Dalatri, Peto, McKenna sign as non-drafted free agents

By Bob Behre | June 16, 2020

Robbie Peto, a Monroe High grad and a redshirt junior at Stetson was signed this week by the Dodgers.

When the shortest MLB Draft ended on June 11, no players from New Jersey had been selected. But, beginning Sunday, major league teams were permitted to select an unlimited number of non-drafted free agents. And that became critical for a handful of Garden State pitchers.

Christian Brothers grad Gianluca Dalatri, Monroe High grad Robbie Peto and Jake McKenna, a senior at Ocean City High School, were plucked by major league teams for the maximum $20,000 signing fee. Princeton University’s James Proctor and J.P. Woodward of Lafayette College were also grabbed as non-drafted free agents through Monday.

Dalatri, a 6-6, 240-pound redshirt junior righty at University of North Carolina, was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals. Dalatra missed most of the 2019 season and hadn’t returned yet in 2020 when the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the big righty has impressed plenty of big league scouts in his abbreviated college career that included a 10-6 record, 3.12 ERA and 151 strikeouts and just 34 walks in 156 innings pitched.

Dalatri likely would have been looking at a much bigger pay day in a normal 40-round MLB Draft. A power pitcher with excellent control, Dalatri showed his dominance as well on the scholastic level when he went 30-0 his last three years of high school at CBA. He was 10-0 his senior season when he struck out 118 batters and, incredibly, walked just four.

The Cardinals have shown plenty of affection for New Jersey pitchers, already boasting such heralded Garden Staters in their system as St. Joseph (Mont.) grad Rob Kaminsky, Park Ridge and Kean University grad Kevin Herget and Delsea High grad Bryan Dobzanski. The lefty Kaminsky and righty Herget are on the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds roster and the righty Dobzanki, who was up at Triple-A last summer, is on the Double-A Springfield Cardinals’ roster. Kaminsky is a former NJ Super 17 player out of Diamond Nation.

Peto, a 6-4, 225 redshirt junior righty at Stetson University in Florida was grabbed by the Dodgers after his impressive small sample this spring reinforced scouts’ long-standing belief in his abilities. Peto was 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA  over 25.1 innings, striking out 41 batters and walking 13. He limited opposing batters to a .172 batting average. In 100 career innings pitched during his two seasons at Stetson, Peto struck out 119 and walked 41 and had a 3.51 ERA.

Jake McKenna, a 6-7 lefthander, lives in Atlantic County’s Ocean City and grew up a Philadelphia Phillies fan. So when he received multiple free agents offers, and one of them was from the Phillies, his selection process became fairly simple. McKenna was ranked No. 434 on Baseball America’s top prospects list and boasts a fastball that has touched 91 and a deadly 12-to-6 curveball.

Princeton’s James Proctor, a 6-5, 215 righty from St. Louis was signed by the Cincinnati Reds. Proctor had just two starts before the 2020 season was shut down but turned heads in 2019 when he struck out 66 batters in 50.1 innings.

Lafayette College saw J.P. Woodward sign with the Phillies, too. Woodward, a 6-6, 215 righty, had opened the 2020 season at 2-1 with 22 strikeouts over 20.1 innings.

Major league teams will likely continue to pick up non-drafted free agents over the next few days as there is no limitation on the amount of players an organization can sign. Some teams have been very active — the Red Sox have signed 10 non-drafted free agents — while others have not. Colorado has signed just one player thus far.

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