Undrafted and unranked, Stefanic proving doubters wrong

March 9th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Despite nearly hitting his way to the Major Leagues last season, Angels Minor League infielder has never found himself on any top prospect lists.

He’s hit at every level -- including batting .336/.408/.493 in 125 games across Double-A and Triple-A last year -- but has never been listed among the club’s Top 30 prospects. But Stefanic said he’s fine with that, as he’s always been overlooked since being undrafted out of Westmont College in 2018 despite hitting .383 in his two seasons there.

In fact, Stefanic said he didn’t even receive a signing bonus when he joined the Angels organization in 2018. He sent a prospect video to more than 200 people from all 30 clubs to promote himself, but the Angels and then-director of player development Mike Gallego were the only ones to reach out. Since then, he's batted .314/.388/.436 in 241 career Minor League games and is nearing his goal of reaching the Majors while proving his doubters wrong along the way.

“I've never been really concerned with a prospect list,” Stefanic said. “At the end of the day, the [Angels] don't have any money invested in me. I signed for $0 and a bus ticket to Arizona. I'm happy to be here obviously, but my ultimate goal isn't to be a on a prospect list. My goal is to help the Angels win baseball games."

Stefanic, 26, nearly reached that goal last season, but he wasn’t one of the club’s September callups despite his strong season offensively. He was told that he needed to improve his defense, especially at his primary position of second base. Stefanic said he understood the rationale and believes a lengthy bout with tendinitis in his Achilles limited his range defensively.

"I don't want to say it was difficult, right?" Stefanic said. "They have things they're looking for. Everything they told me was my defense wasn't there yet. And so I have to live with that. It's something that really motivated me to get better at this year. And it's something that I've really improved on and worked hard on."

After the season, Stefanic rehabbed his Achilles injury for four weeks before ramping back up his baseball activities. Stefanic lives in Arizona and utilized the club’s Minor League facility in the offseason, as he said he worked on his defense nearly every day outside of a short break for Christmas. Most of his work has been at shortstop, but he also has spent time at second base and third base because he knows his first role in the Majors would likely be a utility one.

"He's been out here working out throughout the winter and he just has tremendous makeup and character," said Angels director of player development Joey Prebynski. "We're encouraged by where he's at and some of the stuff he's worked on over the winter. We're getting him reps at multiple positions and increasing his versatility across the infield."

Stefanic, though, also remains in wait-and-see mode regarding the Rule 5 Draft, as he was left unprotected this winter and wasn’t added to the 40-man roster. It’s still unclear if there will be a Rule 5 Draft this year, so Stefanic said it’s something he’s not worried about.

“It’s such a crapshoot that I’m really trying to not be too concerned with it,” Stefanic said. “I've already got my hopes up pretty high for two drafts when I was in college. This is where I want to be first and foremost, the Angels gave me that opportunity when no other team did. So ultimately, I would like to debut with the Angels. But if a team in the Rule 5 Draft wants to take a shot on me, they're not going to be disappointed."