The 2021 MLB postseason begins Tuesday, Oct. 5, pitting the New York Yankees vs. the Boston Red Sox in the first wild card game. We will have to wait until the N.L. Wild Card game on Oct. 6 for the first former DII baseball players to take the field. That's when St. Louis Cardinals' teammates Miles Mikolas and Kodi Whitley take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
DRAFT MEMORIES: 2021 draftees | 2019: Getting drafted WHILE PLAYING
They are just a few DII baseball alums heading to this year’s MLB playoffs. Let’s take a quick look at each of them.
These are active rosters as of Oct. 4, 2021, per MLB.com. Some players — like J.D. Martinez (Nova Southeastern, Boston Red Sox), DJ Johnson (Western Oregon, Tampa Bay Rays), Tommy Kahnle (Lynn, Los Angeles Dodgers) and Scott Alexander (Sonoma State, Los Angeles Dodgers) — who are on the IL were not considered for this list. Some teams have not confirmed their playoff rosters and any updates will be made accordingly. Rosters can change before each round due to injury.
FINAL RANKINGS: The final DII baseball Power 10 of the 2021 season
Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals — Nova Southeastern
Mikolas has had an interesting journey to this season’s MLB playoffs. He was actually the highest selection of the three teammates (Mike Fiers and J.D. Martinez), taken by the San Diego Padres in the seventh round after that 2009 season. His career has included early ups and downs, some play across seas, a 2018 rebirth in St. Louis and an injury-plagued 2020 and 2021 season. In between was a 2019 All-Star appearance in a season that he led the league with 18 wins.
Mikolas was superb during his Sharks’ career finishing with a 2.06 ERA and 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His former head baseball coach — and current Athletic Director — Michael Mominey told us: "He showed remarkable growth as an athlete and pitcher in three years’ time. He came into the program as somewhat of a 'project' given his size and abilities as a freshman, but as a junior became one of the most dominant pitchers in program history. Physically dominant, great teammate, fun and a free spirit."
Chas McCormick, Houston Astros — Millersville
McCormick had a special career in Millersville, Pennsylvania. He ended his career as the only Marauder to earn All-PSAC East honors in each of his four seasons and was named the PSAC Eastern Division athlete of the year in 2017. Before the Astros chose him in the 21st round that year, McCormick became the PSAC’s all-time hit leader and was second all-time in runs scored.
McCormick’s 2021 rookie season was a solid one. He was a jack-of-all-trades for the Astros this season, playing 51 games in left field, 33 games in center and 22 games in right. He hit 14 home runs with a .766 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) and had some big, memorable hits. His former Millersville coach Jon Shehan told me: “Chas is an incredible competitor. I think I read that he was 14-for-18 driving a man in with a man on third and less than two outs this season. He drives in runs selflessly because he absolutely hates to lose. I think that’s why he fits so well in a historically competitive big-league clubhouse. I’m hoping he gets a shot to play in the postseason because I think you’re going to see a guy that has poise under pressure and loves to play when the game is on the line.”
Kodi Whitley, St. Louis Cardinals — Mount Olive
Whitley had a sensational start to his Trojans’ career, earning Conference Carolinas freshman of the year honors in 2014 and making the All-Region Gold Glove team that same season. He had a stellar follow-up season with Mount Olive but would pitch sparingly over his final two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery prior to the 2016 campaign.
Whitley is a terrific story of perseverance. He fought back from Tommy John surgery and became a key cog in the Cardinals’ minor-league bullpens. After a strong showing in the 2019 Arizona Fall League — which is a launching pad that puts the best of the best prospects together on one field following the regular MiLB season — Whitley earned a spot on the 2020 40-man roster for the Cardinals. This season, he’s posted a 2.49 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 25 big-league appearances.
Whitley's former head coach Rob Watt told me: "Outside of being extremely talented, Kodi checks every box for the intangibles. He’s an incredible person and teammate, he is a fierce competitor that attacks everything in a calm calculated manner, and he will always choose to do what is right and not necessarily what is easy. He has worked so hard to get where he is at but he never forgets where he came from and he would never assume that he is entitled to anything because of what he has accomplished on the baseball field. He is one of the finest people I know."
Alex Vesia, Los Angeles Dodgers — Cal State East Bay
Vesia was drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2018 and traded to the Dodgers prior to this season. After making his MLB debut last year with the Marlins, he’s now pitched for two different MLB-postseason teams. Not a bad start to a career, don’t you think?
"It was such an amazing feeling to hear my named get called," Vesia recalled to Cal State East Bay on his draft day experience. "I was just looking for an opportunity to continue playing baseball. It didn't matter what pick I was. It had been a huge goal of mine since my sophomore year and to achieve such a major goal was very emotional for me and my family. Truthfully, it wasn't an easy process and it was a long three days waiting to see where I would go. But one thing I knew was that I was ready to challenge myself on the next level."
The left-hander split time in the rotation and bullpen in his final 2018 season with the Pioneers. He pitched to a stunning 1.94 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 78.2 innings, striking out 82 and walking 28. He went in the 17th round following that season and while his 2020 MLB debut was not a memorable one, he’s put it together this season. Vesia has a 2.25 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 40 appearances out of the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Joey Wendle, Tampa Bay Rays — West Chester
Wendle was another PSAC superstar who earned All-PSAC East honors in his time with the Golden Rams. His final season with West Chester was a big one as the Golden Rams won the DII baseball championship. He slashed .399/.479/.768 with 19 doubles and 12 home runs. That all added up to a sixth-round selection by the Cleveland Indians in the 2012 MLB draft.
Wendle has a smooth, left-handed swing that finds the gaps well. It was nice to see him set a career high with 11 home runs in 2021 in earning his first MLB All-Star appearance. Wendle is versatile as well, playing all over the infield for the Rays.