Not Too Late for Tate: Ballestero Making His Mark in MLB Draft League


Cole Weintraub
Media Coordinator Intern, MLB Draft League

“I just remembered wanting to be on time for the fastball, and good things happened when I was,” Tate Ballestero recalled last week.

Back on May 14, 2018, two competitive New Jersey high school baseball programs, Morristown High School and the Delbarton School, faced off in the County Championship, with top MLB Draft prospect Jack Leiter, then a junior, on the mound for Delbarton. Jack “Tate” Ballestero, also a junior, hit a pair of solo home runs off the future first-round pick that night, leading Morristown to 2-0 victory.

“Jack is a really good friend of mine along with some of the other guys on that team,” said Ballestero. “We played them a few times that year because they were in our conference, but I never faced Jack… It was great to win with a team who had worked super hard and had become super close over the year.”

Ballestero would earn First Team All-New Jersey Athletic Conference honors twice (in his junior and senior seasons) as he prepared to continue his baseball career at the University of Virginia.  Widely regarded as the top catching prospect in New Jersey, Ballestero would not see much action in his first year at UVA, and the lockdown did not help his cause. He started one game as the designated hitter and only accumulated 12 at-bats.  

As a sophomore, Ballestero again saw few opportunities to showcase his talent.  He started nine out of the 17 games he played, appearing as the DH in eight of those starts and once in right field. In 32 at-bats, the utility man reached base at a .375 clip. Then, in a big ACC matchup against Clemson on April 10th, Ballestero came up huge for the Cavaliers with a two-out, pinch-hit single to give Virginia a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning, en route to an 8-4 victory. The 2021 Virginia Cavaliers would go on to reach the College World Series. 

But after his redshirt sophomore season, with only 44 at-bats under his belt, Ballestero felt he still had something to prove. He would enter the transfer portal and join the St. John’s Red Storm.  

“I decided St. John’s was the place for me because of the culture that came with the school,” Ballestero said. “I grew up next to Ed Blankmeyer and knew what kind of tradition came with being a Johnnie and wanted to be a part of that.”

And boy, did Tate make the most of it.

Starting all 55 games during the 2022 season, Ballestero led the team in batting average (.333) and on-base percentage (.427) and finished with a .910 OPS. He tallied 23 extra-base hits and 35 RBI and had 21 multi-hit games, as well. It was a highly productive season for the 21-year-old switch-hitter, who played third base the entire year. Ballestero’s accomplishments were recognized, as he earned a spot on the All-Big East Second Team.

After two official seasons at the collegiate level, Ballestero is now Draft-eligible. And to that end, he chose to play in the MLB Draft League.

“I decided to join the [MLB Draft] league based on the recommendation of my coaches who had sent guys here prior,” Ballestero mentioned.

Ballestero, playing for the team in his home state’s capital, the Trenton Thunder, has stayed hot at the plate. Across the league (through July 7), he ranks among the top 25 in the league with a .278 average (18th), .381 OBP (24th), .426 slugging (18th) and .807 OPS (20th). To this point, Ballestero is tied for the most games played (28) by any player.

Honing in on Ballestero’s splits from both sides of the plate, he has been more effective as a left-handed hitter. He’s batting just under .300 against fastballs and an astounding .350 against breaking balls from that side of the plate while producing exit velocities in the 90-100 mph range. Defensively, Ballestero has spent time at five different positions: catcher, first and third base, and left and right field. With the MLB Draft now well underway, Ballestero is looking to further his success ahead of the 2022 MLB Draft on July 17-19.

“I am extremely thankful they decided to put me here because the experience has been unreal,” Ballestero said when asked about his time in the MLB Draft League.

Ballestero is undoubtedly a unique prospect. He offers potential flexibility for ball clubs at the next level by combining his highly projectable, 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame with his switch-hitting abilities and defensive versatility.

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