Western Carolina University had two players selected on the third day of the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft which concluded Wednesday evening. Catamount senior outfielder Matthew Koehler was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the 31st round, while draft-eligible redshirt sophomore pitcher Chase Walter was taken one circuit later as the 32nd round pick of the Los Angeles Angels.
Koehler was the 944th overall pick while Walter – who is eligible to return to WCU – was the 961st overall selection. WCU’s two draft picks were among nine players from the Southern Conference drafted during the three-day, 40-round event.
Koehler closed his five-year Western Carolina career with his best season. He batted a career-high – and Southern Conference leading – .361 with 10 doubles, five triples, 13 home runs and 45 RBI to lead the league with a .649 seasonal slugging percentage. The Raleigh native earned first-team All-SoCon awards at the season’s end, the first of his career. He collected Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week honors after homering three times against Marshall.
Over 199 career games, Koehler made 181 starts and finished with a .292 career batting average with 199 hits including 37 doubles, nine triples and 23 career homers. His nine triples tied him for ninth in WCU’s career record book and his 41 career stolen bases tied for 16th in program records.
After transferring from Spartanburg Methodist prior to the 2018 season, second-year Catamount Chase Walter finished second in the conference with 114 strikeouts in 2019 with a team-high five victories (5-6). He twice earned a Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week after striking out 13 against Mercer and a career-high 17 strikeouts during his second career complete game in a win over Furman. He collected a Southern Conference Pitcher of the Week honor.
Walter’s 17 strikeouts are the third-most recorded in a single-game in the NCAA in 2019. In the past two seasons, Walter posted 188 strikeouts in 36 appearances to rank 19th in WCU program history.
Since WCU head coach Bobby Moranda has been at the helm in Cullowhee, 23 players have been drafted by MLB clubs with three – Jordan Smith (Tigers, 2014), Korey Anderson (Padres, 2017) and Brendan Nail (Red Sox, 2017) – signing free agent contracts to play professional baseball.
Additional WCU draft notes:
• WCU has had players selected for the 32nd year dating back to 1977. This year marked the 18th time since 1977 that Western had multiple players selected within the same year.
• WCU did not have a player drafted in 2018, halting a 12-consecutive year streak of hearing a Catamount name called. Since 2000, Western has had a player drafted in 16 of the 20 years, missing in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2018. During that same span, WCU’s Jared Greenwood signed a free agent contract with the New York Yankees in 2005 and Matt Price signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001.
• Koehler became the third Catamount drafted by the Oakland Athletics franchise all-time and the first since former reliever Jared Burton in 2002. Another ex-big leaguer and former pitcher Catamount – and 2008 WCU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee – Jason Beverlin was drafted by Oakland with the 93rd pick in the fourth round of the 1994 draft.
• Walter is the first-ever Catamount baseball player drafted by the Los Angeles Angels organization all-time.
• In WCU history, three players were taken inside the first 100 picks, headlined by Rick Adair with the 53rd pick of the third round by the Seattle Mariners in the 1979 draft. Brad Tweedie (3rd round, 92nd pick by Cincinnati Reds in 1993) and Jason Beverlin (4th round, 93rd pick by Oakland Athletics in 1994).