Bret Helton, a junior pitcher, became the first player from the Utes selected in this year’s draft on Tuesday. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the ninth round with the 277th overall selection. Helton was rated the 448th best prospect by Baseball America heading into the draft.
The Junior from Colorado Springs, made 18 appearances this past season starting 10 of them, finishing with a 2-8 record and 5.27 ERA. His 61.1 innings pitched were third most on the Utes, as were his 48 strikeouts this season. Helton and the Utes had a rough season, stumbling to a 16-36-1 record, but it was not enough to dissuade the Pirates from making Helton the seventh Ute to be drafted in the first ten rounds during Bill Kinneberg’s tenure as the head coach for Utah baseball.
Helton's size, standing 6-3 and weighing 215 lbs. combined with his natural athleticism, made him too intriguing for the Pirates to pass up. Coming out of high school, Helton was an honorable mention all state selection in Colorado at quarterback his senior year at Cheyenne Mountain High School, where he threw for 2,295 yards and 24 touchdowns. In baseball, Helton was regarded as a good hitter as well as pitcher. Though primarily a pitcher at Utah, Helton made occasional starts at DH and as a freshman in left field.
Players drafted have until July 17th to decide whether or not to sign a contract with the team which drafted them. With a year of eligibility left, Helton has the option to return to Salt Lake City for another year, though early indications are Helton will forgo his senior season to sign with the Pirates on Friday, pending a physical.
Helton finished his collegiate career with a 4-12 record, 5.68 ERA, 91 strikeouts and one save in 39 appearances for the Utes.