Over the last few months, a pilgrimage to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., has been a must-make trip for scouts.
The Phillies, New York Yankees, and Chicago White Sox. The Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, and Colorado Rockies. Scouts representing all of those major-league teams have found their way to the school with almost 7,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
"It's been pretty unusual this year," said Sean Leary, the Mountain Hawks coach for 20 seasons. "They were here pretty regularly. We've always had one guy right on that draft bubble, but we have a handful of kids who have been receiving some serious interest this year."
Lehigh is the only college in Pennsylvania with four players ranked among Baseball America's top 500 prospects three days before the first-year player draft. All four, according to Leary, were raised within one hour of campus.
Power-hitting second baseman Mike Garzillo, a junior who this year set the single-season home run record (13) after failing to hit a single home run in his first two seasons, leads the way. Ranked No. 201 overall, Garzillo hit a team-best .359 this season and led the Patriot League in RBIs (54), home runs, and slugging percentage (.651).
He's followed by senior centerfielder Justin Pacchioli (No. 307), junior righthanded pitcher Brandon Kulp (No. 442), and former La Salle High School righthanded pitcher Kevin Long (No. 461), a junior.
Garzillo's sudden power surge one reason some scouts have predicted that he could go as early as the third round in the draft.
Garzillo said the power has always been there; it was just a matter of cultivating it.
"The first two years I was getting my feet wet," said Garzillo, a unanimous first-team Patriot League selection. "I was told by people that the last tool to develop in your hitting was your power. After this past season, I have a better understanding of what they were talking about."
The previous home run record (12) was held by Matt McBride, a catcher for the Colorado Rockies' triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M., and Andrew Smith. McBride was the 75th overall selection in the 2006 draft.
When the 2015 season began, the lion's share of the attention at Lehigh was for Pacchioli. In 2014, Pacchioli led the league in hitting for the second straight season with a .362 average. As a sophomore, Pacchioli popped on the radar when Baseball America ranked him the fifth-best Patriot League prospect.
"Justin really generated a lot of the attention for us by the way he was playing," Leary said. "It just turned out that as scouts started to come here, they realized that there were a few players here worthy of a look."
Garzillo said, "It's really an honor to just be considered draft-worthy. We are a tight group - and we're all pulling for each other - now and in the future."