J.J. Altobelli really drove it. We were really able to get a robust process early on the kid, which left us in a really good position to select him in the fourth round.”
Excelling in the Cape Cod League also gave Wu-Yelland confidence.
“Being around the best competition every day really helped, too,” Wu-Yelland said. “And just understanding in my own head that I’m right there with these guys and I’m not just as good, I can be better.”
Wu-Yelland’s fastball sits between 91 and 94 miles per hour, topping out at 96. He complements that with a loopy, low-80s breaking ball that he keeps out of the middle of the zone, according to Baseball America.
Drohan is more of a project but also has a big arm that tops out at 95 m.p.h.
“He’s another unique talent,” Toboni said. “He just does it so easy. Then you check the radar and it’s 94 to 95.”
Drohan was drafted in 2017, in the 23rd round, by the Philadelphia Phillies, when he was at Cardinal Newman High School in Florida. His father, Bill, played in the Kansas City Royals organization for four years (1987-90).
Drohan also was a standout quarterback on his high school team and is probably the best athlete the Sox selected in this year’s draft. He believes the football background helps him on the baseball field.
“It really helps for me more mentally than physically,” Drohan said. “Especially because I was a quarterback. Just the high-intensity situations in football and being the quarterback when stuff is going wrong. I know when I was a quarterback, I had to keep my cool, stay poised. It kind of relates to pitching, too.”