Baseball: McDowell, Siena, Cross make major-league jump

Former UConn infielder Vinny Siena (right) stands with head coach Jim Penders at third base during a game at J.O. Christian Field last spring. Siena was selected in the 14th round of this summer's Major League Baseball draft by the New York Mets. (Brad Watson/The Daily Campus)

Coming off of a 35-25 season that fell just short of an NCAA tournament bid, three of UConn baseball’s biggest stars took the next step in their baseball career after being selected for the 2015 MLB Draft.

Max McDowell, Vinny Siena, and Carson Cross were all taken on Day Three of the 2015 MLB Draft, which brought the total number players drafted under head coach Jim Penders to 38. 

McDowell was the first Husky off the board, taken in the 13th round with the 391st overall pick by the Milwaukee Brewers. After hitting .286/.392/.418 in 2015, the junior catcher was named to the All-Conference team for the second season in a row and finished his career with 12 home runs and 18 doubles in 164 games.

The North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania native decided to forego his senior season in order to pursue his professional baseball dreams with the Brewers, where he was assigned to their Rookie level affiliate in the Arizona League. McDowell currently boasts a .240 batting average, and has continued to display patience and power at the next level, posting a .361 on base percentage and slugging .420. 

Second baseman Vinny Siena was the next UConn player taken in the draft, selected in the 14th round with the 419th overall pick by the New York Mets. After a sophomore slump, Siena elevated his stock dramatically this season, hitting .362 with seven home runs, 14 doubles, and three triples. Siena’s junior campaign landed him First Team ABCA All-Region honors and was named the NEIBA Player of the Year for 2015.

Like McDowell, Siena elected to capitalize on his breakout junior campaign and reported to the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Met’s short-season A ball affiliate in the New York-Penn League. 

Siena has settled in nicely with the Cyclones hitting .285/.347/.315 with six doubles and eight stolen bases prior to the NYPL All Star break. Those numbers were good enough to land him a spot in the NYPL All Star game, where he went hitless in two at-bats. 

Unfortunately for Siena, his path to big leagues is currently blocked by another former Husky. Since returning from a 50-game suspension, L.J. Mazzilli has hit .267/.338/.337 with Double-A Binghampton and has solidified himself as one of the better middle infielders in the Mets’ system. While they are still a few steps away from the big leagues, they both possess the potential to reach the big leagues in the near future.

Twelve picks later, Cross was selected 431st overall by the St. Louis Cardinals. After sitting out last season with a shoulder injury, Cross went 10-2 with a 2.29 ERA in 106 innings and solidified himself as one of the best pitchers in the American League. The Brentwood, New Hampshire native has spent his first professional season with the State College Spikes of the NYPL.

Cross has shined with the Spikes so far, going 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA in 33.1 innings. In his most recent start, Cross threw six shutout innings to Siena’s Cyclones, striking out five with no walks. After a heavy workload with the Huskies and having already logged over 30 innings with the Spikes, Cross will likely only make a few more starts this season before the Cardinals shut him down to for the remainder of the year.

While all three former Huskies are now in different places, they still have the same goal of reaching the big leagues. Thanks to recent success of former UConn stars like George Springer, Nick Ahmed, Matt Barnes, and Scott Oberg in the MLB, the dream seems much closer to reality than ever before.


Daniel Madigan is associate sports editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.