McMahon, Zamora picked in second round of MLB Draft, Toral, incoming freshmen likely to return in 2021

Chris McMahon threw a career-high 12 strikeouts in 6.2 innings during Miami's win over Towson on February 29, 2020.
Chris McMahon threw a career-high 12 strikeouts in 6.2 innings during Miami's win over Towson on February 29, 2020. Photo credit: Josh Halper

After falling out of the first round of the 2020 Major League Baseball Draft on Wednesday, junior Chris McMahon heard his name called early into Thursday’s second round and was picked No. 46 overall by the Colorado Rockies.

McMahon joined fellow right-hander Slade Cecconi as the only other Hurricane drafted at that point. The two pitchers had been ranked as the No. 29 and No. 31 overall prospects in 2020 by MLB Pipeline. McMahon was also named a second team All-American this spring alongside teammate Brian Van Belle by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and also made the Golden Spikes Award Watchlist.

A key factor of Miami’s weekend rotation in each of the past two seasons, McMahon logged a 3-0 record and 1.05 ERA in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, while striking out 38 batters and allowing just three earned runs through four starts and 25 and 2/3 innings pitched. In 2019, he registered an ERA of 3.73 over 12 starts 67 strikeouts and 23 walks. It is possible prior injuries induced his fall to the second round. McMahon missed a month of action a year ago (arm) and underwent meniscus surgery before his freshman season, limiting him to just six appearances in 2018.

The West Chester, Pa. native wasn’t drafted for the first time Thursday, having been selected in the 33rd round by the Atlanta Braves in 2017 right after his high school graduation. Rather than take the offer, he instead opted to enroll at UM and develop at the Atlantic Coast Conference level. He’ll now reap the rewards of a $1.62 million slot value signing bonus, which will be payed out over the course of two years due to special financial rules caused by the pandemic.

Freddy Zamora rounds third base against Florida Atlantic University on Feb. 20, 2020 at Mark Light Field. The Hurricanes defeated the Owls 11-4.
Freddy Zamora rounds third base against Florida Atlantic University on Feb. 20, 2020 at Mark Light Field. The Hurricanes defeated the Owls 11-4. Photo credit: Josh White

Juniors Freddy Zamora and Alex Toral remained on the board entering the second day of the draft. Zamora was picked 53rd overall in the second round Thursday, and will see a slot value of $1.37 million. That kind of money will likely be enough to pull the shortstop away from Coral Gables. Toral on the other hand didn’t hear his name called and will almost surely return to campus for a fourth season.

Coming into 2020, both players were widely expected to head to the pros after the season, but a combination of an extra year of NCAA eligibility for spring sport student-athletes and the shortened draft put question marks on any perceived certainties.

Zamora suffered a season-ending knee injury just days before opening night in February, throwing a wrench into any post-spring plans for the shortstop. Such prior uncertainty might make a seven-figure bonus even tougher to pass up.

The Killian High grad hit six home runs in 2019 alongside a .296 batting average, while Toral hit .296 with five home runs in 2020 including a walk-off against Pittsburgh on Mar. 5. The latter led the ACC in homers in 2019 with 24 while batting .293 and will be a big returnee for the 2021 season.

Zamora overachieved in the draft after being pegged as the No. 100 prospect in the MLB Pipeline mock draft. Toral on the other hand couldn’t sneak back into the draft after being ranked 185th, a figure lower than the number of overall selections in the five round event.

The start of the 2020 season saw additional juniors including Raymond Gil, Gabe Rivera and Daniel Federman on mock draft boards, but the shortening of the draft, limited bonus sizes for undrafted players as well as eligibility and scholarship relief will likely see those upperclassmen remain as Canes in 2021.

The Canes currently have 18 incoming freshmen who have committed to play at Mark Light Field. Only one may be lost to the professional route.

Shortstop Sammy Infante was grabbed by the Washington Nationals with the No. 71 selection in the second round and could see a bonus of $884,200. The Monsignor Pace High School grad and former teammate of current Canes Luis Tuero and Yordani Carmona was seen as a possible heir apparent for Zamora, but would appear likely to instead take the immediate cash and sign with the Nats. But the remainder of the No. 2 ranked recruiting class of 2020 will be available to head coach Gino DiMare.

Three critical freshmen pitchers should be on campus for the 2021 season to reload a staff with two critical departures. Miami Christian School graduate Alejandro Rosario may have a big role right away, especially with Cecconi and McMahon almost certainly leaving. Fellow RHP Victor Mederos could provide another option for DiMare and will join fellow Westminster Christian alums Tyler Paige, Anthony Vilar and Alex Ruiz at UM. Jamar Fairweather will also be an immediate factor as a freshman, likely out of the bullpen.

In the field, SS Yohandy Morales may represent an option for the Canes to replace Zamora, especially with Infante likely not enrolling. And OFs CJ Kayfus and Chad Born represent a few of the remaining key newcomers for next spring.

It’s important to note that certain factors may keep the entire class from being part of the 2021 Hurricanes team. With the shortened draft, the 35-man roster limit will be scrapped for ’21, but other norms such as the 11.7 scholarship limit will remain in place. DiMare may therefore have some tough roster choices to make.

All undrafted players may still sign with teams’ farm systems, but may not receive more than $20,000 in bonuses, greatly limiting the number of players skipping college entirely. With the exception of Infante, Miami can expect to have the opportunity retain the bulk of their recruiting class—ranked second nationally by Perfect Game—and return enough talent to contend for a conference title and make a deep postseason run.