CHAMPAIGN — Zac Taylor lasted longer than expected in the Major League Baseball draft, but the Illinois redshirt senior center fielder finally heard his name called in the 25th round. Taylor, a Downers Grove native, was selected with the 762nd pick by the Chicago Cubs.
Taylor returned to Illinois for his final season after being drafted in the 36th round last June. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound outfielder took advantage of one extra opportunity, batting .321 with 10 home runs, 12 doubles and 29 RBI. He also stole a team-high 23 bases and was the first Illini ever to have consecutive seasons with at least 10 steals and 10 home runs.
Cyrillo Watson went from occasional midweek starter to anchoring the Illinois rotation on Sundays during his junior season. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-hander put that bigger stage to good use and was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 23rd round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Watson went 5-2 with a 3.65 ERA in 13 starts this season. The Cudahy, Wis., native struck out 49 and walked 39 in 69 innings pitched. His younger brother, Xavier, is an Illini signee and a potential late round draft pick.
Quinten Sefcik made it two Illinois pitchers selected in quick succession as a 24th round pick by the Cincinnati Reds. The 6-1, 215-pound right-hander appeared in 26 games out of the Illini bullpen this spring. He went 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA, striking out 39 and walking 16 in 30 1/3 innings.
Make that both halves of Illinois' standout double play combo selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. Junior shortstop Ben Troike was picked in the 11th round by the Tampa Bay Rays late Wednesday morning.
Troike joins Illinois second baseman Michael Massey and right fielder Jack Yalowitz as draft picks this week. Massey was selected in the fourth round by the Kansas City Royals, while Yalowitz heard his named called in the 10th round by the Colorado Rockies.
Troike hit .260 this season for the Illini with two home runs, 13 doubles and 21 RBI. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound shortstop also committed just four errors (10 fewer than a year ago). Troike, a career .266 hitter, missed the final 12 games of the season with a broken thumb. He'll have until July 15 to decide whether or not to sign with the Rays.
The first of Illinois' signees for the 2020 season has also been selected. The Seattle Mariners drafted Gateway CC (Ariz.) outfielder Antoine Mistico with the 366th overall pick in the 12th round. Mistico is the younger brother of former Illinois football signee Michael Hermosillo, who now plays for the Los Angeles Angels.