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Four UCLA players picked on final day of MLB draft

By in Press Enterprise on June 15, 2017

By Clay Fowler

There is a well-worn path to the Major League Baseball draft in the Valaika family.

Nick, the youngest of four brothers, didn’t exactly take the conventional route, but landed in the same place.

UCLA’s redshirt sophomore shortstop was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 24th round Wednesday afternoon, one of four Bruins selected on the third and final day of the draft.

Three more members of UCLA’s 2017 recruiting class were selected Wednesday — outfielder Garrett Mitchell in the 14th round, pitcher Sam Glick in the 39th and pitcher Chase Farrell in the 40th and final round.

Valaika was the only UCLA player selected Wednesday with any college eligibility remaining. Senior pitcher Scott Burke, the Bruins’ top reliever, went to the Baltimore Orioles in the 20th round. The Colorado Rockies selected a pair of seniors, outfielder Brett Stephens in the 28th round and pitcher Moises Ceja in the 32nd round.

Despite a sample size of just 31 collegiate games, Valaika has a chance to follow two of his older brothers into professional baseball should he choose to sign a professional contract and not to return to UCLA. The shortstop started all 21 games he played in 2017 before he was hit by a pitch March 26 and suffered a season-ending hand injury. He appeared in 11 games as a freshman before redshirting his true sophomore year in 2016.

Injuries cost Valaika most of his sophomore season at Newhall’s Hart High before he rounded into form by hitting .400 as a senior with a .520 on-base percentage and 1.208 OPS.

Valaika’s offensive numbers were underwhelming at UCLA — he hit .225 this season with 12 runs and nine RBIs in 80 at-bats — but that formula didn’t slow older brother Pat Valaika on the way to his major league debut last season.

Pat was UCLA’s shortstop from 2011 […]    

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