South Jersey's Gatto picked 53d by Angels

St. Augustine pitcher Joe Gatto was 7-1 this season with a 0.94 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 521/3 innings.
St. Augustine pitcher Joe Gatto was 7-1 this season with a 0.94 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 521/3 innings. (CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer)
Posted: June 07, 2014

The Los Angeles Angels struck gold the last time they selected a South Jersey baseball star from the Cape Atlantic League early in the major-league draft.

That was superstar Mike Trout out of Millville in 2009.

The Angels returned to deep South Jersey on Thursday night, grabbing St. Augustine Prep pitcher Joey Gatto with the 53d overall pick.

"Another Jersey boy for your Halos," the Angels tweeted out shortly after the pick.

The pick was announced by former Angels pitcher Bryan Harvey around 11:20 p.m., more than four hours into MLB Network's live coverage of the selection process.

"South Jersey reunion," Gatto tweeted after the selection, including Trout's handle @Trouty20 in the message.

Moments later Trout tweeted back, "Congrats man. That's sick. Represent SJ."

The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Gatto, a righthander pitcher with a fastball that has touched 95 m.p.h. on the radar guns, was ranked as the No. 42 prospect by mlb.com and the No. 43 prospect by Baseball America.

A Hammonton resident who will turn 18 on June 14, Gatto must decide whether to sign with the Angels or accept a scholarship to the University of North Carolina.

The recommended bonus allotment for the 53d pick in the draft is $1,050,600, so the Angels' offer is certain to be in that neighborhood.

Gatto was in seventh grade five years ago when Trout was finishing his senior year at Millville. Trout was the 27th overall pick that season.

Trout rose quickly through the minor leagues and is widely regarded as the best all-around player in baseball, a two-time runner-up for the American League most valuable player award at the age of 22 and the 2012 American League rookie of the year.

Gatto played in the same division of the same league, facing the same teams that in many cases are led by the same coaches.

Gatto was 7-1 as a senior for St. Augustine with an 0.94 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 521/3 innings.

Gatto also impressed scouts with his athletic ability as he batted .370 with a .455 on-base percentage and also was 11 for 11 in stolen-base attempts. He finished his high school career with 90 hits.

A former football quarterback and basketball player, Gatto also was highly touted because of his tall, rangy frame.

"He's what pitchers look like," Baseball America editor John Manuel said on MLB Network after Gatto was selected.


panastasia@phillynews.com

@PhilAnastasia

www.inquirer.com/

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