Wolf Pack first baseman Austin Byler was selected by the Washington Nationals in the ninth round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft on Friday.
"It's really exciting,” Byler told KOLO-TV. "It's kind of a surreal feeling knowing that I have worked really hard my entire life, to even have the opportunity to come up in the MLB draft. I just couldn't be more thankful right now."
Byler was projected to be a third to fifth round pick in the days leading up to the draft. He was ranked as a Top 100 draft prospect by ESPN's Keith Law. And he had little indication that Washington was interested in him.
"I honestly didn't talk to them at all. I probably talked to them twice over the last year. So I didn't really expect anything," added Byler. "I was kind of taken by surprise that they were the team that was first to call. But I know that they are a classy organization. They have great players there and they have a great farm system, which is what really intrigues me about being drafted by them."
He was the 274th overall pick. That slot is given a salary bonus value of $143,500 by Baseball America, but Byler said he's looking for more if he's going to forgo his senior season at Nevada.
"I want at least $350,000 to $400,000 dollars, said Byler." When I came into the draft I was looking at $400,000 originally because I thought I was going to go a lot higher. I do want a lot more than slot value, and I made that clear to them before they even drafted me. And I think that there's something that we can work out there. But it's going to be hard to leave Reno. Especially with coach Johnson being there and the new era that we kind of started and formed this year."
Byler was named to the All-Conference first team as a junior, batting .326 with14 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs and 47 RBI. He also led the Mountain West Conference in home runs, triples and total bases, and was ranked third in RBI.
"I definitely feel like I'm ready. I am ready to take that next step to the big leagues and I want to begin my professional career as soon as possible."
Byler does have options. He could return to Nevada, play his senior season, and finish up his degree.
"I feel kind of like it's up in the air, said Byler. "I'm going to be discussing it with coach Johnson and my family as well these next couple of weeks."