Jake Wong wasn’t highly sought after by professional scouts or college coaches coming out of high school in 2015. His only Division I offer came from Grand Canyon University.
Now in his junior season at GCU, Wong, a right-handed pitcher, has refined his skills on the mound and is drawing interest from pro scouts as the 2018 MLB Draft approaches.
MLB.com ranks him as the 74th-best prospect in this year’s draft, which begins June 4.
Wong said that the lack of attention he received out of high school has motivated him throughout his three-year career at GCU.
“I came in with a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I was looking forward to pitching at the Division I level and showing the doubters or people who didn’t believe in me that they were wrong.”
Wong played in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer. Used primarily as a reliever, Wong posted a 2.58 ERA with 27 strikeouts and six walks in 24 1/3 innings.
“It was good for exposure and to get guys on me,” he said. “There’s a lot of pro scouts there so having those guys at each and every game you just get used to it.”
After pitching out of the bullpen as a freshman at GCU, Wong has served as the team’s No. 1 starter each of the last two years.
He recorded mixed results in 2017, but has excelled this season. Wong has a 3.09 ERA with 78 strikeouts and 27 walks in 81 2/3 innings.
A 6-foot-2, 210-pound hurler, Wong possesses a three-pitch mix, featuring a mid-90s fastball, changeup and slider.
“I think one of my biggest strengths is the fact that I’m competitive by nature,” he said. “I think that helps to play into how I pitch and my pitching style. I like to pitch aggressively and with my fastball. I like to attack hitters and pitch to my strengths. That competitive fire drives me to be the pitcher I am.”
His two off-speed pitches are average offerings but have improved this season. His changeup is his best secondary pitch and fades in on right-handed batters.
“A couple areas I’ve worked on is the consistency of my secondary offerings,” he said. “I felt that was an area of improvement for me and that if I wanted to get where I wanted to that it was something I needed to improve.”
Three years after being an under-the-radar player, Wong is an intriguing draft prospect. Major league teams envision him as a starting pitcher in the pros, but if that doesn’t work out, he’ll be a late-inning reliever.
Wong is trying to enjoy the experience and attention the MLB Draft brings, he said.
“It can be difficult but thankfully I have a good support staff behind me,” Wong said. “It’s easy for me to focus on the now and let the draft take care of itself.”