WAY TO GO, JOE! Lancers lefty Wentz tapped by Atlanta Braves on opening night of 2016 MLB draft

Leawood native Joey Wentz was tapped by the Atlanta Braves in the first night of the 2016 MLB draft.
Leawood native Joey Wentz was tapped by the Atlanta Braves in the first night of the 2016 MLB draft.

The best pitcher in Lancers history now has the option of joining the most storied pitching franchise in Major League Baseball over the past quarter century

The Atlanta Braves on Thursday selected graduated SM East senior Joey Wentz as the 40th overall pick in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft.

Wentz, who watched the draft selections come in on MLB Network with his extended family and a few close friends at his Leawood home, said it was a dream come true.

“You know, any team that’s going to take you and let you play baseball professionally for a living, you’re going to be happy with that and I wasn’t in a position to choose which team took me, but Atlanta was definitely one at the top of my list,” he said. “I was just kind of hoping that as the night went on maybe it would get to me with them. You think about the great pitchers they had in the 90s and that tradition and it’s pretty cool.”

Wentz was the second player chosen by the Braves on the night behind 18-year-old right-handed pitcher Ian Anderson out of Shenendehowa High School in Clifton, N.Y., who they took with the third overall pick in the draft. Wentz’s selection came after the first round had concluded, in the seven-player Lottery A round that comes between rounds one and two — lower than many had predicted. In the days leading up to the opening of the draft, MLB.com had Wentz tagged as the 16th-best prospect among the hundreds of eligible high school and college players.

But even the suspense went on longer than some expected, Wentz says the night was an exciting culmination to a dream years in the making. He got a call from Braves’ GM John Coppolella about 30 seconds before his pick was announced on television.

“Everyone was just kind of going crazy,” he said of the reaction to the announcement.

The Braves have one of the largest draft signing pools available among major league clubs this season, so they should have the resources to secure their top picks. Wentz and his agent will have until July 15 to finalize a professional contract with the Braves. Otherwise, he could head off to play at the University of Virginia, where he signed a college commitment two years ago. Wentz said he plans to take it all in today before he expects negotiations to get rolling over the weekend. Assuming he signs, he would head down to Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to play for the Braves affiliate in the Gulf Coast League this summer.

Wentz had initially been touted as a hitting prospect, especially after he turned heads at last summer’s junior home run derby in Cincinnati. But his phenomenal performance on the mound, which helped propel the Lancers to their first 6A title since 1995 last month, started attracting the attention of professional scouts in the months leading up to the draft.

Wentz, listed at 6’5″ and 209 pounds, finished his senior season for the Lancers giving up zero runs over 51.1 innings pitched (that’s an ERA of 0.00 if you’re calculating at home…), striking out 104 and giving up just seven hits.