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Aztecs pitcher Troy Melton high on list of San Diego players picked on second day of MLB Draft

San Diego State pitcher Troy Melton went undrafted last year after coming into the 2021 season as a highly touted pro prospect.

Melton quizzed several scouts to find out why no one wanted him.

“A lot of it was mental toughness stuff and being able to handle situations when things got out of hand,” Melton said at last month’s 2022 MLB Draft Combine. “This year I came out every start and never let anything get super far away from me. That’s really what I was most proud of.”

Melton allowed two runs or fewer in eight of 10 starts, giving up three runs in the other two outings. After getting stretched out in his first three appearances, he never pitched fewer than five innings and averaged seven innings a start.

Melton was rewarded Monday for all the work he put in the past year when the Detroit Tigers selected the 6-foot-4 right-hander in the fourth round (117th overall pick) on Day 2 of the 2022 MLB Draft.

“Getting the phone call was definitely the best call of my life,” Melton texted shortly after being drafted. “It was cool to see me on TV getting called, but it was such a nervous 40 minutes before that with all the unknowns.

“It was basically a wave of relief when it happened, and it was awesome to have my whole family there with me to experience it.”

Melton said he met with the Tigers during the combine and spoke with them leading up to the draft.

“I knew there was mutual interest,” he said, “but you’re never sure how much. It was definitely still a surprise for me.”

The approximate pick value for his slot is $517,700.

Melton had said at the combine that he is “100 percent ready to go.”

He’s never been to Detroit, “but I’m looking forward to going to a new place and see what it’s all about.”

Melton went 5-2 with a 2.07 ERA and 67 strikeouts (15 walks) in 65.1 innings to earn co-Mountain West Pitcher of the Year.

Beyond the numbers, which include a fastball that tops out at 97 mph, scouts noticed improved mound presence this season that showed Melton was prepared to come into his own.

Melton has relatively low mileage on his right arm compared to most pitchers his age.

A converted catcher, Melton didn’t focus on the mound until he arrived at SDSU four years ago.

Between acclimating himself to college in 2019 and seeing the 2020 season shut down because of the pandemic, Melton pitched fewer than 25 innings his first two seasons.

He went undrafted last year after going 4-5 with a 6.14 ERA.

New SDSU pitching coach Shaun Cole was a major influence for the turnaround.

“This year I was so much more prepared mentally and I give a lot of the credit to Coach Cole for that. He gave me a solid routine, changed the way I thought about pitching and the preparation it requires. That was the biggest difference for me.”

Other locals drafted

Melton was among several players with local ties taken on Day 2 of the draft, which included rounds 3-10. The draft concludes Tuesday with rounds 11-20.

Coastal Carolina right-hander Michael Knorr (Carlsbad High) was taken in the third round (103rd overall) by Houston.

Joining Melton in the fourth round (129th) was USD infielder Chase Meidroth, who was picked as a shortstop by the Boston Red Sox.

Ole Miss right-hander Derek Diamond (Ramona High) was selected by Pittsburgh in the sixth round (170th).

USD catcher Caleb Ricketts was drafted in the seventh round (212th) by Philadelphia.

There were two players with local ties selected when the draft began Sunday, with Vanderbilt outfielder Spencer Jones (La Costa Canyon High) picked by the Yankees in the first round (25th) and USD left-hander Brycen Mautz (Westview High) taken by St. Louis in the second round (59th).