Under Major League Baseball’s guidelines for last week’s First-Year Player Draft, there were five rounds of selections on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by a 48-hour dead period.
As soon as that was over, Memphis graduate Danny Denz was contacted by the San Diego Padres and agreed to sign a contract. Denz, a left-handed pitcher and 2016 Dundee-Crown graduate, was off to the best start of his college career before the COVID-19 pandemic brought an end to college athletics’ spring season.
Denz was not surprised it was San Diego that called.
“This morning at 8, they reached out to me and made a really good offer that I couldn’t turn down,” Denz said. “This means everything. This is all I’ve ever wanted since I was 5 years old. Playing baseball in Little League and everything, I set a goal to play professional baseball when I got older. This literally means the world to me. This is all I worked for, all the hours I put in and it paid off. I’m excited for the opportunity to play with the San Diego Padres.”
Denz, who finished his degree in sports management at Memphis, will soon receive and sign his contract. He has been working with an adviser in preparation of turning professional.
There still are many questions to be answered as MLB has not yet announced the start of its season. Most reports indicate there will not be minor league baseball this summer, so Denz is prepared to report to Arizona at some point, take his physical examination and begin working out with his new teammates.
“No one really knows too much,” Denz said. “They’re saying there probably won’t be any minor league season. They’re going to send me the contract and I’ll sign and we’ll go from there.”
Denz was a tough pitcher at D-C with a wicked curveball. He has added weight, now up to 195 pounds, on his 5-foot-10 frame, which has helped him gain velocity. He says he threw 90-93 mph this season.
“I didn’t play summer baseball (last year). I stayed in Memphis and trained there,” Denz said. “The biggest thing for my development was getting in the weight room and getting stronger. My junior year scouts started to see me because my velo was increasing. Then I brought that over to my senior year and I was throwing more strikes, throwing three pitches for strikes and that helped me get to the next step.”
Denz was 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in 18 innings this season. He struck out 26, walked nine and opponents were hitting .113 off of him. Along with boosting his velocity at Memphis, Denz said learning an effective changeup was crucial.
“I know I’ll always have my curveball,” Denz said. “Getting into college and developing a good changeup helped me a lot, showing hitters that I had a third pitch and pounding the zone and getting ahead of hitters. That was something that was big for me this season.”
Denz said scouts figured he might have been drafted between the fifth and 10th rounds of a normal draft. With only five rounds, it meant more players would sign as free agents.
Denz will be the third Fox Valley Conference pitcher who will be in the professional ranks over the past two seasons. Cary-Grove’s Quinn Priester was taken by Pittsburgh with the 18th pick in 2019 and McHenry’s Bobby Miller went 29th on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Denz felt he built a good relationship with Stephen Baker, San Diego’s area scout who covers Tennessee. They talked several times and he met other members of the scouting staff through Zoom calls.
“They’re such a great organization and they believed in me, and I’m really glad to have the opportunity with the Padres,” Denz said.