Fraser, Brand, Casteel begin MLB journeys
by Joe Cannon
Jun 16, 2010 | 2777 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Two Bradley County standouts are already gone and another will be heading out tomorrow as they take their first steps into professional baseball.

Ryan Fraser left for New York Sunday and Cole Brand headed to Florida Tuesday after playing in Monday night’s Tennessee-Georgia All-Star Game at AT&T Field in Chattanooga.

Ryan Casteel will be leaving Thursday for Casper, Wyo., to join the Ghosts of the Pioneer League for the Rookie League season.

All three were selected in last week’s Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft with Fraser going to the New York Mets in the 16th round, Casteel taken in the 17th round by the Colorado Rockies, while Brand was chosen in the 42nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

After playing high school ball at Walker Valley, Fraser was a 49th-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2006 Draft.

Choosing rather to play for Gulf Coast Community College in Florida, the 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher moved on to the University of Memphis for the past two seasons. He went 7-4, including a win over 14th-ranked Oklahoma, with a 5.77 ERA, two complete games victories and a save this past season for the Tigers before being drafted by the Mets.

Fraser ranked in Conference USA's Top 10 with 93 strikeouts in 92 innings. A three-time C-USA Pitcher of the Week honoree in 2010 his K-total was the most by a Tiger hurler since 2004. He was named second team All-C-USA for his performance on the field and to the conference All-Academic Team for his work in the classroom.

He is currently with the Mets short-season Rookie League team in Brooklyn.

“Ryan made himself what he is,” Walker Valley athletic director Mike Turner proclaimed. “He is one of the hardest workers I ever coached. He just got better and better in college.”

The owner of Bear career records in home runs (32), runs batted in (151), batting average (.459), hits (155) and triples (9 - tied), plus single season marks for average (.538) and RBIs (57), Casteel played this past season at Cleveland State Community College, where he hit .353 with 14 HRs and 58 RBI while being named to the TJCCAA All-Conference Team.

“I give a lot of credit to my Cleveland State coaches for helping me to improve,” the highly skilled catcher proclaimed. “They took me under their wing and gave me an opportunity to improve. They were hard on me and I really appreciate all they did for me.”

“The college game was much different than high school and I’m sure the pros will be that much better but I feel prepared for it,” Casteel stated. “We (CSCC) played teams every week that were ranked in the Top 15 in the country so there was some really stiff competition.”

Fraser and Casteel were two of four players with local ties taken on the second day of the draft. Former Cleveland State and Tennessee Tech standout Stephen Pryor (5th round to the Seattle Mariners) and Lee University shortstop Jose Cuevas (29th round to the San Franscisco Giants) were also taken. Cuevas had signed and reported to Arizona for his Rookie League assignment.

Brand went 18-4 the past two seasons for Bradley Central and paired his 90-plus mile per hour fastball with a good curve to strikeout 211 batters, including tying a county record with 19 in a game against McMinn County this season.

He also lowered his earned run average from 2.16 his junior year with 1.20 this past season.

Brand will be playing for the Cardinals Rookie League team in the Gulf Coast League.