University of Pittsburgh relief pitcher RJ Freure (Burlington, Ont.) has become the first Panther selected in the 2018 MLB Draft Tuesday afternoon, as the World Series Champion Houston Astros called upon the sophomore in the sixth round with the 192nd pick.
Freure’s selection marks the sixth straight year the Panthers have had at least one player taken in the draft, as he is the 15th Pitt player selected in the last five seasons and the 11th pitcher taken since Pitt joined the ACC prior to the 2014 season. He is the fourth player in program history to be selected by Houston Astros and the first since 2000.
“It’s an honor to be given this opportunity to play professionally and I would like to thank my coaches for helping me and showing me how to become a better player and person on and off the field,” Freure said. “I’d also like to thank my family and friends for always being there during both the good and bad times. Mostly, I want to thank my parents for everything they have done for me and allowing me to pursue my dream. I am extremely thankful for this opportunity.”
In 2018, Freure made a team-high 27 appearances, which checks in at second all-time for appearances in a single season, battling to a 4-1 record with a 4.30 ERA. He held opponents to a miniscule .227 average, striking out 95 over 58.2 innings of work. He earned his first win of the season in a stellar performance against Oakland on Feb. 18, as he threw five innings of relief without allowing a run, letting up just two hits as he whiffed nine.
A career-high 11 strikeouts against Georgia Tech earned Freure his third win of the season as he held the Yellow Jackets off the board in 5 2/3 innings of work as Pitt walked off its ACC foe.
“In my opinion, RJ has a major league pitch in his breaking ball, and couple that with a mid to upper 90s fastball, when he develops his consistency and potential of a quality third pitch, he’s a big league pitcher sooner than later,” said head coach Joe Jordano.
The Ontario Blue Jays product burst onto the scene as a freshman, quickly establishing himself as one of the Panthers’ most reliable relievers. In 2017, he threw 38 innings in 21 appearances, striking out 46 and competing to a record of 4-1. His first collegiate win came in his first appearance as he tossed an inning of clean baseball, whiffing a Delaware batter. He threw four frames of scoreless work March 19, 2016 against Notre Dame to earn his first ACC victory as the Panthers captured the walk off win behind his six strikeouts.
Freure has been a force out of the Panther bullpen in two seasons, racking up 48 appearances, which ranks 20th all-time in program history for appearances in a career. The Canadian tossed 96 2/3 innings in that span, whiffing an impressive 141 batters.