PROVO — Jackson Cluff beat most expectations as a player for BYU in 2019, so it makes sense the sophomore slugger beat projections in the Major League Baseball draft, too.
Cluff, who wasn't even listed among Baseball America's top 500 draft prospects, was selected by the Washington Nationals in the sixth round Tuesday. Overall, Cluff was the 183rd player selected after what was a breakthrough season for the Cougars.
"Leading up to the draft I was starting to get a lot of positive feedback, but you obviously never know for sure what to expect," Cluff said. "I was hearing between the sixth and tenth rounds, but after some phone calls this morning I started to get the sense that I was going to go pretty early."
It also didn't come as a huge surprise regarding the team that ultimately selected him.
"They're obviously now my new favorite team," Cluff said. "But what I appreciate most with the Nationals is how they've communicated with me and I feel I have a lot of trust with the scouts there and the organization. It really couldn't have worked out better with the relationship and confidence I've already built in some ways with their organization."
According to Cluff the Nationals were attracted to how hard he plays and his tremendous defensive tools. "They're hopeful my bat can someday turn into a major-league bat and I'll certainly work as hard as possible to get there," he said.
Having returned from mission service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the 6-foot, 185-pound shortstop went on to hit for a .327 average this past season. He also had 56 RBIs and stole 12 bases and started to receive positive feedback from professional scouts about a month into the season.
"That's when I started to know that if I kept playing well and showcasing my tools that I'd be able to have the opportunity," Cluff said.
Cluff hails from Meridian, Idaho, and played one year before embarking on his two-year mission service to Atlanta. During this past season he became the first player in program history to earn national player of the week honors twice in the same season, and the first non-pitcher to earn two in a career.
Cluff will now fly out to West Palm Beach, Florida, this weekend to work out his contract details while beginning to train for his upcoming minor league assignment.
As far as what today means to him as someone who has long had the goal of playing professional baseball, Cluff kept things in good perspective.
"First and foremost today means I have a lot of work ahead of me," he said. "No one makes it to the major leagues on draft day, so I'm obviously excited for the opportunity, but know there's a lot of work left to be done. But yeah, I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity and so grateful for my family and their sacrifices and certainly all my coaches."