D-backs pick Swanson as Draft's top prize
Key to Vanderbilt's '14 College World Series title, shortstop rises to occasion
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It would be hard for a college baseball player to have a better day than the one Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson had on Monday.
The junior shortstop homered and doubled off one of the nation's top pitchers in Tyler Jay to help lead the Commodores past Illinois in the Super Regional final. Then, as he and his teammates were celebrating their return to the College World Series with an Omaha-bound dogpile, he was joined by his family on the field and they found out he was selected No. 1 overall by the D-backs by watching the MLB Draft live on the At Bat app on his mom's iPhone.
"This day definitely couldn't have been scripted any better," said Swanson, whose special moment was captured on video and went viral on social media.
"We had the dogpile and then pretty much I'd say about two, three minutes honestly," Swanson said when asked how long it was after the game before he got the news. "Then my family rushed out on the field, and I was able to watch it on the iPhone right there on the field with all my guys surrounding me, so it was pretty awesome."
"It was a perfect stage for him," D-backs scouting director Deric Ladnier said. "Everybody got a chance, and for this town and this organization to be able to witness what we just selected live basically is pretty special."
Swanson is regarded as the top college position player in this Draft class after a strong junior year for the defending national champion Commodores.
Ladnier and senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson had pretty much agreed on the selection of Swanson a month ago, but out of respect for the process, they allowed everyone to have their say in the team's Draft room over the past 10 days.
"As we whittled it down, we basically had the same type of support that he and I had as we decided that this is our pick," Ladnier said. "And now everybody else supporting it [makes it] a perfect pick for the organization."
Swanson -- who played second base in 2014, when Vandy won the College World Series -- made a seamless transition to shortstop this season, and scouts believe he has the quickness and arm strength to remain at shortstop. Swanson is the first college shortstop to be taken first overall since the Padres drafted Brown's Bill Almon at No. 1 in 1974.
"Major League shortstops are very difficult to find," Ladnier said. "The other part of it are the intangibles that this player brings to the field every day. He's got the character; he's got the makeup; he's a winner, all things that you want to build an organization with. ... We just thought it was a perfect fit for this organization, where we are, where we're headed, and we fully expect him to continue his journey and be a Diamondback soon."
The D-backs spoke with Swanson on Monday morning, but they did not tell him they had decided on him for the top pick. Arizona will not begin official contract negotiations until after Vanderbilt has finished its season. The recommended slot value for the first overall pick is $8,616,900.
"We want to win another national championship," Swanson said. "We have business to attend to, and all the professional stuff can wait until this season is over, because we want to win again. So it shouldn't be hard to refocus ourselves back to where we want to be."
In the ninth inning of a NCAA Tournament game against Indiana on May 30, Swanson showed his athleticism and all-around ability. While he is not considered a power hitter, Swanson hit a two-run homer in the top of the frame to give the Commodores a 6-4 lead. Then, in the bottom of the frame, he made a backhanded play on the grass behind short and made a jump throw to first to nail the batter.
In his first 64 games this year, Swanson is hitting .348 with 22 doubles, six triples, 14 homers and 61 RBIs.
Swanson has developed a reputation for playing the best at the most crucial times, as his exploits in the game against Indiana showed, as well as the fact that he won Most Outstanding Player honors at last year's College World Series. It's the work he puts in before the games that makes the difference.
"When I get in those moments it feels like I've done it a thousand times and I'm just able to be comfortable and relaxed," Swanson said.
Swanson becomes the second No. 1 overall pick in D-backs history, joining Justin Upton, who was selected as a high school shortstop in 2005.
It is believed that Arizona also gave serious consideration to Vandy right-hander Carson Fulmer, UC-Santa Barbara right-hander Dillon Tate, Jay and high school catcher Tyler Stephenson, among others.
The D-backs wrapped up their first day of the Draft by selecting TCU left-handed pitcher Alex Young in Round 2, 43rd overall.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. MST, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.