Surprises abound in deep draft
By John Manuel
June 7, 2011
The drama started early in the first round of the 2011 draft.
The Pirates took away a bit of the anticipation over the weekend, when multiple sources confirmed they would select UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole first overall. Cole became the first Bruin ever taken with the No. 1 pick.
The real drama started with the Mariners and the second overall pick. Seattle had long been tied to a position player, most notably linked to Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, Kansas prep outfielder Bubba Starling and Florida prep shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Instead, the Mariners surprised the industry and selected Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen. Hultzen’s reaction on MLB Network’s draft broadcast was a mix of shock and speechlessness. “I did not (expect to picked No. 2),” he said. “This is completely unexpected,” he said.
Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara told reporters, “I believe in taking the best player or the best pitcher (available), and Dan was the best guy at pick No. 2, no doubt.”
Hultzen’s selection set off a chain reaction, as the top six prospects on Baseball America’s Top 200 still went in the first six picks, just not to the teams rumored to be most interested before the draft.
The Diamondbacks took Cole’s UCLA teammate, righthander Trevor Bauer, at No. 3 overall. The Bruins duo tied the record for the highest-drafted teammates, set in 1978 by Arizona State’s Bob Horner (No. 1) and Hubie Brooks (No. 3). And when the Orioles selected Oklahoma prep righthander Dylan Bundy at No. 4, that left the Royals picking between Rendon and Starling.
They took the hometown hero, Starling, and will now have to buy him out of a football commitment to Nebraska.
“We got the player we wanted, we got the most electric athlete and player in the draft, and it just happened to be in our backyard as well,” Royals scouting director Lonnie Goldberg said in a conference call. “Obviously, his athleticism and probably his competitiveness and his desire to be a Royal as well, so it fit all of our needs. He’s got raw power, he’s got speed, he’s got a plus arm. You name it, pick one. He’s got a lot of them.”
That left Rendon at No. 6 overall, where the Nationals snapped him up. For the third straight season, Washington wound up taking the No. 1 player on BA’s Top 200, as Rendon joins Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in Washington’s fold.
The rest of the first round was expected to be unsettled and tougher to predict, and it was. Several teams didn’t follow recent form. Some examples:
• Arizona’s No. 7 selection isn’t protected by compensation next year; if they don’t sign that player, they lose the pick. But the Diamondbacks took Archie Bradley, the hard-throwing, big-bodied Oklahoma high school righthander, with that selection. They can spread his bonus out over five years, as Bradley was recruited to play quarterback by Oklahoma, where he eventually signed a baseball letter of intent.
• The Indians took Florida prep shortstop Francisco Lindor at No. 8, marking their first high school first-rounder since 2001 (when they took two).
• The Mets took a high school first-rounder as well, their first one since Lastings Milledge in 2003. New general manager Sandy Alderson and scouting director Chad MacDonald went with Wyoming outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the highest-drafted player in that state’s history by a wide margin.
“This certainly isn’t without risk,” Mets vice president for scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said. “But as we went into this, to be quite frank with you, we weren’t that interested in making what we thought was the safest pick. We were interested in making the pick that we thought had the chance to make the most impact.”
• The depth of the college pitching class drove three members of USA Baseball’s college national team into the second half of the first round. Oakland snapped up Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray at No. 18, while the Red Sox went local with Connecticut righthander Matt Barnes at No. 19 overall. The Rockies then snapped up Oregon southpaw Tyler Anderson at No. 20.
The Red Sox were one of five teams that had multiple first-round picks, and Boston got a catcher it coveted at No. 26 overall with New Mexico prep hitter Blake Swihart. Arizona with Bauer and Bradley had the highest tandem of picks in draft history. Milwaukee, picking 12th and 15th, took a step toward restocking its farm system with college aces Taylor Jungmann (Texas, 12th overall) and Jed Bradley (Georgia Tech, 15th). Washington got Rendon and Kentucky’s behemoth righthander Alex Meyer, while San Diego took junior-college bat Cory Spangenberg at 10 and California prep righty Joe Ross at 25.
• The Phillies, White Sox and Yankees made their first picks in the supplemental round. At No. 39 overall, the Phillies stuck with their high-risk, high-reward philosophy, taking raw power plant Larry Greene out of a Georgia high school. The White Sox debuted at No. 47 overall with Central Arizona JC outfielder Keenyn Walker, a plus speedster who already has been drafted twice. The Yankees picked 51st overall and selected one of the night’s more prominent bloodline picks, taking Florida high school masher Dante Bichette Jr.
Other prominent bloodline players included C.J. Cron, who went 17th to the Angels, the team that his father Chris made his major league debut with in 1991; Ross, whose older brother Tyson pitches in the majors for the Athletics; and Dwight Smith Jr., who went to the Blue Jays two picks after Bichette.
The Blue Jays had three supplemental selections, while their American League East brethren, the Rays, had seven and 10 of the first 60 picks. Tampa’s picks included two Southeastern Conference stars in Louisiana State’s Mikie Mahtook and Vanderbilt’s Grayson Garvin, as well as a junior-college pitcher and seven high school picks, led by first-round righthander Taylor Guerrieri with pick No. 24.
Contributing: Conor Glassey