Coming into the season, Gophers junior outfielder Mike Kvasnicka thought it would’ve been “pretty cool” to get drafted in one of the single-digit rounds.
But hitting .358 with eight home runs and reaching base in his final 40 games, and 61 of his final 62 games, made him a bit of a hotter commodity.
The Houston Astros took Kvasnicka with the 33rd overall pick of the Major League Baseball draft, in the supplemental part of the first round, as four Gophers in total were selected in the first two days of the draft Monday and Tuesday.
Junior reliever Seth Rosin went to the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round and senior catcher Kyle Knudson was taken by the Twins in the ninth round. Reliever Scott Matyas didn't get the call in the first two rounds Tuesday, but was taken by the Brewers in the 40th round Wednesday afternoon, and reportedly will likely return to the Gophers for this senior season.
Kvasnicka is the highest drafted Minnesota player since the Twins took pitcher Glen Perkins with the 22nd pick in 2004. He is the highest position player taken since infielder Brett Gates was taken 26th overall by Oakland in 1991. Astros scouting director Bobby Heck said they had even considered taking Kvasnicka with their No. 8 pick, and were surprised he still remained at No. 33.
Kvasnicka can play in the outfield, behind the plate or at either corner infield position, and filled in for Knudson at catcher this season while Knudson recovered from off-season hip surgery. Heck said the Astros will keep Kvasnicka as a switch-hitter and develop him as a third baseman.
“We think that’s where his better ceiling and profile lies,” Heck said. “Obviously [the Astros] look different every year and I think his versatility and his ability to go to other positions will be helpful for him and helpful for us.”
Kvasnicka said he was surprised about the anticipated move to third, expecting that teams would want him to catch, but said he will “own that identity and make that my own as much as I can. To me, that's a great thing they did that because that means they have a plan for me.”
A graduate of Lakeville North, Kvasnicka was drafted out of high school by the Twins in the 33rd round (961st pick), but opted to play for the Gophers. His father, Jay, was selected by the Twins in the eighth round of the 1988 draft but didn’t make it to the majors.
Rosin became the highest drafted Gophers pitcher since Perkins, and probably helped his case with an eight-inning, one-run outing in the first round of the NCAA regionals Friday night.
Like Kvasnicka, Rosin was taken by the Twins out of high school but chose to come to Minnesota. He finished the season with a 4.72 ERA and finished second in the Big Ten with 95 strikeouts in 103 innings.
Knudson heard the news of the Twins drafting him from his former roommate Derek McCallum, who was drafted by the Twins last season and is playing with their single-A affiliate in Beloit, Wis. As the team’s starting catcher this year, Knudson hit .342 with six home runs.
Matyas was one of the top relievers in the Big Ten, finishing with a 2.10 ERA. In Minnesota’s first-round win over New Mexico on Friday night, Matyas pitched the final three innings and struck out eight consecutive batters to end the game.
In an interview Monday during the 12th round, Kvasnicka said he "honestly can't believe he hasn't been taken yet,” before Maytas went undrafted for another 18 rounds. “We always check what Big Ten guys get drafted, and there’s been some guys taken who I would much rather hit off of than Matyas. Whoever does get him, it’s going to be the biggest steal in the draft.”"
Staff reporters Derek Wetmore and John Hageman contributed to this story.