NEW YORK -- Trevor Stephan turned down the Red Sox last summer in favor of the University of Arkansas, and after hearing his name called in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft on Tuesday, the right-hander could soon be wearing Yankees pinstripes on the other side of that historic rivalry.
The Bombers selected the 21-year-old with the 92nd overall pick on Tuesday, a third-round nod that shows how far he has come over the past few seasons. A first baseman in high school, Stephan had never pitched before his freshman year at Hill Junior College in Texas, where he realized that his strong arm could be the ticket to a professional career.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
The Draft concludes on Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon ET.
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"I was close to signing with the Red Sox, but I'm certainly glad I didn't," Stephan told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "This year at Arkansas has been awesome."
Stephan was best described as a raw package, struggling to throw strikes at first, but he now sits 90 to 95 mph with his fastball. He touches 97 mph with a deceptive crossfire delivery that confounds batters.
"Everyone wants to talk about his fastball, but for me the bigger growth for Trevor has been mental," Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson told the newspaper. "He's said a couple of times, 'Man, you can't take a pitch off in the SEC. No, brother, you can't."
Stephan entertained signing after Boston called his name in the 18th round last year (538th overall), but opted to transfer from Hill after Boston's negotiations were tied up with first-round pick Jason Groome, who eventually agreed to a $3.65 million bonus in mid-July.
In 16 starts this year, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound hurler struck out 120 in a team-high 91 innings. Some scouts believe that the Magnolia, Texas, product may be best suited to a relief role in the future.
He commands his fastball well to both sides of the plate and, after scrapping a soft curveball, has picked up a slider/cutter that helped him build a 2.87 ERA that ranked 10th in the SEC.
"The competition got harder and my mistakes were getting hit," Stephan said. "I just had to learn how to pitch a little better."
Stephan's best outing came on March 10, when he carried a perfect game into the eighth inning against Rhode Island while tallying a career-high 13 strikeouts.
"I knew he was really close to signing with the Red Sox," Johnson said. "I talked to him about what I've seen over my career of guys coming back to college and improving their Draft stock and making more money. For him to roll the dice, so to speak, and come here showed the trust that he has in us."