Cole Loncar does not expect to be selected in Major League Baseball’s draft. Still, the UTRGV product is hopeful.
The draft begins with rounds 1 and 2 on Thursday and consists of 40 rounds as it concludes Saturday. If drafted, Loncar would be the 36th UTRGV player selected. Per Baseball America, only 17.2 percent of signed draft picks make it to the major leagues.
UTRGV coach Manny Mantrana said Loncar is the only UTRGV draft eligible player that has a realistic chance of being drafted. Only two UTRGV players have gone in the draft’s first 10 rounds, the last being outfielder Logan Landon last June.
UTRGV has had a player drafted each of the last four years.
“I can’t expect it because it’s not in my control,” said Loncar, a 6 foot, 205 pound outfielder who hit .329 with 53 RBIs and four home runs in 95 career games for the Vaqueros. “If I would have played to my ability this year, which I did not, I would have had more of an expectation for it. I sure believe that it will and can happen. But I can’t say I expect it based on what’s taken place so far.”
Loncar hit .304 with 19 RBIs and a home run in 43 games for UTRGV in 2016. He got off to a slow start, missed six games because of a concussion and then made a strong push late to close his career in fine fashion.
It was a down year compared to his 2014 junior season and first year with UTRGV, when he hit .348 with 34 RBIs and three homers. Those numbers earned him an all WAC preseason spot heading into 2016.
But as the centerpiece of UTRGV’s lineup, Loncar had trouble adjusting to a lead role. He no longer saw a steady dose of pitches to hit as opposing teams marked him. It was a trial by error, and it reflected in his numbers, but Loncar said he improved his plate discipline and approach in having a plan every at bat and executing it in order to get on base.
“Mentally, I took a big step in being able to see the game for what it is,” he said. “As far as being able to observe and know what to look for in particular situations, that just comes with game experience. Being able to deal with failure is a big thing I’ve learned. I used to get really upset with failure and let that affect me, and I got over that and was able to let things go and worry about the next game, the next pitch.
“The next at bat is more important than anything that’s happened. That’s an outlook I didn’t have before.”
Loncar said he has talked with the Chicago White Sox jerseys as recently as a week ago and gauged their interest as sincere. A Houston scout for the team told Loncar he liked what he saw and wanted to give him a shot.
Mantrana, who has had a lead hand in getting Loncar’s name to scouts and teams, said the Oakland A’s are also a potential destination.
“There’s no doubt Loncar has the tools that can play at the next level,” said Mantrana, who has had four players selected in the MLB Draft. “He’s not going to embarrass any organization, on or off the field. He’s a great young man.”
Mantrana said Loncar has a “plus arm” he was clocked at throwing 95 miles per hour from the outfield during UTRGV’s Scout Day in October and good bat speed. Loncar sees himself as a corner outfielder in the pros, but spent most of his UTRGV career in center field.
“It’s not under my control where wholesale mlb jerseys they put me. But I play baseball to hit,” Loncar said. “That’s my favorite part of the game. Playing four years of college baseball, I think I’ve figured out a lot. I’ve seen a lot of games, I’ve seen a lot of pitches playing at a Division I level that is the best amateur baseball you can play.”.