Pair of former Eastlake Titans selected in 2020 MLB draft


Eastlake HIgh School alumnus Casey Schmitt has the option of signing a professional contract with the San Francisco Giants or returning to San Diego State University for his senior year after being selected in this year's Major League Baseball amateur draft. Photo by Phillip Brents

Eastlake High School’s baseball program was prominently represented in last week’s Major League Baseball amateur draft when 2017 graduates Casey Schmitt and Leonard (L.J.) Jones were both selected.

Schmitt, who was recently named a Third Team All-American as a junior at San Diego State University, was taken as the second round by the San Francisco Giants as the 49th overall pick.

Jones, who has played two full seasons at Long Beach State, was tabbed by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fifth round as the 152nd pick.

This year’s draft was shortened to five rounds and 160 selections.

It’s not the first time that two Titan alumni have been selected in the same annual MLB draft. Last year, Keoni Cavaco (class of 2019) was picked by the Minnesota Twins in the first round as the 13th player overall while Julian Escobedo (class of 2016) was selected in the 17th round by the Cleveland Indians, also tabbed out of San Diego State.

Former Titan Leonard Jones enjoyed a banner season at Long Beach State this spring after recovering from an injury that sideline him during his sophomore season.

It’s noteworthy that two former Eastlake standouts were picked during the opening five rounds.

“I don’t know if it’s a first for the program, but it could be a first since I’ve been here,” Eastlake coach Dave Gallegos said in regard to the high draft selections. “It’s incredible. Any time you get a pick in the first five rounds is amazing.”

Schmitt, whose slot value is estimated at $1.5 million, played four seasons with the Titans.

He hit .500 as a junior with seven home runs while also serving as the team’s closer. He made three trips to the San Diego Section championship game while with Eastlake, winning the 2017 Open Division final as the Titans earned honors as the state’s top-ranked team.

“I’ve followed him through his high school and college career and this kid can play,” Gallegos said in regard to Schmitt, the 2016 Mesa League Athlete of the Year.

“I think with his work ethic and athletic ability he will be playing in the big leagues one day.”

Jones, whose slot value is estimated at $350,000, played two seasons at Eastlake. He Hit .345 as a junior with eight home runs and hit .320 with nine home runs as a senior.

“L.J. is a good well-rounded athlete. He has a lot of upside,” Gallegos said. “He had a great career at Long Beach State. I talked to him, and he’s very excited.

“He can swing it. If he can continue hitting at the next level, he’ll be in the big leagues one day. The key is to continue to hit at the next level.”

Honor roll
Schmitt’s name was called on June 11. With his selection he became the highest SDSU player drafted since Stephen Strasburg was chosen by the Washington Nationals with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009.

As the Aztecs’ starting third baseman, Schmitt rallied from a slow start at the plate to finish among the Mountain West leaders in several categories during the 2020 campaign, including batting average (.323), hits (20), slugging percentage (.452) and on-base percentage (.386).

According to SDSU coaches, Schmitt was just beginning to hit his stride before the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, ending the year with a six-game hitting streak while notching two or more hits in his final four games.

Casey Schmitt has consistently ranked among SDSU team and Mountain West Conference statistical leaders during his Aztec career. Photo by Phillip Brents

Schmitt, who received All-America recognition from Collegiate Baseball magazine, tied for the national lead with six saves in eight relief appearances on the mound, compiling a 3.75 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 12.0 innings. With his effort, the Eastlake High alumnus climbed into fourth place on the school’s all-time list with 23 career saves.

A 2020 All-Mountain West honoree, Schmitt made 121 starts in 130 career games played at SDSU while recording a career .295 batting average with six home runs, 77 RBI and 71 runs scored.

Besides his save total, Schmitt appeared in 50 games with four starts as a pitcher, posting a 4-5 record and a 2.48 ERA while striking out 78 batters in 87.0 innings.

As a freshman in 2018, Schmitt established an SDSU’s single-season earned run average record with a 0.28 mark (minimum 30 innings) and was named Most Valuable Player in the Mountain West Championship tournament.

Schmitt has deep local roots in the game.

Dave Palet coached Schmitt at the youth level, beginning with T-ball. Schmitt played Little League at Eastlake. Palet later coached Schmitt in travel ball with the California Bears. Schmitt joined the San Diego Show travel team while at Eastlake High School.

Palet, now the head coach at Bonita Vista High School, remains close to Schmitt.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch (his) love for the game grow from T-ball to the pros,” Palet posted on his Facebook page after Schmitt’s selection in this year’s MLB draft.

Jones, redshirt sophomore at Long Beach State, returned to action with a vengeance this season after missing his sophomore season due to an injury.

He hit .327 with a pair of home runs and hit safely in 12 of 14 games played in during the shortened spring season for the Dirtbags. His batting average was second-best among Long Beach State regulars while splitting his time played between the outfield, first base and designated hitter.

Jones appeared in 42 games as a freshman, hitting .312 with nine doubles.

Jones joins teammate Adam Seminaris as a fellow 2020 MLB draft pick. Seminaris was selected in the fifth round, the 141st player overall, by the Los Angeles Angels.

It marked the first time since 2010 that Long Beach State had garnered two picks in the top five rounds of the MLB draft.

The Dirtbags are the only Big West Conference program with multiple players selected in this year’s MLB draft.

Jones played on Park View Little League’s all-star team in 2012. He played his first two years of high school baseball at Rancho Bernardo High School, winning an Open Division championship with the Broncos in 2015.


Eastlake High School alumnus L.J. Jones has the option of signing a professional contract with the St. Louis Cardinals or continuing his career at Long Beach State after recently being selected in the 2020 Major League Baseball amateur draft. Photo courtesy LBSU ATHLETICS/JOHN FAJARDO