UMaine’s Lewis, Bilodeau taken in major league draft

Posted June 07, 2011, at 5:07 p.m.
Last modified June 07, 2011, at 10:45 p.m.

Taylor Lewis of the University of Maine drove home Tuesday to Montville, Conn.

After arriving, trying to put the 2011 Major League Baseball Amateur League draft out of his mind, Lewis grabbed his fishing rod and headed to a pond behind his home.

“It’s been a long and crazy day,” said Lewis, who had success catching bass with a rubber frog. “I like fishing. It kind of relaxes me.”

Lewis also hooked on with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him in the 10th round.

“It was pretty exciting,” Lewis said. “Ever since playing Little League this has always been a dream of mine.”

The speedy Lewis, who patrolled center field for coach Steve Trimper’s Black Bears, was the 302nd pick overall and the 10th selection by the Pirates. He was the first outfielder taken by Pittsburgh in the draft.

UMaine pitcher Keith Bilodeau was chosen later in the day. The junior righthander was drafted in the 24th round, 747th overall, by the San Francisco Giants.

“It was a long wait, but I’ve been waiting 21 years for that, so it really didn’t matter. I was just happy,” said Bilodeau, who was the 15th pitcher drafted by the Giants.

Teams have until Aug. 15 to sign players or relinquish their rights to them.

Stony Brook junior righthander Nick Tropeano was chosen in the fifth round, 160th overall, by the Houston Astros.

Lewis, a 6-foot, 200-pounder batted .287 with three home runs and 28 runs batted in during his junior season. The co-captain started all 57 games and led the team with five triples, 44 runs scored, 28 walks and 20 stolen bases in 24 attempts.

Lewis, who ranked second on the team with 62 hits, was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 America East Baseball Championship, helping the Bears earn the league title and the automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship’s Chapel Hill (N.C.) Regional.

“Taylor’s gotten a lot of professional looks over the course of the last 16 months,” Trimper said. “He’s got a lot of talent and he’s got that pro body.”

Speed is the skill that set Lewis apart. He routinely ran long distances to track down fly balls in the outfield, robbing opponents of extra-base hits.

“That’s his dominant tool,” Trimper said.

Lewis said he expects within a few days to sit down with Pirates scout Chris Kline to talk about a signing bonus.

“He will come up and meet with me, talk about what’s going on,” Lewis said. “We’ll do some negotiations, see what’s going to happen.”

In 2010, the average signing bonus for a 10th-round pick was $137,000.

Lewis, Bilodeau and their families must decide whether the offers and the chance to start a pro career outweigh the value of returning to UMaine to play one more season and complete their undergraduate degrees.

“You want to have some sort of insurance policy with the bonus so they’ll keep you (in the organization) for a while,” Trimper said.

“I don’t think Taylor’s looking to jump at any number (dollar figure) to go play pro ball. (The Lewises) have to make sure (the Pirates) reward him for the round he was taken in,” he added.

In 2010, Lewis set a UMaine and America East single-season mark with 13 triples and owns the school career record with 20.

Lewis was an All-America East first-team choice as a sophomore after batting .369 with five homers, 52 RBIs, 14 doubles, 13 triples and 21 steals in 22 tries.

His production trailed off this spring as he hit only .207 in league play, but Trimper said one season does not a pro prospect make, or break.

“They’re looking at how good are you today and how good are you going to be in five years,” Trimper said.

Bilodeau emerged as the ace of the UMaine staff this season. He led the Bears with a 10-3 record and had a 3.04 earned run average.

The 10 victories tied a school single-season record.

Bilodeau was pleased to be drafted by the Giants, an organization that has maintained consistent contact with him throughout the evaluation and draft process.

“The Giants have been there from the beginning,” Bilodeau said. “I’m just happy to get the chance to play pro ball.”

The 6-4, 195-pounder from Bourne, Mass., had a breakout season after changing his diet and exercising to transform his body during the offseason. He lost 25 pounds.

“He worked hard to get himself better and he had a tremendous year,” Trimper said.

Bilodeau earned All-America East first-team recognition, giving up 80 hits in 91 2/3 innings. He struck out 83 and walked 36, holding opponents to a .238 batting average in 15 appearances.

Bilodeau features a fastball in the 89-91 mph range along with a curveball, slider and changeup.

“He’s a fierce competitor,” Trimper said. “He’s got a lot of movement (on his pitches). I think that’s really what made him successful.”

Bilodeau said he will talk with Giants regional scout Glenn Tufts in the coming days. Bilodeau, who has a scholarship waiting for him at UMaine, also could return for his senior season.

“I’ll sign if the price is right,” Bilodeau said. “I have nothing but good things coming my way this next year.”

Trimper said the bonus for a 24th-rounder is likely to be much less than for a 10th-round pick. He added pitchers are often able to garner decent bonuses after coming back for a fourth season.

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