Bregman, Swanson forever linked by Draft

Top two picks from 2015 face off in World Series

October 26th, 2021

HOUSTON -- One of the reasons Astros third baseman wears jersey No. 2 stems from where he was taken in the 2015 MLB Draft. Bregman, as you may have guessed, was selected second overall by the Astros, one spot behind , who was taken first overall by the D-backs. And it didn’t sit too well with him at the time.

Bregman firmly believed he was the best player in the Draft, which wasn’t a slight on Swanson. The two had competed together for the previous three seasons in the SEC -- Bregman a shortstop with LSU, Swanson a shortstop with Vanderbilt -- and were even teammates on Team USA two summers earlier and later at the 2016 Futures Game. Swanson was considered the best player in the Draft by some teams and Bregman by others.

The Astros, who were awarded the No. 2 overall pick after not being able to sign No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken in 2014, were thrilled to land Bregman, a shortstop they planned to move to third base because they had a young star at short named Carlos Correa. In fact, on the day Correa made his Major League debut in Chicago, the Astros took Bregman with their top pick.

“Hey Correa, they drafted your replacement,” Astros outfielder George Springer joked in the clubhouse before a game against the White Sox.

Forever linked, Swanson and Bregman -- friends, former teammates and college foes -- are now facing off against each other for a World Series championship with Bregman’s Astros meeting Swanson’s Braves in Game 1 of the Fall Classic on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park.

“He plays amazing defense at shortstop and he’s a good teammate,” Bregman said. “He wants to win and wants to compete.”

Orioles general manager Mike Elias, who was the Astros’ scouting director in 2015, said the Astros had Bregman at No. 1 on their board heading into the Draft. The talk in scouting circles was that the D-backs were zeroing in on Swanson, meaning the Astros would get their top choice. It didn’t matter that Bregman played shortstop because they felt he could move to another position with ease.

“Since the College Classic at Minute Maid Park [where LSU played in March 2015], we had some scouting personnel that were immediately infatuated with him,” Elias said. “Really, he was our guy from the middle of the spring [and] forward. We were a little higher on Alex Bregman than the publications. We like Dansby Swanson, but we did have Alex Bregman over him on our board.”

Bregman made the move to third base in the Minor Leagues and was playing alongside Correa a little more than a year later. The two have anchored one of baseball’s most accomplished infields of the last few years, along with second baseman Jose Altuve and first baseman Yuli Gurriel.

Along the way, Bregman posted two top five AL Most Valuable Player finishes, won a Silver Slugger and is a two-time All-Star. He’s played 15 fewer career regular-season games than Swanson but has a higher OPS+ (138 to 89) and bWAR (26.1 to 9.1). Bregman was the first player from the 2015 Draft to make his debut -- 23 days before Swanson.

“It’s definitely a unique thing just competing against each other in college,” Swanson said. “I feel like whenever we’ve competed against one another, it’s been at an extremely high level just in terms of the teams we were both on and the stages in which we were playing. It seems like the same story is true now in the World Series and playing against one another. Just grateful to be able to have the opportunity, obviously, and looking forward to taking advantage of this opportunity.”

Swanson spent only five months with Arizona before being traded to the Braves with Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair for pitcher Shelby Miller. Swanson struggled his first couple of years before progressing into a solid shortstop on a Braves team that’s won four consecutive NL East titles. This year, he slashed .248/.311/.449 with 27 homers and 88 RBIs in 160 games in the regular season.

“One thing I have a lot of admiration for him about is taking an extra base,” Bregman said. “I've seen it a lot since he's been in the big leagues. A ball that everyone thinks is a single, he turns into a double. He's a winning baseball player, and he won a national championship at Vanderbilt. He's a really good teammate playing with him, and he's a guy that you want on a winning team.”

It didn’t take Bregman long to understand being taken No. 2 overall by the Astros turned out quite well. He’s played in five consecutive AL Championship Series and will be appearing in his third World Series. His 12 career postseason homers are tied with Atlanta’s Joc Pederson for 10th most among active players.

He’s comfortable enough in his career achievements that being taken No. 2 overall doesn’t bother him much anymore, though his jersey number is always serving as a reminder.

“More so than anything, he’s had an amazing career and I feel like we’ve done really well here, as well,” Bregman said. “It’s honestly really cool to be here.”