Ohio State pitcher Gavin Bruni 'ready to pick up the phone' as MLB Draft nears

Josh Weir
The Repository
Alliance High School baseball standout Gavin Bruni, at the school Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Earlier this week, with the Major League Baseball Draft just days away, Alliance High School graduate Gavin Bruni wasn’t stressing about when he might be picked and which team might do it.

Bruni, who already is at Ohio State, had an online quiz to take for an “Intro to Technology” summer class.

He had all the answers for that.

As for the draft, that is a complete guessing game.

Alliance pitcher Gavin Bruni throws to a Marlington batter during conference action at Alliance High School Thursday, May 6, 2021. Ed Hall Jr, Special to The Review

The draft starts Sunday at 7 p.m., with just the first round being picked that night. Rounds 2-10 will be completed Monday, starting at 1 p.m. The rest of the draft, rounds 11-20, will be picked Tuesday, starting at noon.

Bruni, an 18-year-old kid with a left arm that can pump a baseball to the plate at 96 miles an hour, has been on the radar of Major League Baseball teams since before he threw a pitch in high school.

Soon, he will see if he becomes a pro without throwing a pitch at the collegiate level.

“The rounds will come and go. You sit and you wait and you see what happens,” Bruni said. “I could be sitting around for three days, quite frankly, and still get what I need. So who knows. I’ll be locked in and ready to pick up the phone.”

MLB.com does not have Bruni as one of its top 250 prospects. ProspectsLive.com has him ranked 591st. What this means (if it means anything at all) is unclear for the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bruni, who was ranked as the No. 1 high school prospect in Ohio for the class of 2021 by multiple outlets.

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Alliance starter Gavin Bruni pitches to a West Branch batter during league play at West Branch High School Tuesday, March 30, 2021.

Bruni’s high school coach at Alliance, Jeff Graffice, said he’s had at least four teams tell him they’re “dead set” on picking Bruni.

“But they never say exactly what they’re dead set on,” Graffice said. “Are they going to take him in the first round? The 10th round? The 20th round? … No one’s come out, like, ‘We have the 10th pick in the fifth round and that’s where we’re looking.’”

Bruni is being advised through the draft process by ISE Baseball’s John Courtright and Steve Bertholomey. He can’t officially sign with an agent until turning pro.

For a team to draft Bruni, especially in the higher rounds, it must be ready to show him the money.

Alliance pitcher Gavin Bruni throws to a Salem batter during action at Alliance High School on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

Bruni basically has a full-ride scholarship to Ohio State, a nice little bargaining chip when it comes to negotiating a signing bonus. Bruni committed to the Buckeyes the day before his first high school game his freshman year.

He already is raving about the strength coaches, the nutritionist and the overall experience in Columbus, where he’s been the last three weeks.

“It’s going to be tough to pass up an education and the ability to go out there and play baseball at Ohio State,” Bruni said. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who likes me and what we think is the best decision. It’s going to come down to some dollar signs.”

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The attention from scouts goes back years for Bruni. It jumped up a notch or two in February when he hit 96 on the radar gun during a Prep Baseball Report Super 60 scouting event.

His senior season of high school baseball turned into a constant showcase.

“There’s always eyes on you,” he said. “There’s always someone watching. So you just have to go out and compete. Be a bulldog. Block out the noise. Yeah, there are people there to watch you, but at the end of day it’s playing baseball.”

Professional baseball scouts on hand behind home plate watching Alliance pitcher Gavin Bruni during action at Alliance High School on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

Calling the experience “intense,” Bruni did not allow the attention to hinder his performance. He yielded one earned run in 37 innings while leading Stark County in strikeouts (79) and earned-run average (0.19). He went 3-1 for a young Aviators squad that struggled to score runs but got better as the year progressed.

Bruni, who plays first base or the outfield when not pitching, also batted .415 with five doubles, two triples and a home run. He was named EBC Player of the Year and First Team All-America by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper among his many accolades.

“I never went through that with anybody before, but I don’t know how a kid could’ve done it any better than he did,” Graffice said of Bruni handling the attention. “He did what he had to do. They were in his face constantly. When it was his day to pitch, they were out in the bullpen. They watched him stretch. The guy from the Indians had six cameras around our field.”

Bruni, who has shown he can sit in the 93-95 range with his fastball, also throws a breaking pitch and a change-up.

Alliance’s Gavin Bruni slides safely into home plate in front of Canton South’s catcher Clay Mitchell on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Special to The Canton Repository / Bob Rossiter)

Graffice raves about Bruni’s attitude and demeanor as much as his velocity and strikeout numbers.

“He’s just a good kid that happens to be pretty damn good at baseball,” said Graffice, whose daughter, Lauren, has dated Bruni since they were ninth graders.

Alliance High School baseball standout Gavin Bruni, at the school Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Bruni’s high school season was cut short when he was hit by a pitch on May 12 while batting against Carrollton. He suffered a boxer’s fracture on his left hand and spent four weeks in a cast, which came off June 7. He started to throw and lift on June 10 and has steadily progressed from there.

If Bruni does not sign professionally, he’ll remain at Ohio State and prep for fall ball. He would not be eligible again for the draft until 2024.

“I’m out here competing for a weekend role, I’m hoping,” he said about the Buckeyes. “I think if I compete well and pitch the ball well, I think I’ve got a good shot at it.

“Obviously, nothing’s going to be given. It’s not high school baseball. It’s big-boy baseball now and you can’t just blow fastballs past people. So pitch-ability is going to come into play. Mixing up your looks. Mixing up your times to the plate. Everything comes into play now.”

It’s an exciting time for Bruni. He’ll likely have two options in front of him by Tuesday night: Start getting paid to play baseball, or spend at least three years wearing the scarlet and gray and work on his craft.

“I’m prepared to take either step in the journey,” Bruni said. “… Sure, it would be great to start a pro career. But I also think it will be great to start at Ohio State and get the opportunity to develop for three more years and compete at Ohio State.”

Reach Josh at josh.weir@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @jweirREP