Astros come calling for Dykxhoorn at No. 166
* In his second trip through the draft, RHP Brock Dykxhoorn (Goderich, Ont.) was selected by the Houston Astros 166th overall in the sixth round on Friday, making him the second Canadian selected in the 2014 MLB first-year player draft.. (Photo: Baseball Canada) ….
By Alexis Brudnicki
Brock Dykxhoorn has been through the draft before. But this time, it’s different.
“The last week coming up to the draft has been nuts,” he said. “Especially right before I left school. They had a lot of people coming in to talk to me and it’s been kind of crazy. Then yesterday and today were kind of slow until about the last 10 minutes before the pick.”
The 19-year-old was selected in the 20th round by the Cincinnati Reds just two years ago, but instead of heading into the professional ranks he opted to go to school. The right-hander used his two college seasons, one at West Virginia University and the other at Central Arizona College, to turn himself into a sixth-round pick.
Dykxhoorn became the second Canadian selected in this year’s draft on Friday afternoon when the Houston Astros took him with the very first pick in the sixth round, 166th overall.
“I’m pretty excited,” Dykxhoorn said. “My heart’s still racing a little bit. I’ve been waiting all day, so it was pretty nice to hear my name.”
Playing college summer ball with the Mankato Moondogs, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound righty awaited his pick on his own in Minnesota, texting his family in Delhi throughout the entire process. Between the fifth and sixth rounds, the Astros gave Dykxhoorn a heads-up call that had him ready to hear his name.
“[Houston] called me about five minutes before the pick, actually, in that little 10-minute break,” he said. “They said they were thinking about it. And then they called me back right before and asked me how to pronounce my last name, so I took that as it was probably a done deal by then.”
And the selection was right around where Dykxhoorn thought he might end up, after going 9-4 with a 2.77 ERA for the Vaqueros this season, with 114 strikeouts and just 27 walks over 78 innings. He threw two complete-game shutouts for Central Arizona and allowed only two extra-base hits all year.
“That’s kind of where I had myself going, in five or six rounds, around there,” Dykxhoorn said. “I had talked to Houston a couple times before the draft, and it was where I expected to go.”
Two years ago, Bill Byckowski selected the high school hurler as Cincinnati’s 20th-rounder. He saw plus-tools then, and knew that with time Dykxhoorn would only get better.
“He was a big kid who we thought – with some training and some development – had big upside,” Byckowski said. “We thought he would be a fastball-sinker-slider-type of pitcher, and with some good downhill plane obviously, being a big, tall kid. We thought he had a big upside. He had below-average stuff at the time, but we thought with development it would certainly improve.”
Dykxhoorn knows that he has improved by leaps and bounds since then, and he’s happy he took the extra time to continue his development.
“I’ve definitely [improved] a ton,” he said. “At that time, I thought I was good enough to play pro ball, but looking back I think it was a good idea that I didn’t, and that I stayed back for another two years to develop a little bit. I definitely think I’ve come a long way since then.”
At the time of his first year of draft eligibility, the native of Goderich, Ont. hadn’t garnered much interest. Dykxhoorn had a following of three Canadian scouts, and while they were all actively pursuing him, they were the only ones.
“I wasn’t surprised [there wasn’t more interest] because he had a long way to go,” Byckowski said. “We took him obviously where we thought we could get him, but we knew there was going to be some development involved.
“So depending on when you saw him, he would flash pretty good stuff, but then other days he would just be okay. We took the chance and figured we could get him then and see what we could do with him.”
Dykxhoorn has a lot more of those days with his plus-stuff now. Adding another pitch to his repertoire, meanwhile, has yielded a significant increase in strikeouts for the young pitcher.
“In high school I was basically just [using my] fastball and changeup,” Dykxhoorn said. “Then over the past year I’ve developed a slider, which has actually become my second pitch now, over my changeup. So that’s definitely gotten a lot of swings-and-misses for me and it’s helped a ton this year with my strikeout ratio.”
Byckowski continued to follow his former pick throughout his collegiate playing days, and has seen progression.
“He got stronger, which I would have thought he would,” Byckowski said. “His breaking ball is okay – it still has a little way to go, but he’s on track. He kind of had a lost year at West Virginia. He didn’t pitch a lot there. He pitched a lot in Arizona, so he’s coming along.”
After one year with the Mountaineers, Dykxhoorn made a tough decision in transferring to Central Arizona, the junior college he had originally committed to back in the days when he was playing for the Ontario Nationals and the Canadian Junior National Team. The move ended up being a big positive for Dykxhoorn, and he’s happy he did it.
“It was a little iffy at the time,” he said. “I wasn’t sure how it would all play out. But it ended up being a great transition for me, going to Central. I had a pretty good season there, so it ended up being a really good year and I had a lot of fun too.”
Dykxhoorn believes that what helped him most in getting to this point, being a sixth-round selection in a class of elite athletes and an even smaller pool of Canadians, is his perseverance and ability to take whatever came his way in stride.
“I got on a different route than most people have, going to university and then to junior college,” the University of Las Vegas Nevada commit said. “So just kind of sticking with it and getting better every year has helped.
“I remember when I was in high school and I went to one of the MLB bureau camps and [Canadian director of scouting for the bureau] Walt Burrows told me to just do that – to stay in work mode. He said I was one of the up-and-coming guys out of high school so if I kept working, something good would happen. I always had that in the back of my head, just to keep working and see what would happen.”
And now, Dykxhoorn is the second-highest selection from north of the border in this year’s draft, after Gareth Morgan was selected 74th overall by the Seattle Mariners Friday night.
“It’s incredible,” the young righty said of being a top Canuck. “All the way through the year I’ve been watching Bob Elliott’s [draft] list. I thought there was a chance, but it’s pretty incredible to actually have it happen.”
- Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis