MLB Draft Day One winners: Swanson, Rodgers, Rockies, D-Backs, Astros
Dansby Swanson and his school (Vanderbilt) score big on the first day of MLB's draft, as does the team drafting Swanson -- the D-Backs -- as well as the Rockies, Astros and Dodgers.
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Some panned this year's MLB First-Year Player Draft for lacking a Bryce Harper or a Kris Bryant, that slam-dunk superstar scouts dream about. Those sure things don’t come along every year, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t stars in this year’s draft.
Here are some of the biggest winners (players and teams) on a big day in the life of talented young players across the country, and some who were in New Jersey for the draft, where four first-round picks reveled in the big day before a national audience:
1. Astros: Houston pulled off a drafting coup for the second time in four years, landing talented outfielder Daz Cameron, who fell to No. 37, thanks to a rumored $5 million asking price.
Cameron joins two very high Astros first-rounders, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman (No. 2 overall) and outfielder Kyle Tucker (No. 5), brother of current Houston outfielder Preston Tucker, in an unlikely, almost unprecedented trio of amateur talent. But it's not completely unprecedented. Not quite -- thanks to Houston.
The Astros did something similar in the draft two years ago, when they landed shortstop Carlos Correa, long considered baseball's best prospect who played his first major-league game Monday, at No. 1 overall, and managed also to get Lance McCullers Jr. -- a right-hander taking the majors by storm -- and good-hitting infielder Rio Ruiz.
Bregman had a big year at LSU, and Tucker is seen as even more talented than his brother. But Cameron might be the coup here, and it was made possible by the Astros' $17.29 million draft allotment. It isn't certain what Cameron will receive, but the Astros figure to have the financial firepower to get it done.
2. Dansby Swanson: Vanderbilt's shortstop was seen as the likely No. 1 pick, and Arizona obliged by calling his name about the same time the Commodores beat Illinois to advance to the College World Series, where they will try to defend the title. Swanson was said by someone familiar with Arizona's thinking as the "safe" pick after considering Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay (GM Dave Stewart was said to be especially impressed by Jay and Swanson), Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson, New York prep outfielder Garrett Whitley and others.
The Astros were termed by a source ready to pounce on Swanson had he been available. But they didn't expect him to be. According to a Diamondbacks person, Swanson has "all the tools, a great character, and is successful in the spotlight already." Sounds like a winning formula.
3. Shortstops: It was huge year for shortstops, with Swanson and Bregman followed by Brendan Rodgers, the prep star from Lake Mary, Fla., who has big-time power despite smallish stature (about 5-foot-11 though he's listed as 6-feet). In all, there were eight shortstops among the top 36, including Cornelius Randolph (Williamson, Ga.) to the Phillies, Kevin Newman (University of Arizona) to the Pirates, Richie Martin (University of Florida) to the A's, Kyle Holder (University of San Diego) to the Yankees and Ryan Mountcastle (Winter Park, Fla. ) to the Orioles.
4. Brendan Rodgers: This pick drew a huge roar from the crowd, as he had 22 friends and family members on hand, and he relished the moment.
After taking in all the sights in New York, from the Statue of Liberty to all the others, Rodgers heard his name at No. 3 overall.
"A dream come true," Rodgers called it.
That was true, and not only because he was the first high school player picked.
He gets to play in Coors Field, assuming he makes the majors, and possibly follow Troy Tulowitzki, another shortstop taken No. 1 overall by the Rockies. According to Joe Lemire, working for USA Today, Rodgers hit 19 of 35 balls out of Coors at a recent workout, which must have been pretty convincing.
Rodgers, who came off very positive at his interview here, already has something in common with Tulo. He revealed his favorite player growing up is Derek Jeter.
5. Vanderbilt: After Swanson became the D-Backs' first overall pick since Justin Upton went No. 1 in the all-time great 2005 draft, Vandy's Carson Fulmer and Walker Buehler also went high (though maybe not quite as high as some envisioned). The White Sox got a steal with Fuller, who had a huge college career, and plan to keep him as a starting pitcher following his big season in the rotation there after starring previously as a closer.
One competing scout says Fuller would make a dynamic closer. "He has big (guts)," the scout said. Buehler lasted until the Dodgers took him 24th overall.
6. Dodgers: LA, an excellent drafting team in recent years under Logan White, who has moved on to the rival Padres, may have their run of fine drafts going, getting Kyle Funkhouser at No. 35 after taking Buehler. Both pitchers had been predicted to go much higher.
7. Rockies: Colorado not only landed Rodgers but also had to be thrilled to take Pennsylvania prep pitcher Mike Nikorak at No. 27. Nikorak was noted by draftniks as one of the draft's top pitchers, and Jonathan Mayo said on MLB Network said he wouldn't be shocked if years from now he is seen as the best pitcher taken this day. Nikorak, from Stroudsburg (Pa.), acquitted himself well in the interview session, seeming mature for his 18 years. Nikorak, who's said to have a big change-up in his repertoire, didn't sound fazed by Coors Field. Asked about the daunting park for pitchers, Nikorak said, "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it." No sense getting ahead of himself here.
8. Sons of former stars: Beyond Cameron, Ke'Bryan Hayes, a prep third baseman and son of Charlie, went to the Pirates at No. 32 and Tyler Nevin, another third baseman and son of Phil (a former No. 1 overall pick of the Astros) with the No. 38 pick. Many more sons were expected to go later. One of the most interesting has to be Mariano Rivera III, whose bloodlines would seem to be quite the plus.
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