Baseball Prospect Journal

Andrew Papantonis perseveres through injuries

Andrew Papantonis has been a two-sport high school athlete since his freshman year in 2013. A member of the varsity baseball and football teams all four years of high school, Papantonis didn’t prefer one sport over the other.

When he began receiving interest to play athletics collegiately, he took college visits for both baseball and football as a sophomore in 2015. He hoped to potentially play both sports in college, but when he toured Boston College, he quickly realized the difficulties of being a Division I two-sport athlete.

That’s when he decided to solely pursue baseball. He committed to the University of Virginia in the summer of 2015 to continue his education and baseball career, beginning in fall 2017.

Papantonis will be a freshman at Virginia beginning this fall, but that might change, as he could have an opportunity to chase a professional baseball career this summer.

Baseball America ranks Papantonis as the 74th-best prep player in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft class.

Although the New Jersey senior shortstop is a well-regarded prospect, his draft stock is unclear.

Over the last two years, football injuries have hampered Papantonis. As a junior in 2015, he tore his meniscus in his right knee during a football scrimmage. Then during his senior season of football in fall 2016, he suffered a left knee injury, tearing his ACL and meniscus.

Papantonis expects to return to 100 percent by July or August and is hoping to participate for his high school team as the designated hitter starting in mid-May, he said.

“A couple scouts have discussed that it’s a blow to the draft stock, but that it takes one team to like him,” Papantonis said. “I will be able to do a full work out in a month or so hopefully. Hopefully I can get scouts out there to watch me take some batting practice and ground balls.”

Papantonis jumped onto pro scouts’ radar after strong showings at two showcase events last summer. He participated in the East Coast Pro and the Area Code Games last summer.

He earned the MVP award for the Area Code Games, after collecting four hits and three RBIs offensively and displaying impressive defensive skills at shortstop in five games.

Once he started receiving attention from pro scouts last summer, he sought advice from his cousin Pat Light, who’s a right-handed pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

“He helped guide me through the process of choosing an agent and how to handle the in-home visits,” said Papantonis about Light. “That was a great resource to have.”

When healthy, Papantonis is a well-regarded defender, possessing solid range and a strong arm at shortstop. He also makes consistent, hard contact from the right side of the plate and has respectable power to his pull side.

“I think my biggest strength is my athleticism,” Papantonis said. “Playing shortstop, I’m able to get to a variety of balls and throw from a variety of arm angles.

“I feel like my ability to battle, whether it’s a tough hop at shortstop or down in count against a tough pitcher. I’d say my whole mental game and athleticism.”

Papantonis is also a leader on the field, which comes partly from playing quarterback in football.

Although he’s had to battle through injuries over the last two years, Papantonis said it’s been a humbling experience and has taught him how to fight adversity.

While he’s draft-eligible for June’s MLB Draft, Papantonis isn’t worried about the future, as he knows he has two terrific opportunities in front of him.

“I try not to think of pro ball as a do or die opportunity,” Papantonis said. “If it doesn’t work out, I can go to Virginia, compete for three years and try it again.

“I have the best of both worlds in the opportunity to play at Virginia and the opportunity to potentially play pro ball.”

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