Gasper could turn pro

Photo courtesy of Bryant University Merrimack’s Mickey Gasper, the FCBL Player of the Year with the Nashua Silver Knights last summer, has finally been given the chance at Bryant University to be a No. 1 catcher in order to enhance his MLB Draft status.

Mickey Gasper is in baseball heaven these days.

The former Nashua Silver Knight and Futures Collegiate League Offensive Player of the Year had perhaps the best season of his career as a junior at Bryant University.

The question is, with the Major League Amateur Draft on Monday, is this Gasper’s time?

“I think he’s going to be a professional player for sure,” Bryant coach Steve Owens said of the former Merrimack High School standout. “I’m just not sure if now is the right time, or if next year’s the right time. We’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out. It will all come down to what (Gasper) thinks is the right thing.

“If he doesn’t get drafted high enough, then he can keep getting better, have a great summer on the Cape and put himself in a different category. Either way, it’s a win-win.”

There’s no doubt Gasper is on scouts’ radar thanks to his hitting ability. He hit .421 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in winning the FCBL batting title last summer and this summer is expected to play for Brewster in the prestigious Cape Cod League. This spring at Bryant, Gasper is hit .342 with seven homers and a team-high 53 RBIs to lead the Bulldogs, a nickname which fits his style at the plate. As Owens said flatly, “He’s our best hitter.”

“I think I have a shot to get drafted,” Gasper said. “I’ve been in contact with a few teams, answered questionnaires and that sort of thing. But it’s going to have to be the right situation, the right place, the right time. There’s also lots of things that would benefit me from staying in school to get ready for next year’s draft.

“This summer on the Cape would be pretty awesome. Elite competition, then I’d have another year with our strength and conditioning staff and get better.

“I’m told I’m in the right position. I’m going to be a switch-hitting catcher and use my ability to switch-hit as my strength.”

Thus, Gasper’s ability to hit the baseball is well documented. Owens echoed what Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett said last summer: “I enjoy watching every at-bat he has. There aren’t a lot of hitters better than Mickey Gasper.”

The questions come with finding Gasper a position defensively, something that has limited the careers of many a player. But, but both Owens and Gasper have agreed that the idea of getting him to the next level is the goal. This is his first season in college basically as a full-time catcher; injuries plus others ahead of him made him a part-time player his first two years at Bryant.

He came to Nashua last summer to get consistent at bats and time behind the plate. He got both, although late in the season, with catcher/defensive specialist Anthony Fava of St. John’s University having recovered from an injury, Neverett had Gasper play more first base and designated hitter. Gasper at times struggled behind the plate, mainly due to a lack of experience.

But this year at Bryant, Gasper caught in some 45 games as the team’s No. 1 receiver. “I think he’s doing a nice job with it,” Owens said. “He’s becoming a better receiver, the thing he’s working on right now is the arm strength.”

That would seem to be the final piece of the puzzle.

“I got more chances to catch last summer,” Gasper said. “I have confidence in my catching ability. First base can be a secondary position. I’ve definitely improved on my defense, my reacting, and I’ve improved on my throwing. I’m trying to get my throwing to where I want it to be. … I want to get my arm and ability to the point where (in the pros) I can go to an organization and make an immediate impact.”

Gasper said this past offseason he “busted my butt to get ready to go. I just continued to do my reps, continue the process of getting better.” Thus he speaks volumes of the Bryant strength and conditioning staff, and that’s his key to improving his arm strength. He’s down to between 200 and 205 after being some 220 pounds over a year ago, too much for his 5-foot-10 frame.