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Draft provides surprises, encouraging signs for future

Urban Youth Academy, small schools and Puerto Rico represented well in 2013

NEW YORK -- The picks are in. Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft reached completion on Saturday, and more than 1,200 players were chosen. The draft's final day saw 30 rounds of players come off the board to begin their respective journeys.

Not all of those players will sign; some will enter the college ranks and some will return to school for a final season. But many of the players taken have found their entry to the pro ranks. Devonte German, the first player chosen on Saturday, will be one of the men with a difficult decision to make.

German, a right-handed prep pitcher drafted by the Houston Astros at the top of the 11th round, has committed to the University of Nevada but may be swayed to forgo college and turn pro. German, just 18 years old, expressed his ambivalence on his Twitter account @DevonteGerman.

"Feels great to be drafted even though it's not [where] I was expecting!" wrote German.

Pitching accounted for nearly 54 percent of the players taken in this draft, and right-handed pitchers were far and away the most popular selection (39 percent -- 475 of 1,216). Outfielders made up 15 percent (185 of 1,216) of the draftees, and 122 shortstops were selected over the three days.

Another interesting breakdown came by age. Fifty-six percent of the draftees (676 of 1,216) came from four-year universities, and 31 percent (383) came out of the high school ranks. Forty-nine percent (333 of 676) of the college draftees were juniors, and 42 percent (287) were fourth-year seniors.

Three traditional baseball hotbeds -- California, Texas and Florida -- combined for an amazing 39 percent of players drafted. California supplied nearly 18 percent of the draftees on its own, and after the top three states, only Georgia (3.9 percent) weighed in at more than 3.5 percent of the total.

Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy had a hugely satisfying draft. Two players affiliated with the academy in Compton, Calif. -- Dominic Smith and J.P. Crawford -- were selected in Thursday's first round, and another trio of players from the academy went in the second round.

Puerto Rico Baseball Academy also had six players drafted, setting a template for expectations from newer academies in New Orleans and Houston. Darrell Miller, Major League Baseball's vice president of youth and facility development, said it's a reflection of a lot of hard work by a lot of people.

"When you're in the middle of it, you're thinking, it's a lot of work," said Miller. "You're working a lot of hours and your staff is stressed out and it's hot. It's emotional because things happen and there's all this drama, and you're just hoping it works. And it does work. It's amazing that the formula works. Being there for the kids, being mentors and coaches. It's the epitome of 'It takes a village.' "

The Urban Youth Academy wasn't the only underdog celebrating success this weekend. Florida Gulf Coast University, which started a baseball program in 2001, had six players drafted this season. Two other schools a bit off the beaten path -- Dallas Baptist University and California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo -- combined to have 12 draftees.

The University of Arkansas produced 11 draftees, the most of any four-year college, and Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Fla., led high schools with five players selected. Louisana State University (nine) and the University of San Diego (eight) also distinguished themselves.

Two teams -- Detroit and Seattle -- were caught hoping to bottle a familiar bloodline. The Tigers drafted Ben Verlander, the younger brother of ace Justin Verlander, in the 14th round. The Mariners, took Justin Seager, brother of emerging third baseman Kyle Seager, in the 11th round.

And those weren't the only players with notable surnames. Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Hall-of-Famer Carl Yastrzemski, was taken in the 13th round by Baltimore. Two all-time greats of a more recent vintage -- Craig Biggio and Roger Clemens -- got to see their kids selected on Saturday.

Cavan Biggio, a prep second baseman, played for his dad at St. Thomas High School in Houston and was taken by Philadelphia in the 29th round. Kacy Clemens, a prep pitcher, was selected by the Astros, the team that employs his father as a special assistant to the general manager.

It was even stranger for Andy Pettitte and Jamie Moyer. Moyer, who never officially retired, got to see his son Dillon drafted by the Dodgers on Saturday. And Pettitte, still pitching at the ripe age of 40, had the honor of watching his team, the Yankees, draft his son, Joshua, out of a Texas high school.

The younger Pettitte said on Twitter Saturday that he plans to attend Baylor University, and he engaged in an exchange with young Clemens, who has committed to the University of Texas.

"Congrats bro! Glad you decided to compete in college like me!" wrote Clemens at his handle, @KClemens.

"Thanks bud! Congrats to you too man! See ya next year," replied Pettitte at @JPettitte.

Franklin Pierce University, a school with 2,280 enrollment that was named after the 14th President of the United States, had a noteworthy day Saturday. Four players from Franklin Pierce -- Trevor Graham, Kevin McGowan, Steve Hathaway and Zach Mathieu -- were selected on the draft's third day. That institution also had four draftees in 2011, and it set a school record (five) back in 2006.

Another small school, Cedarville University, entered the limelight this weekend. Twin brothers David and Ryan Ledbetter -- a third-round pick and a 19th-rounder, respectively -- became the first players in Cedaville's school history to be drafted. And the good news is that they won't be separated. The twins, both right-handed pitchers, were drafted by the Texas Rangers.

A different pair of twins, Justin and Jordan Parr, weren't quite as fortunate. Justin Parr was taken in the eighth round by Philadelphia on Friday, and Jordan went in the 15th round to Arizona Saturday. The latter twin will get to play in the same organization as his older brother, Josh, a 2010 draftee.

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for