SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Rarely has a baseball Draft made for better theater. The drama and suspense started early on the first day of MLB's First-Year Player Draft, which featured an eleventh-hour selection as the top overall pick and a highly touted college arm who fell down the board.
Houston shocked the industry by selecting prep infielder Carlos Correa with the first pick, and general manager Jeff Luhnow admitted that the Astros didn't settle on their choice until the final hour. And after Correa had been selected, a pick-by-pick vigil started for right-handed starter Mark Appel.
Appel had been expected by many analysts -- including MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo -- to be the top pick of the evening, but he didn't come off the Draft board until the eighth pick. And he went to a team, Pittsburgh, that had stockpiled high-caliber arms in each of the previous two Drafts.
The night belonged to Correa, though, who became the highest-drafted player in the rich and distinguished history of Puerto Rican baseball. Correa, who attended the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, said that his selection is a testament to hard work and an important milestone.
"It means a lot to me. It's history, man," said Correa. "I'm the first Puerto Rican to be selected with the first pick. I just feel happy. I'm only 17 years old, but I've just worked hard and my father was always there with me, helping me out and throwing with me every day. ... All the sacrifices pay off."
Houston hadn't picked first overall since taking Phil Nevin with the top pick in 1992. And prior to Correa -- who was selected with countryman and recent retiree Ivan Rodriguez in attendance -- the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico had been Ramon Castro with the No. 17 pick in 1994. Correa was also the highest-drafted Puerto Rican-born player since Jose Cruz Jr., who was drafted third out of Rice University in 1995.
Prep players dominated the night, and seven of the top 13 selections were high school hitters. Twelve prep hitters were taken in the first 31 picks, and 13 pitchers were taken -- five from high school and eight from the college ranks. There were no junior college players taken among the top 31 picks.
The state of Florida also had a big night on Monday, making up six of the Draft's first 31 players. Three college players -- two from the University of Florida and one from Florida State -- were included in that group, and so were three prep stars from one of the nation's most bountiful states.
The Twins picked after Houston, and they snapped up one of the Draft's most electrifying talents in outfielder Byron Buxton. Buxton, a former prep football star, is regarded as a potential two-way talent in baseball, and he can throw a fastball that reportedly reaches as high as 99 mph.
Minnesota liked Buxton as a position player, though, and he'll join an organization that has produced outfielders such as Denard Span, Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks in recent seasons. Buxton had been in the mix to be the Draft's first selection, and the Twins assured that he wouldn't drop too far.
The Mariners nabbed power-hitting catcher Mike Zunino out of University of Florida with the third pick, a choice that preceded the Draft's first run on pitching. Zunino, the reigning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, bears a similar pedigree to Jeff Clement, Seattle's first pick in 2005.
From there, the drama intensified around Appel. Baltimore bypassed the early favorite to select right-hander Kevin Gausman out of Louisiana State University. Gausman logged an 11-1 record with a 2.72 ERA this year, and he struck out nearly five times as many batters (128) as he walked (27).
Kansas City followed by taking Kyle Zimmer -- a right-handed pitcher out of the University of San Francisco -- with the fifth overall pick. Zimmer, a junior from La Jolla, Calif., logged a 5-3 record with a 2.85 ERA in 13 starts this season, and he registered 104 strikeouts against just 17 walks this season.
The Cubs also bypassed Appel and went back to the prep well with the sixth overall pick, drafting outfielder Albert Almora out of Mater Academy in Hialeah, Fla. Almora is regarded as a skilled all-around talent with an off-the-charts work ethic that makes his ability play up a notch or two.
The Padres continued the prep theme by selecting left-handed pitcher Max Fried out of Harvard Westlake High School in California with the seventh pick in the Draft. Fried -- who played on the same team as fellow prospect Lucas Giolito -- will have to be swayed out of a commitment to UCLA.
Appel finally went off the board with the eighth overall selection, and he'll join Pittsburgh's arm-heavy collection of prospects. The Pirates drafted Gerrit Cole out of UCLA with the top selection last season, and one year before that, they took Jameson Taillon with the second choice in the Draft.
Appel chose not to address the media on Monday, opting instead to release an official statement.
"I'm currently concentrating on winning a national championship and finishing my academic endeavors at Stanford," he said. "I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time."
The top 10 concluded with Miami selecting southpaw Andrew Heaney out of Oklahoma State and Colorado picking prep outfielder David Dahl. The top 10 was evenly split with five pitchers and five position players, and also with five prep players and five from four-year universities.
The Draft's first notable bloodline came with the 12th overall selection, when the Mets selected prep shortstop Gavin Cecchini. Cecchini's older brother, Garin, had been drafted by Boston with a fourth-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, setting the precedent for Gavin.
The younger Cecchini attended a game at Citi Field last week and got to meet several of his prospective future teammates, and he said he wasn't upset that he won't be joining his brother.
"They picked really low and I knew I was probably going to be off the board by then," he said. "If the Mets would've passed me and other team's would've passed me and I would've gotten picked by Boston, it would've been awesome to play with my brother. But I want to be here in New York."
Another one of the Draft's attendees -- prep outfielder Courtney Hawkins -- was picked by the White Sox with the 13th selection and punctuated the moment with a back-flip. Cincinnati followed that pick by nabbing prep pitcher Nick Travieso, and Cleveland took power-hitting outfielder Tyler Naquin.
Giolito, sidelined for much of his senior season by a strained ligament in his pitching elbow, was selected 16th overall by Washington. Prior to his injury, Giolito was thought to have a chance to be the first high-school right-hander ever selected with the top pick in the First-Year Player Draft.
Giolito and Fried represented the only prep teammates taken in this year's Draft. Two universities -- Florida and Texas A&M -- also had a pair of players selected. Marcus Stroman didn't go until the 22nd pick, but he still became the first player out of Duke to ever be selected in the first round.
Four teams -- St. Louis, Toronto, Milwaukee and Boston -- had more than one pick in the first round. The Cardinals took two college talents, pitcher Michael Wacha and outfielder James Ramsey. The Blue Jays nabbed Stroman and outfielder D.J. Davis out of a Mississippi high school.
Milwaukee selected back-to-back at No. 27 and No. 28, and came away with prep catcher Clint Coulter and college outfielder Victor Roache. The Red Sox, meanwhile, took college shortstop Deven Marrero -- brother of Washington prospect Chris Marrero -- and college pitcher Brian Johnson.
Corey Seager, brother of Seattle infielder Kyle Seager, was taken in the first round by the Dodgers. The compensation round saw three more picks with big-league bloodlines. Lance McCullers Jr. -- son of former big-leaguer and namesake Lance McCullers -- was taken by the Astros with the 41st overall pick.
Luke Bard, brother of Boston pitcher Daniel Bard, was drafted by Minnesota one pick later. Jesmuel Valentin, son of former big-leaguer Jose Valentin, helped bring the Draft full-circle later in the round when he was selected by the Dodgers. Valentin, like Correa, played prep ball at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.