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6 key storylines from Day 1 of MLB Draft

@feinsand
June 4, 2019

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The 2019 MLB Draft got underway Monday night in Studio 42 at MLB Network, with the 30 clubs combining for 78 picks. There were Hall of Famers in attendance -- Randy Johnson, Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith were here to represent the D-backs, Cubs and Giants, respectively

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The 2019 MLB Draft got underway Monday night in Studio 42 at MLB Network, with the 30 clubs combining for 78 picks.

There were Hall of Famers in attendance -- Randy Johnson, Ryne Sandberg and Lee Smith were here to represent the D-backs, Cubs and Giants, respectively -- as were more than a dozen former All-Stars including Jim Kaat (Twins), Carlos Baerga (Indians), Nick Swisher (Yankees), and Brian Roberts (Orioles).

Draft Tracker: Complete pick-by-pick coverage

But the night was all about the kids, many of whom have dreamed of this moment since they first picked up a bat or put on a glove.

Here are six key storylines from Day 1 of the Draft:

1) Pitching drought

Monday’s Draft marked the first time that no pitchers were selected in the first six picks, as a catcher, two shortstops, two outfielders and a first baseman made up the opening half-dozen picks.

The first pitcher taken was Texas Christian University left-hander Nick Lodolo, who went to the Reds at No. 7. The next pitcher went at No. 11 (West Virginia righty Alek Manoah, selected by the Blue Jays), then another five position players were taken through pick No. 16. The pitching run finally came beginning with No. 17, when the Nationals selected 6-foot-8 right-hander Jackson Rutledge from San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College, one of the four players who attended the Draft at MLB Network’s studio.

“It’s everything you dream of,” Rutledge said. “I tried to put it in the back of my mind as much as I could, but when you get there, it all gets real. Hearing my name, I got goosebumps.”

There were 22 position players and 10 pitchers taken in the first round, though only three of those hurlers were high schoolers. That’s the fewest number of high school pitchers selected in the first round since 2008, when only two were taken.

2) Like father, like son

Bobby Witt Jr. hasn’t played an inning of professional ball, but he made history at Monday night’s Draft.

When the Royals selected the shortstop out of Colleyville (Texas) Heritage High School with the No. 2 overall pick, Witt and his father -- former big league pitcher Bobby Witt Sr. -- became the highest-selected father-son pairing in the Draft’s history.

“He’s been there always for me growing up, throwing me BP and everything,” the younger Witt said. “It’s been a blessing to have him in my life -- and now I have him beat.”

Highest drafted father-son duos

Witt Sr. was a right-handed pitcher and the Rangers’ first-round pick in 1985, going No. 3 overall. With a combined pick number of 5, the Witts surpassed Tom and Ben Grieve as the top dogs of father-son combos.

Tom Grieve was taken with the No. 6 selection by the Washington Senators in 1966, while Ben was drafted by the Oakland Athletics with the No. 2 overall pick in 1994, a combination of 8.

Only nine father-son combos have been drafted in the first round, one of which was Steve and Nick Swisher. The latter was on hand Monday to represent the Yankees, and he knew exactly what Witt was feeling when he heard his name called.

“To be able to share that accomplishment for myself with my best friend, my hero, my idol, my father, that’s not something a lot of people can say; in fact, there’s only nine of us that can do that,” said Swisher, who was Oakland’s No. 16 pick in 2002. His dad? He went No. 21 to the White Sox in 1973. “Bobby said he got his dad by one pick; I got my dad by five picks. It’s so much fun to be able to talk trash.”

3) Sign of the sign?

The Yankees’ selection of shortstop Anthony Volpe with the No. 30 pick raised some eyebrows, as the New Jersey high schooler is committed to play for Vanderbilt along with his Delbarton Prep teammate Jack Leiter, son of former big league pitcher Al Leiter.

The Yankees loved Volpe’s tools: He can hit gap to gap, has shown some power potential, runs the bases well and his makeup is off the charts. The biggest question about Volpe is his signability, but sources say the Yankees are confident they can sign the 18-year-old despite the fact that Vanderbilt commits have generally stayed true and made their way to campus instead of signing in recent years. A couple of other Vandy commits who were selected on Monday were Kendall Williams, a righty from IMG Academy in Florida (52nd overall, Blue Jays), and Trejyn Fletcher, an outfielder from Deering (Maine) HS, who went to the Cardinals with the 58th overall pick.

Leiter, who was not selected Monday night, is expected to attend Vanderbilt rather than sign with a professional team. Whether Volpe, Williams and Fletcher join him there remains to be seen.

4) Night of their lives

Three of the four players who attended the Draft at MLB Network were selected in the first round: Third baseman Brett Baty went to the Mets at No. 12; righty Jackson Rutledge to the Nationals at No. 17; and righty Daniel Espino to the Indians at No. 24.

Brennan Malone watched the first round come and go without hearing his name called, but the 18-year-old right-hander out of IMG Academy in Florida didn’t have to wait much longer. The D-backs took him with the No. 33 pick, the first of two compensation picks Arizona received for the loss of Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock via free agency.

“It definitely was worth it; I love this organization and I’m ready to get started,” Malone said. “I was a little anxious, a little nervous, but it all paid off. I’m happy where I am.”

The first 32 players selected heard their names read by Rob Manfred, and although Malone wasn’t announced by the Commissioner, he was pretty excited to hear his name called by the greatest pitcher in his new organization’s history: Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.

“It’s kind of crazy; like a dream, almost,” Malone said. “To have a pitcher of his caliber, it’s crazy.”

5) Seventh heaven

Speaking of the D-backs, Arizona was the busiest team Monday night, getting its money’s worth out of the Big Unit, who introduced five selections. The club had seven of the first 75 picks, starting with No. 16, which the D-backs used on outfielder Corbin Carroll from Lakeside High School in Seattle.

At No. 26 (a compensatory pick for not signing first rounder Matt McLain last year), Arizona selected southpaw Blake Walston from New Hanover High School in Wilmington, N.C. Malone was next at 33, followed by Ball State righty Drey Jameson at 34.

Oregon righty Ryne Nelson (No. 56), Michigan lefty Tommy Henry (No. 74) and Arkansas outfielder Dominic Fletcher (No. 75) rounded out the day’s picks for the D-backs, who chose outfielders with their first and last selections of the evening, sandwiching them around five pitchers.

As a result of having 15 picks in the first 10 rounds, Arizona’s bonus pool is north of $16 million, the most of any club. This gives the D-backs the ability to potentially make some aggressive offers to players who are considered “tough signs.” Walston, a projectable lefty with a commitment to a strong baseball program in his home state (N.C. State) is one such example.

The last club with this kind of Draft-pick bonanza was the Rays back in 2011, when they had 12 picks in the first two rounds. While that bounty did not deliver the kind of depth they might have hoped for, they did get lefty Blake Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young winner, with the 52nd overall pick.

6) Coming up short

The 2019 Draft made more history by the end of Round 1 as a record nine shortstops were selected among the first 30 picks.

Witt Jr. was the first shortstop selected, followed by C.J. Abrams (Padres, No. 6). The next shortstop taken was Keoni Cavaco (Twins, No. 13), sparking a run of three straight shortstops that included Bryson Stott (Phillies, No. 14) and Will Wilson (Angels, No. 15).

Four more shortstops went before the end of the first round: No. 21 Braden Shewmake (Braves, No. 21), Greg Jones (Rays, No. 22), Logan Davidson (Athletics, No. 29) and Anthony Volpe (Yankees, No. 30).

The previous record for shortstops selected in the first round was eight, last done in 2015, when Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers were all drafted as shortstops with the first three picks of the opening round.

The Draft continues Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m.

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.