Kyle Muller wins Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year

Kyle Muller wins Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year

Gatorade Player of the Year

Kyle Muller wins Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year

Kyle Muller is the 2015-16 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year (Photo: Trent Musho, Gatorade)

Kyle Muller is the 2015-16 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year (Photo: Trent Musho, Gatorade)

The Jesuit College Prep (Dallas) baseball team photo Monday became even more of a memorable souvenir for senior pitcher Kyle Muller when Texas Rangers ace Cole Hamels ducked into the frame and handed Muller the 2015-16 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year trophy.

“This is overwhelming,” said Muller, 18, a Texas signee who is projected as an early round pick in this week’s Major League Baseball draft. “I’m just very thankful to my teammates and coaches and my family, of course. It’s thrilling and I’m so glad to be part of the Gatorade family.”

The 6-foot-7, 245-pound left-handed pitcher and outfielder led the Rangers to a 34-8-2 record and the Class 6A Region 2 title. Muller owns an 8-0 record on the mound with a 0.46 ERA and 133 strikeouts, surrendering just 26 hits and issuing only 15 walks in 76 innings. The southpaw has hurled five shutouts and fired two no-hitters to post a WHIP of 0.54 entering the 6A state semifinals, scheduled for June 10.

RELATED: Gatorade State Baseball Players of the Year

“This brings me back to the pure innocence of not knowing what’s in store for you in this game,” said Hamels, 32, the 2008 World Series MVP and a three-time All-Star. “You’re playing the game because it’s the only thing you want to do and because you love it. You’re only in that situation once.”

Also an elite hitting prospect, Muller batted .396 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI through 44 games, slugging at an .849 clip and swiping 20 bases in 21 attempts. A 2015 Under Armour All-American, he set a national high school record by striking out 33 consecutive hitters in March. Muller has allowed only four extra-base hits through 11 starts.

“Lefthander Kyle Muller is one of the most improved players in the nation this spring,” said Baseball America high school writer Hudson Belinsky. “He worked his tail off and added 25 pounds of muscle to his wide-shouldered, 6-foot-5 frame. He could be an early MLB Draft pick this week. Muller has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and quality offspeed pitches, as well as command of his entire arsenal. He is also an accomplished prospect as a hitter, owning exceptional right-handed power.”

The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the baseball diamond. Muller is now a finalist for the Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award. USA TODAY High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.

MORE: Q&A with Muller on the draft, his high-volume diet and the state semifinals

Muller has maintained an 86.5 average in the classroom. A member of his school’s Big Brother program, he has volunteered locally as part of an elementary school literacy-outreach initiative and participated in a school-sponsored, community-building service mission.

Muller becomes the fifth Texan to win Gatorade national honors in baseball and the second in a row. Oak Ridge (Conroe, Texas) right-hander Luken Baker, now a freshman as well as the top hitter and ERA leader for TCU as the 12th-ranked Horned Frogs enter the Super Regional of the College World Series, won a year ago. Three-time Cy Young Award-winner and 2014 National League MVP Clayton Kershaw won for Highland Park (Dallas) in 2005-06.

Muller is the 31st prep athlete from Texas across all sports to earn Gatorade national honors, joining an impressive list of in-state alumni that includes current Olympic track and field silver medalist Kerron Clement (LaPorte), who won in 2003. California, with 65, has produced the most national Gatorade winners across the program’s 12 sports. Texas, Florida (21), Illinois (15) and Virginia/Indiana (13) round out the top five.

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