The Houston Astros selected California high school pitcher Brady Aiken with the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball draft Thursday night.
The polished left-hander from San Diego's Cathedral Catholic High School is just the third prep pitcher to be selected first overall, joining fellow lefties Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees) and David Clyde (1973, Rangers).
Aiken is also the first high school lefty to be drafted in the first five picks since Adam Loewen went fourth overall to Baltimore in 2002. The UCLA recruit has terrific control of a fastball that hits 96-97 mph, a knee-buckling curve and a tough changeup that sits in the low- to mid-80s.
- 1. Houston, Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic HS, San Diego
- 2. Miami, Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd (Tex.) HS
- 3. Chicago White Sox, Carlos Rodon, LHP, N.C. State
- 4. Chicago Cubs, Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana
- 5. Minnesota, Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Orlando, Fla.
- 6. Seattle, Alex Jackson, OF, Rancho Bernardo HS, San Diego
- 7. Philadelphia, Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
- 8. Colorado, Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
- 9. TORONTO, Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
- 10. NY Mets, Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State
- 11. TORONTO, Max Pentecost, C, Kennesaw State
- 12. Milwaukee, Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waiakea HS, Hilo, Hawaii
- 13. San Diego, Trea Turner, SS, N.C. State
- 14. San Francisco, Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
- 15. L.A. Angels, Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford
- 16. Arizona, Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy
- 17. Kansas City, Brandon Finnegan, LHP, TCU
- 18. Washington, Erick Fedde, RHP, UNLV
- 19. Cincinnati, Nick Howard, RHP, Virginia
- 20. Tampa Bay, Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Wichita State
- 21. Cleveland, Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
- 22. L.A. Dodgers, Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway (S.C.) HS
- 23. Detroit, Derek Hill, OF, Elk Grove (Calif.) HS
- 24. Pittsburgh, Cole Tucker, SS, Mountain Pointe HS, Phoenix
- 25. Oakland, Matt Chapman, 3B, Cal State-Fullerton
- 26. Boston, Michael Chavis, SS, Sprayberry HS, Marietta, Ga.
- 27. St. Louis, Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State
- 28. Kansas City, Foster Griffin, LHP, The First Academy, Orlando, Fla.
- 29. Cincinnati, Alex Blandino, SS, Stanford
- 30. Texas, Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger (Calif.) HS
- 31. Cleveland, Justus Sheffield, LHP, Tullahoma (Tenn.) HS
- 32. Atlanta, Braxton Davidson, OF, T.C. Roberson HS, Asheville, N.C.
- 33. Boston, Michael Kopech, RHP, Mount Pleasant (Tex.) HS
- 34. St. Louis, Jack Flaherty, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
"It's the most advanced high school pitcher I've ever seen in my entire career," Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "He has command like I've never seen before of his stuff."
Aiken's draft stock rose late last year when he struck out 10 in a gold medal-winning performance against Japan in the 18-and-under World Cup.
"We actually did find out on TV. We were kind of going back and forth," Aiken said in an interview on MLB Network. "It was a crazy moment. … This whole thing, it's crazy."
The Miami Marlins made it the first time high school pitchers were the top two picks in the draft when they selected Tyler Kolek, a hard-throwing right-hander from Shepherd High School in Texas.
Twenty pitchers were taken in the first round, tying the draft record set in 2001.
The Astros are the first team to select first in three consecutive drafts, having picked shortstop Carlos Correa in 2012 and right-hander Mark Appel last year. Aiken is in line to receive a huge contract. The allotted slot bonus for the top pick is nearly $8 million US.
"I'm just ready to move forward and see what the Astros have in store for me in the future," Aiken said. "I'm just really excited."
Jays take Hoffman, Pentecost
The Toronto Blue Jays had a pair of first-round selections. They chose East Carolina right-handed pitcher Jeff Hoffman ninth overall and Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost at No. 11.
Some considered Hoffman a potential No. 1 pick before he had elbow ligament replacement (Tommy John) surgery so he'll miss most or all of next season. Prior to getting hurt, Hoffman threw in the mid-90s with an excellent curveball.
Pentecost posted a .423 batting average this spring along with 23 doubles, nine home runs, 58 runs batted in and a 1.124 on-base-plus slugging percentage.
The six-foot-two backstop has hit .342 through three seasons at Kennesaw University in northwest Georgia, about 32 kilometres north of Atlanta. Pentecost, 21, was previously drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2011.
Toronto was granted the 11th pick Thursday after failing to sign pitcher Phil Bickford, whom they chose 10th overall a year ago out of Oaks Christian High School in California.
Another former Blue Jays draft pick, Vanderbilt left-hander Tyler Beede, went 14th overall to the San Francisco Giants on Thursday. Toronto took a chance and drafted him 21st in 2011 even though he had already committed to play baseball the following season at Vanderbilt University.
Beede reportedly turned down a signing bonus in excess of $2 million US from the Blue Jays.
Kolek, a six-foot-five, 230-pounder, has a fastball that sits in the high-90s and touched 100-102 miles per hour several times, causing many to compare him to some fellow Texas flamethrowers such as Nolan Ryan, Kerry Wood and Josh Beckett.
The Chicago White Sox selected North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon with the third overall pick. The six-foot-three, 235-pound junior was widely regarded as the top college pitcher available in the draft and had been in the mix to go No. 1 overall.
He followed up a dominant sophomore year — 10-3, 2.99 earned-run average, 184 strikeouts and 45 walks in 132 1/3 innings — with a solid but not spectacular junior campaign: 6-7, 2.01, 117 Ks, 31 BBs in 98 2/3 innings. Rodon has a fastball that sits in the mid- to low-90s, but gets up to 96-97 mph, and a devastating slider that sits in the mid-80s.
Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber went No. 4 overall to the Chicago Cubs as the first position player selected. The Hoosiers star is a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the best catcher in Division I, although he could move to third base or the outfield in the pros.
He has a powerful bat from the left side of plate, hitting .358 with 14 homers and 48 runs batted in and a .659 slugging percentage while leading the Hoosiers to the NCAA tournament. Schwarber's stock rose drastically in the last few weeks as he hit .469 with four HRs and 12 RBIs in the Big Ten tournament and NCAA regionals.
Nick Gordon, the son of former big league pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, went fifth overall to Minnesota. The Florida high school slick-fielding shortstop was the first of the seven prospects in attendance at MLB Network Studios to have his name called by commissioner Bud Selig, who is retiring in January and presiding over the draft for the final time.
After a few interviews, Gordon breathed a big sigh of relief and gave his father a huge hug.
"This is a proud moment. It's hard to describe," Tom Gordon said. "I have nothing but pride and pure joy for my boys."
Family bragging rights
Gordon, from Orlando's Olympia High School, also has some family bragging rights now: His father was a sixth-rounder by Kansas City in 1986, while his brother was a fourth-rounder by Los Angeles in 2008.
"We're pretty much the same player," Nick Gordon said of the brothers. "You know, he's got a little bit more speed than I do, I've got a little bit more pop than he does. But, you know, we model our game after each other."
A few other players followed in the footsteps of famous family members. Wichita State first baseman Casey Gillaspie went 20th overall to Tampa Bay, 17 spots ahead of where his brother Conor, the White Sox's third baseman, was picked in 2008.
"I can't really compare myself to him because he's in the big leagues," Casey said. "It was cool when it happened, but now I'm just ready and focused."
San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer was taken 21st by Cleveland. His brother, Kyle, was the fifth overall pick by Kansas City in 2012. With the next pick, Detroit took California high school outfielder Derek Hill, whose father Orsino was a first-rounder in January 1982 and is now a scout for the Dodgers.
California high school catcher Alex Jackson went sixth to Seattle, which intends to move him to the outfield. LSU righty Aaron Nola was the seventh overall selection by Philadelphia. Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland, a Colorado native, went No. 8 to the Rockies and said he's used to pitching in the thin Denver air and isn't afraid of it.
The New York Mets rounded out the top 10 picks by selecting Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto.
In the year of Tommy John surgery in baseball, two pitchers who recently had the operation were selected in the first 18 picks — a sign that teams are confident in the success rate of the procedure. Even though they'll likely be sidelined for 12 to 18 months, Hoffman and UNLV righty Erick Fedde (No. 18 to Washington) remained attractive prospects.
St. Louis wrapped up the first round of the draft, which is held over three days and 40 rounds, by selecting California high school righty Jack Flaherty at No. 34 — seven picks after taking Florida State right-hander Luke Weaver.
Toronto's Gareth Morgan was the first Canadian selected this year. The right-handed outfielder was drafted out of Blyth Academy by the Seattle Mariners, 74th overall.
"I'm honoured that the Mariners selected me and it's also very special to be the first Canadian to be taken in the draft," said Morgan from his home in Toronto where he was following the draft with his family. "I have worked very hard throughout my career for this moment and I'm excited for what the future holds."