Lehigh baseball has quietly become a program adept in developing MLB Draft prospects.
The program has produced an MLB draft pick in four of the last six drafts. Levi Stoudt and Jason Reynolds, who both forwent their senior seasons, are the program’s most recent draft picks. Stoudt was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft while the San Diego Padres took Reynolds in the 32nd round.
This recurring theme will likely continue thanks to the development of juniors Mason Black and Luke Rettig and senior Matt Svanson. The trio of pitchers headline one of the most promising rotations in the Patriot League. They recently were named three of the top five 2021 MLB Draft prospects in the Patriot League by Baseball America.
Black, a right-hander out of Archbald, Pennsylvania, is the most high profile prospect in program history. The junior began receiving interest from MLB teams following his performance in the Cape Cod League in summer 2019. In July, he was listed as the 31st ranked prospect in the 2021 draft by Baseball America. If the projections hold, Black would be the league’s first-ever first-round pick.
Black projects as a power pitcher at the next level with a fastball topping out at 98mph. While his velocity is undoubtedly his biggest strength, Black puts a constant emphasis on analyzing different pitching strategies.
“I really like to dive into the ‘why?’ behind a lot of pitching methodologies,” Black said. “It is a bit of my nerdier side showing, but I feel as though this is a big reason as to why I’ve been fortunate enough to have some success.”
Black’s ceiling will ultimately be determined by the development of his secondary pitches. The right-hander implements a changeup, slider and curveball in his arsenal. Black has been working tirelessly to improve these pitches as he looks to make the jump to the minors.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve been trying to do is shorten up my arm action, just so it gets to the point where it’s more repeatable,” Black said. “This was identified by my pitching coach at Lehigh as well as the guy I work with back home. This will really improve all my secondaries if I can get to the point where I’m delivering from the same spot every time.”
Rettig has also been on scouts’ radars. The 6-foot-4-inch lefty said he received minor interest in high school, but began receiving calls from several teams in early November.
A bioengineering major from Oxford, Pennsylvania, Rettig flashes a well-rounded series of pitches. His ability to switch up strategies and keep hitters on their heels has served him well through his college career.
“My biggest strength as a pitcher is my ability to locate four pitches and manipulate hitters into doing what I want,” Rettig said. “I think my four-pitch arsenal will help me a ton in the future.”
Black and Rettig both have a close personal relationship with senior Matt Svanson, the most experienced college pitcher of the three. The 6-foot-5-inch right-hander has made 25 appearances as a Mountain Hawk, primarily as a relief pitcher.
Svanson developed close relationships with Stoudt and Reynolds throughout his freshman and sophomore seasons and has similarly enjoyed exchanging pitching ideas with Black and Rettig.
“Back in my freshman and sophomore years, watching Levi Stoudt and Jason Reynolds go through the process and their work ethics definitely helped transform me as a player,” Svanson said. “Now also having Mason (Black) and Luke (Rettig) going through this process at the same time definitely makes it a lot easier.”
The COVID-19 pandemic allowed Lehigh to play just 15 games in 2020. The team was able to train on campus for part of the fall semester prior to the shutdown of athletics.
When the athletic facilities closed, the majority of the team started working out off-campus, modifying their normal programs based on what equipment they had available. At the time, they were working out for an opportunity to play in 2021, and one that wasn’t guaranteed, but on Jan. 8, the Patriot League announced that they will have a 36 game season.
Despite the obstacles presented by constant shutdowns, Black, Rettig and Svanson still have their sights set on the 2021 season. Svanson remains confident that a deep pitching staff along with a talented group of hitters have Lehigh primed for success in the spring.
“We have more than enough talent on both the pitching and hitting side to make a run in the conference and regionals,” Svanson said. “Not only do we have three of the top arms in the conference headlining our rotation, but our staff is also really deep and will be able to come in and get a ton of key outs.”