Wildcat closer Nick Paciorek heard his name called Tuesday in the midst of Day 2 at the MLB Draft. The junior, a native of Sherman Oaks, California, becomes the first Northwestern player to be drafted since Matt Portland four years ago.
Paciorek, a converted catcher, made his first college appearance on the mound near the end of his sophomore season. After overcoming initial struggles with his control, the right-hander grew into the most reliable weapon out of the bullpen for Spencer Allen and pitching coach Josh Reynolds this season, leading the team in ERA (3.37) and strikeouts (44).
Baseball America ranked the 21-year-old 192nd on their top 200 prospects, and Baseball America slotted him in at number 229 on their top 500. Paciorek ended up being taken 225th overall, near the end of the seventh round, by the New York Yankees.
The 21-year-old was a two-pitch pitcher for the Wildcats, featuring a nasty mid-80s slider and a fastball that touched 96. He certainly remains raw, and scouts believe he still has some cleaning up to do control-wise (allowed 18 walks last year), but his projectable stuff and capacity for improvement after the significant success he showed in only one season of pitching at the Big Ten level left him a tantalizing prospect.
Paciorek becomes the highest-drafted Wildcat since Luke Farrell, who was drafted in the sixth round in 2013 by the Kansas City Royals. Farrell made his major league debut for the Cubs in 2017, but has not made an appearance in the bigs so far this year.
The only Wildcat to have appeared in the MLB this season is Yankees starter and 13-year veteran J.A. Happ. Reliever George Kontos appeared last year (also for the Yankees, ironically enough), but is currently with an independent team in Long Island after a brief stint in the AAA Pacific Coast league.
Paciorek has major league lineage: three of his uncles made the bigs, including 18-year veteran Tom “Wimpy” Paciorek (White Sox fans will recognize the name), who is still involved with the MLB as a broadcaster.
The slot value of Paciorek’s pick is $190,100, though as a college player who was predicted to be picked right around where he ended up going, his signing bonus will likely end up being somewhat less than that. Regardless, his remarkable two-year turnaround from backup catcher to real major league prospect has been completed.
With luck, Wildcat fans might have another Yankee to cheer for in a few more years.