Led by junior pitcher/first baseman J.T. Chargoisas a second round pick and the 72nd player taken overall, no less than six players on the Rice baseball team were selected Tuesday (June 5) on the second day of the three-day-long 2012 Major League Baseball amateur draft.
Owls joining Chargois in the MLB draft were junior pitcher Tyler Duffey (Minnesota, 5th round, 160th pick overall), senior catcher Craig Manuel (Washington, 10th – 324), junior outfielder Jeremy Rathjen (Los Angeles Dodgers, 11th – 356), senior pitcher Matthew Reckling (Los Angeles Dodgers, 14th – 446) and junior pitcher Andrew Benak (New York Yankees, 14 – 457). All the players made a dramatic improvement under the leadership of Rice head coach and former major leaguer Wayne Graham. Both Reckling (a 22nd round pick in 2011) and Rathjen (a 41st round pick in 2011) improved their respective draft spots from last season. It’s the first time for Chargois, Duffey, Manuel and Benak to be drafted by major league teams.
Chargois is a versatile college star who was named First Team All-Conference USA (UTIL/DH). Me made 25 appearances on the mound (all in relief), with another 49 starts in the batting order as either the designated hitter (32 times) or at first base (17 times). Chargois went 4-1 on the mound with a 2.15 ERA in 37.2 total innings. The Sulphur, La., native led the team and ranked among the C-USA leaders with eight saves. He maintained a steady .211 opponents’ batting average with a 1.12 WHIP, and averaged 9.1 strikeouts-per-nine innings.
Three rounds after Chargois was selected by the Twins, his Owl teammate Tyler Duffeywas picked by the same franchise. Duffey proved to be one the staff’s steadiest contributors in the second half of the season. The Houston native and former Bellaire High School star registered seven saves with an austere 1.93 ERA in 51.1 innings for the Blue &Gray. He held 182 opposing hitters to a steady .181 batting average and allowed only three runs (two earned) and struck out 46 over his final 32.0 innings of work to close out the year.
As Rice’s regular starting catcher the last two seasons with a wealth of Division I experience, Craig Manuel caught the talented Owl pitching staff and the attention of pro scouts. A native of Satellite Beach, Fla., he was on the national watch list for the 2012 Johnny Bench Award as the top Division I catcher. Offensively Manuel batted either second or third in the order a total of 31 times. Defensively he was error-free in the field in 463 total chances and threw-out 13 runners attempting to steal a base. The senior closed-out his Rice career with a .291 career batting average and with exactly 100 RBI in 209 career games.
Rathjen posted a banner season where he was named a First Team All-Conference USA outfielder. Not only was Rathjen one of only two Owls to start all 60 games (right field), he batted .329 and led the team in home runs (9), doubles (14), total bases (115), slugging percentage (.525), OPS (.953) and sacrifice flies (8). The Houston native from Memorial High School tallied 20 multi-hit games, with a season-high three hits in a game five different times. During one stretch of the season he managed to reach base in 31-straight games. Rathjen owns a steady .307 career college batting average with 24 career home runs in 596 at bats.
Reckling had a sensational senior season in 2012 where he was named a Second Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball magazine, the C-USA Pitcher of the Year, and a First Team All-Conference USA selection. The right-hander from Houston Kinkaid went 8-3 on the mound with a 2.98 ERA and he struck out 99 in 87.2 innings of work. Reckling held a total of 310 opposing hitters to a composite .187 batting average and he ranked among the C-USA leaders in ERA, strikeouts and complete games (2)… He was named a C-USA Pitcher of the Week three times and the senior finished his collegiate career with 15-7 record and 3.75 ERA.
Benak put together a sound and solid season and he was fantastic in more than a few of his 16 outings. After enduring some nagging injuries his first four years with the Owls’ program, a now healthy-Benak had a breakout 2012 season where he went 7-2 on the mound and maintained a 2.70 ERA in 66.2 innings of work. This season the redshirt junior from Houston’s Langham Creek H.S. averaged 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings and maintained a 4.0-to-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. In his first start of 2012 and only the fifth start of his collegiate career at the time, Benak dominated eventual NCAA Regional participant New Mexico State with 10 strikeouts in just 5.1 innings for a Rice win.
In 2012 Rice won the C-USA regular season baseball championship with a 41-19 overall record. The program made its 18th-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and posted its 18th-straight season with at least 40 wins.
The first two days of the three-day long MLB draft are finished. Another 25 rounds are scheduled to be completed when the draft resumes for its final day on Wednesday (June 6) at 11 am Central Time.