By Rob Rose
Of the 1,215 players selected in the 2017 MLB Draft, only one is making an impact in the MLB.
It’s not a Top-10 pick, or anyone the draft analysts told fans to watch on draft night. Instead, the No. 198 overall pick by the San Diego Padres, Nick Margevicius, fought his way to the big leagues just two years after pitching at Rider.
“There is no way anybody would have guessed that,” said Margevicius through a laugh. “I don’t think you would guess anyone is going to get to [MLB] that quickly. It’s just how it worked out for me.”
One year ago, Margevicius (mar-gav-a-chis) was pitching for the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the Class A Minor League Baseball affiliate of the San Diego Padres. Twelve months later, the Padres’ seventh-round pick in the 2017 MLB Draft earned a spot in their starting rotation faster than even he could’ve expected.
In his first two seasons in the Padres’ minor league system, Margevicius pitched in 34 games and made 32 starts. Overall, Margevicius had a 14-9 record with a 3.00 ERA in 183 innings, had 208 strikeouts and walked eight batters.
Despite his early success in the minors, which included a 2018 Mid-Season All Star selection while pitching for the TinCaps, Margevicius wasn’t picked as one of the Padres’ Top-30 prospects by MLB Pipeline prior to the season.
Having to work for recognition is nothing new to Margevicius. To even get on the radar of college coaches, Margevicius sent emails to every Division I baseball coach with a YouTube video of his highlight reel, which included a perfect game during his sophomore season.
So when Margevicius received an unexpected offer to spring training with the Padres, he made the most of it. In his four spring-training starts, Margevicius had a 1-0 record with a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings and struck out 12 batters.
Margevicius was still at the team’s spring training facility in Peoria, Arizona, on the morning of March 28 when he found out he was going to be a member of the Padres.
He got a phone call from Padres General Manager A.J. Preller with the life-changing news, but wasn’t allowed to tell his family until the move was official. So Margevicius went and practiced because he knew he would be making the five-hour drive from Peoria, Arizona, to San Diego, California, that night.
During his workout, news of his promotion reached Twitter, but Margevicius’ family and fiancee, Shannon Kelly, who played soccer at Rider, had to hear it from him to believe what they read on Twitter.
“A lot of rumors come out on Twitter that turn out to not be true, so they weren’t all in on it,” said Margevicius. “I called them as soon as I could and it was still like me telling them.”
Two days later, Margevicius was on the mound at Petco Park in front of a crowd of 41,899 while making his MLB debut in front of the Padres’ fans against the San Francisco Giants. His parents, Mark and Marigene Margevicius, were in attendance as well as Kelly and his former Rider teammate and friend Christian Estevez.
“I could’ve found out at [midnight] the night before I was pitching and they would’ve found a way to get there,” said Nick Margevicius. “There’s no way I could’ve got [to the Padres] without my family. It was such a big event for all of us. I was really happy they were able to share the first game with me.”
Although his MLB debut ended with him receiving a loss, Nick Margevicius showed he could hang with the best in the game. He went five innings, had five strikeouts and allowed one earned run on three hits. The first strikeout of his career came against 2012 National League MVP Buster Posey.
The fact that Nick Margevicius has ascended to the MLB faster than anyone could have expected is not lost on the 6-foot-5-inch left-hander.
“It’s crazy how far I’ve come,” said Nick Margevicius. “Two years ago, [Estevez] was playing third base [with him at Rider] and then he was in the stands watching me with [San Diego Padres third baseman] Manny Machado playing third base.”
In addition to Machado, a two-time Gold Glove winner, the Padres infield is filled with a star-studded cast. First baseman Eric Hosmer has four Gold Gloves of his own, second baseman Ian Kinsler has a pair of Gold Gloves as well and catcher Francisco Mejia and shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. are two of the Top 25 prospects in baseball.
“It hit me in spring training,” said Nick Margevicius. “Turning around in spring training, I was like, ‘Wow. This defense is pretty amazing.’”
While dominating the minor leagues, Nick Margevicius graduated from Rider in December 2017 with a finance degree after he took online courses following the MLB Draft in June 2017. He planned on entering the MLB Draft following his junior season and loaded up his schedule with six classes in the Spring 2017 semester during baseball season.
“I had to get deans to sign off so I was able to take more than three major classes,” said Nick Margevicius. “It was actually my best semester academically.”
Through his first six starts, Nick Margevicius had a 2-3 record and a 3.23 ERA. Nick Margevicius picked up his first MLB win and hit on April 10 in a road start against the San Francisco Giants.
“I don’t know what it is, I don’t care, but the hitters will tell you [Nick Margevicius] just has extreme confidence that when he throws a strike he’s going to get an out,” San Diego Padres Pitching Coach Darren Balsley told The Athletic.
Today’s MLB scouts and general managers are looking for pitching prospects who can throw 100 mph and strikeout batters. Despite the average velocity of his fastball at 89 mph compared to the MLB average of 93 mph, Nick Margevicius has found his own way to get outs against the best players in MLB.
“I throw strikes, said Nick Margevicius. “I have been able to keep hitters off balance and throw the ball where I want to. It’s a little different than today’s style, but it’s what has made me successful.”
Follow Rob Rose on Twitter.