August 15, 2022

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7:23 PM ET LOS ANGELES — The Baltimore Orioles made highschool shortstop Jackson Holliday the...

7:23 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — The Baltimore Orioles made highschool shortstop Jackson Holliday the primary choice in Main League Baseball’s draft on Sunday, however the largest shock got here with the No. Three total choose, because the Texas Rangers chosen Kumar Rocker, the extremely touted pitching prospect who famously didn’t signal with the New York Mets final season.

Rocker now joins his former Vanderbilt teammate Jack Leiter, who was picked second total by the Rangers final yr.

Druw Jones, the son of five-time All-Star Andruw Jones, went second total on Sunday to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Rocker, 22, was chosen 10th total final summer season, however the Mets in the end didn’t supply a contract after some considerations along with his medicals. Somewhat than return to Vanderbilt, Rocker made 5 appearances for the Tri-Metropolis ValleyCats of the unbiased Frontier League, posting a 1.35 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 4 walks in 20 innings whereas reportedly reaching 98 mph along with his fastball. He was anticipated to go late within the first spherical, however the Rangers clearly see sufficient upside to have taken him excessive in a draft that doesn’t boast a lot pitching.

The Rangers are anticipated to have the ability to signal Rocker for about $2 million lower than the $7.59 million that’s designated for the No. Three total choose, sources advised ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Rangers normal supervisor Chris Younger mentioned the group is “extraordinarily comfy with the medical evaluation.”

“Kumar’s threat is on the medical; we acknowledge that, however we’re comfy with what we have seen,” Younger added. “That is an elite competitor, an unbelievably robust, robust person who, should you discuss to anyone who’s been round him, he’s only a winner. We’re comfy with the medical, we’re enthusiastic about the place he is bodily and we’re trying ahead to an ideal future with the Texas Rangers.”

Rocker was named the Most Excellent Participant within the 2019 School World Collection and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award in 2021 alongside Leiter, main Division I with 14 wins and tying Leiter for the lead with 179 strikeouts whereas including a 2.73 ERA in 122 innings. (Arkansas pitcher Kevin Kopps gained the 2021 Golden Spikes Award.) Rocker underwent a shoulder process shortly thereafter, in September 2021, however the process was thought of minor and didn’t contain his rotator cuff or his labrum.

Rocker spent the subsequent 10 months attempting to show himself anew, however he mentioned he at all times believed he could be a first-round choose once more.

“I feel my expertise speaks for itself,” Rocker mentioned on a video convention.

Requested if he has an added chip on his shoulder based mostly on what he went via final yr, Rocker mentioned: “I would not essentially name it a chip on my shoulder, however I’ve renewed motivation transferring ahead simply to assault my work at a unique fee, another way.”

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Holliday, the son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, is an elite hitter who made vital strides in a number of elements of his recreation throughout his senior yr at Stillwater Excessive Faculty in Oklahoma. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound left-handed hitter completed his senior season with a .685 batting common and was named the Baseball America Excessive Faculty Participant of the 12 months.

Holliday beforehand dedicated to Oklahoma State, the place his uncle, Josh, is the top coach, however he will now probably enterprise immediately into skilled baseball, the place his bettering quickness and arm power are anticipated to maintain him at shortstop. Holliday’s calling card, nonetheless, is his hitting. The 18-year-old already has a sophisticated strategy within the batter’s field, having collected 89 hits in 41 video games final season and breaking the highschool report beforehand held by Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto.

“I sort of discovered as they had been saying it,” Holliday mentioned of realizing he could be the primary participant drafted. “That was actually cool. My dad did not actually inform me. He was kinda on the telephone, after which he’s like, ‘All proper, you are simply gonna discover out.’ That was actually, actually neat and one thing that I will most likely always remember. I did not realize it was a chance, to be trustworthy, going into the highschool season. I simply needed to assist my group win and hopefully put myself in place heading into in the present day.”

There was loads of uncertainty about whom the Orioles would take No. 1 total, with Jones, Georgia highschool center infielder Termarr Johnson and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee — picked eighth total to the Minnesota Twins — among the many rumored choices. Orioles normal supervisor Mike Elias likened it to “deciding what to order in a five-star restaurant.”

“This was an excellent class,” Elias mentioned. “We boiled it down to 5 gamers. We had advocates and rationale for taking any one of many 5 gamers; however in the end, you are solely allowed one in all them, and we picked our favourite one.”

Jones, a Vanderbilt commit, is a premium defensive middle fielder with five-tool potential, similar to his father. The youthful Jones stands 6-foot-Four and 180 kilos, and he is coming off successful the Gatorade Georgia Baseball Participant of the 12 months Award whereas main Wesleyan Faculty to the Georgia Class A non-public college state championship.

Jones is arguably the most effective defender, at any place, on this draft and has displayed each elite foot pace and bat pace on the showcase circuit. His swing nonetheless is not a completed product — he is 18, in spite of everything — however he has frequently improved upon his plate self-discipline, and extra uncooked energy will come as he fills out his body. Jones batted .570 with 13 dwelling runs, 32 stolen bases and a 1.702 OPS in his senior yr.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates chosen Johnson at No. 4, and the Washington Nationals adopted with Florida highschool outfielder Elijah Inexperienced at No. 5, making this solely the second time in draft historical past that top college place gamers went with 4 of the primary 5 picks.

The remainder of the highest 10 included LSU infielder/outfielder Jacob Berry (sixth to the Miami Marlins), Oklahoma pitcher Cade Horton (seventh to the Chicago Cubs), Virginia Tech outfielder Gavin Cross (ninth to the Kansas City Royals) and Gonzaga pitcher Gabriel Hughes (10th to the Colorado Rockies).

Johnson, 18, is taken into account the most effective hitter on this draft and is arguably one of many biggest highschool hitters in historical past, his bat drawing comparisons to the likes of Rafael Devers, Jose Ramirez, Wade Boggs and Vladimir Guerrero. A 5-foot-10, 175-pound left-handed hitter, Johnson already possesses the bat pace, energy and hand-eye coordination that might finally make him a constant 30-homer risk within the main leagues. Johnson, an Arizona State commit, performed shortstop in highschool however is deemed a greater match at second base on the skilled stage.

“The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired the most effective participant within the draft,” Johnson mentioned from the location of the draft at L.A. Reside. “We gon’ make it occur.”

Inexperienced is the son of former Professional Bowl NFL tight finish Eric Green. The youthful Inexperienced, 18, is a prototypical risk-reward sort who many thought would possibly slip within the first spherical of the draft. He stands 6-foot-Three and 225 kilos, and he boasts the elite energy, pace and arm power that had him on a trajectory to develop right into a slam-dunk No. 1 total choose heading into 2021. However Inexperienced has produced some worrying swing-and-miss charges whereas enjoying for IMG Academy in Florida the previous two springs, although he in the end slashed .462/.592/1.000 in 25 highschool video games this season.

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The Orioles had the No. 1 total choose for the second time in 4 years, after drafting Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman in 2019, and they’re simply beginning to emerge from a chronic rebuild as gamers matriculate via their system.

The Orioles, with Rutschman now within the majors, just lately went on a 10-game successful streak to vault into the American League wild-card race regardless of enjoying within the trade’s most tough division. In 5 seasons prior, they misplaced a major-league-worst 64% of their video games. Every of their previous 4 first-round picks was a collegiate place participant, with Baltimore drafting, in descending order: outfielder Colton Cowser (fifth total in 2021), outfielder Heston Kjerstad (second in 2020), shortstop Jordan Westburg (30th in 2020) and Rutschman.

The draft will probably be solely 20 rounds lengthy for the second straight yr (usually, it is 40 rounds), and the Orioles entered it with the second-largest bonus pool in historical past at $16.9 million. The Mets are the one group with two choices throughout the high 30, one in all which is compensation for not signing Rocker final yr; and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the one group with zero, a penalty for the quantity at which they exceeded final yr’s luxurious tax threshold. This yr’s No. 1 total choose comes with a slot worth of $8.84 million, however the Orioles have gone below slot with their previous two first-round picks to be able to use the financial savings elsewhere within the draft.

Every choice throughout the first 10 rounds of the draft comes with an assigned worth. Groups are principally free to ration out the totality of their bonus pool as they please however face overage taxes in the event that they exceed their allotted quantities. First-round picks start to be taken away if groups outspend their allotted quantities by greater than 5%. Groups have outspent their allotments 172 occasions within the 10 drafts with bonus swimming pools however by no means by greater than 5%, in line with MLB.com.

The primary three pitchers taken on this yr’s draft — Rocker, Horton and Hughes — all went greater than lots of the draft prognosticators had them ranked from a expertise perspective, a nod to the relative lack of top-shelf pitching expertise on this yr’s draft. The San Diego Padres later took an opportunity with right-hander Dylan Lesko with the No. 15 choose. Lesko, out of Buford Excessive Faculty in Georgia, grew to become the primary junior ever to be named the Gatorade Nationwide Baseball Participant of the 12 months in 2021, however he suffered an elbow harm in April and underwent Tommy John surgical procedure.

The Padres have traditionally taken high-upside possibilities like Lesko below president of baseball operations A.J. Preller.