Short story: MLB draft opens with 3 shortstops for 1st time
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Long night, short story.
When the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Vanderbilt slugger Dansby Swanson with the top pick in the Major League Baseball draft Monday, it marked the start of a record run on shortstops.
Houston had the second choice and scooped up Alex Bregman from LSU. Colorado then made it 3 for 3 by tabbing Florida high schooler Brendan Rodgers.
On the 50th anniversary of the inaugural draft in 1965, it was the first time the top three picks all played the same position — besides pitcher.
A fourth shortstop went No. 10 overall, with Philadelphia grabbing Georgia high schooler Cornelius Randolph. In all, a record-tying eight shortstops were taken in the first round (the top 36 picks), matching the number selected in 1971 and 2002.
What a day it was for Swanson and the Commodores. Just a few minutes after Vanderbilt beat Illinois to return to the College World Series, the Diamondbacks made Swanson the No. 1 pick.
The allotted signing bonus for that slot? More than $8.6 million.
“You can’t really script a moment better than that. It was pretty phenomenal,” Swanson said.
A little while later, two of his college teammates were chosen in the first round as well.
Carson Fulmer went eighth to the Chicago White Sox, and fellow right-hander Walker Buehler was picked 24th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The trio made the Commodores the fifth college program to have three players selected in the opening round.
No wonder Vanderbilt is headed to Omaha to defend its national championship.
Here are some other things to know about the initial night of the amateur draft, which encompassed 75 picks at MLB Network studios:
Houston kept it all in the family with the fifth pick, taking Florida high school outfielder Kyle Tucker — the younger brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker. Kyle Tucker broke his brother’s school record with 31 career homers.
With the first selection in the second round, the Astros went for another player with baseball bloodlines by choosing Georgia high school outfielder Daz Cameron, son of former All-Star Mike Cameron.
California high school third baseman Tyler Nevin, the son of 1992 No. 1 overall pick Phil Nevin, went next to Colorado. Texas high school third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes, went 32nd overall to Pittsburgh.
WORTH THE TRIP
All four prospects who attended the draft came off the board in the first round. The first to shake hands at the podium with new Commissioner Rob Manfred was Rodgers, as he pulled on a Rockies cap and jersey.
A roar went up in the room when Rodgers’ name was announced. He said he had 22 friends and family members on hand, nearly all from Florida.
“Everyone’s here,” he said. “They’re still in shock over there. So am I.”
Though he’s been compared to Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Rodgers said he’s always looked up to retired New York Yankees great Derek Jeter. Rodgers said he even got a cherished chance to meet Jeter during his trip to the Metropolitan area for the draft.
“Just gave me a few tips and went on,” Rodgers said. “Getting to meet him is unreal.”
The other three players in attendance were New York high school outfielder Garrett Whitley, who went 13th to Tampa Bay; Indiana high school righty Ashe Russell, picked 21st by Kansas City; and Pennsylvania high school right-hander Mike Nikorak, chosen No. 27 by Colorado.
Brady Aiken, last year’s top pick, was selected by Cleveland at No. 17 despite having Tommy John surgery in March. Aiken was drafted by the Astros a year ago but did not sign, so Houston received the No. 2 slot this year as compensation. College of Southern Nevada right-hander Phil Bickford went No. 18 to San Francisco after failing to sign with Toronto in 2013 when he was the No. 10 pick.
The first round included 15 pitchers (12 right-handers, three lefties), eight outfielders, two catchers, two first basemen and one third baseman. College players comprised 19 picks, and there were 16 high schoolers.
Nine black players were chosen in the first round, and 17 on the first night overall — a percentage that pleased Manfred. MLB has been trying to help increase participation and improve opportunities among black players by implementing youth programs.
“I think it shows that some of the things that we’ve been working so hard on are starting to bear fruit,” Manfred said on MLB Network.
Rounds 3-10 will be held Tuesday and rounds 11-40 on Wednesday — both days via team conference calls.
AP Sports Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. and Associated Press Writer David Mercer in Champaign, Ill., contributed to this report.