Jesse Berardi made a difficult decision three years ago to forgo his shot at professional baseball and go to college. Berardi, then a senior at Commack High School, was selected by the Phillies in the 40th round of Major League Baseball’s 2014 amateur draft. He instead chose to attend St. John’s University and play ball for the Red Storm with the hope of getting another shot at a pro career after his junior year.
His decision should pay off tonight. Just as he did three years ago, Berardi will wait for his name to be called when the MLB amateur draft begins at 7 p.m. This time the stakes are much higher after Berardi proved to be one of the top middle infielders in Division I.
“I’m excited about all the draft possibilities,” Berardi said. “I was also fortunate enough to enjoy the college experience at St. John’s and make a ton of friends and memories.”
Berardi had an exceptional three years at St. John’s and led the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament’s Clemson Regional this year. He reached base in 37 straight games and ranked in the top 100 nationally in batting average, on-base percentage and hits per game.
The 5-10, 185-pound shortstop, an All-Big East first-team selection and a CoSIDA Academic All-America second-team choice, batted .358 with a team-leading 47 RBIs.
Berardi, the recipient of the Yastrzemski Award — given to Suffolk’s top high school player — and Newsday’s Player of the Year in 2014, also was a two-time All-Long Island selection and a two-time Suffolk League I MVP.
“He had a great year and a lot of teams really like his all-around game,” said Sal Agostinelli, director of scouting for the Phillies. “We liked him right out of high school but he made the decision to attend St. John’s and it proved to be a very good decision. He’s become an even stronger player in every facet of his game.”
Speculation among scouts is that the slick-fielding Berardi will be picked somewhere between the third and sixth rounds.
Other local draft hopefuls in the college ranks:
Michael Donadio, St. John’s University, Mt. Sinai HS, OF
A 6-0, 200-pound speedy senior outfielder at St. John’s who batted .374 with 80 hits, including 24 for extra bases and 38 RBIs. His career totals are impressive with a .330 average, 50 doubles, 11 triples and 13 home runs and 147 RBIs.
Frank Valentino, NYIT, West Islip HS, RHP
A 6-3, 205-pound senior righthanded pitcher. He struck out 64 in 78 1⁄3 innings and allowed 89 hits and 30 walks. He sits in the 90-93 fastball range.
T.J. Santiago, Adelphi University, Linden HS, RHP
A 6-0, 195-pound righty, who went 8-3 for the Panthers with a 1.51 ERA. He struck out 81 in 77 2⁄3 innings and only walked seven.
Dan Jagiello, LIU-Post, West Islip HS, RHP
A 6-3, 210-pound senior righty, who had a school-record 12 saves and a 1.93 ERA. He struck out 38 in 23.1 innings with 12 walks and limited opposing hitters to a .216 average.
Steven Foster, Hofstra, Sachem North HS, OF
A 5-11, 175-pound fleet-footed junior outfielder, who had a team-leading 64 hits, including 22 extra base hits with 20 RBI and a .317 average.
Frank Moscatiello, St. Thomas Aquinas, Rocky Point HS, RHP
The 5-9, 180-pound junior righty was 9-2 with a 2.00 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 90 innings. He was the East Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year.
Toby Handley, Stony Brook University, OF
The 5-11, 185-pound outfielder was drafted last year by the Houston Astros in the 33rd round and elected to go back to SBU for his senior year. He is expected to get another shot this draft. He was the America East Player of the Year.
Tyler Osik, Chipola Junior College, Shoreham-Wading River HS, 3B, Jr.
Fully recovered from an arm injury suffered before the 2017 season. Was invited to pre-draft workouts. The 5-11, 195-pound third baseman hit .329 with five homers and 27 RBIs two seasons ago.
David Leiderman, Hofstra, Bellmore JFK HS, 3B, Sr.
The 6-3, 215-pound third baseman batted .319 in conference play with three home runs and 11 RBIs. He was a two-time All-CAA second-team third baseman.
High school draft hopefuls:
Brian Morrell Shoreham-Wading River HS, P/SS, Sr.
The 6-0, 195-pound five-year varsity starter set school records for home runs with 28 and pitching wins with 29. He was the fourth junior to win the Yastrzemski Award given to Suffolk’s top player last year. He had seven home runs and 39 RBI this year with a 10-1 pitching record and 93 strikeouts. In his career, he threw six no-hitters. A two-way threat, an excellent hitter with a 90-plus fastball. Committed to Notre Dame.
Ben Brown, Ward Melville HS, RHP, Sr.
The 6-6 righty pitched 45 2⁄3 innings, struck out 67 and allowed 17 hits. He had a 5-1 record and his fastball was clocked in the low 90s. Huge upside. Committed to Siena.