Nation's 2-way gems elevate Day 1 of Draft

Six of first 14 picks achieve stardom with versatility en route to pro ball

June 13th, 2017

The MLB Draft is all about dreaming big, both for teams and the players they select.
For some, those dreams include getting on a big league mound or in a Major League batter's box. For others, it's both.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
The theme of Day 1 of the 2017 Draft on Monday night was versatility, and while it's unlikely that many -- if any -- of the Draft's two-way stars will make a name for themselves both on the mound and at the plate, the mere fact that it could happen is notable in and of itself.
Louisville's Brendan McKay, a left-hander and first baseman, may have the best shot at becoming such a two-way threat. McKay, who had been projected as a potential No. 1 pick by the Twins, is considered the best two-way Draft prospect since Hall of Famer Dave Winfield went fourth overall to the Padres in 1973. Fittingly, McKay went fourth overall to the Rays, while Royce Lewis, a shortstop from JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., went to Minnesota with the No. 1 overall pick.

• Twins pick 'elite athlete' Lewis No. 1 overall
No player had been announced as a two-way player at the time he was drafted since , who was listed as both a pitcher and third baseman when the Angels took him with the No. 18 pick in 2010. The Rays announced McKay as a first baseman, though both the team and the player acknowledged that they're open to the possibility of him pitching, too.

"At this point, our plan is to continue to let him explore that," said Erik Neander, the Rays' senior vice president of baseball operations. "He's probably the first guy in as long as we can remember that has qualified on both sides of the ball to do this. We're excited to get him in here and explore it further and do it responsibly, but to make the most of his talent and the opportunity."

Many projections had McKay going in the top five as either a hitter or a pitcher, so the idea that he could try his hand at both sides as a professional may not be so far-fetched.
"I think it can add a whole new level to baseball of having two guys in one that can do both and add a lot of potential to your team in many ways," McKay said.
Six of the first 14 players selected were two-way stars at either the high school or college level, including McKay and No. 2 overall pick Hunter Greene, MLB Pipeline's top Draft prospect entering the event.
• Reds take star HS RHP Greene at No. 2
Greene has garnered attention as both a right-handed pitcher and a shortstop, but the Reds drafted him as a pitcher, clearly enamored with his brilliant arm.

The 17-year-old Greene, however, didn't sound like a kid ready to give up on the two-way dream just yet.

"I still love doing both," Greene said. "I think the ballclub is excited for getting two players for one. We'll see how it works out."
Dick Williams, the Reds' president of baseball operations and general manager, said the club would "leave the door open" for Greene to pursue a future at both spots.

"As I've said many times, playing at the highest level is very difficult and I just wouldn't ever want somebody to try to focus on both to the detriment of one," Williams said. "We think Hunter's got a great chance to be a Major Leaguer as a pitcher. We think the potential is there as a position player. I think at first, we will focus on pitching and allow him to take at-bats. We'll keep the door open to playing the field. This is a very unique situation, something we've never been confronted with before.
"We're thrilled to have the opportunity to go through this with Hunter. I will say we think the elite talent is there both ways, but pitching will be the first focus, this summer in particular. We want to make sure he builds up some more innings, and that will be the focus. While he's in the process of building up innings, I think he can get at-bats. I don't think it's realistic to ask him to play the field, get at-bats and try to pitch, all this summer. We won't do that."

The other four two-way stars drafted among the first 14 picks were MacKenzie Gore (No. 3, Padres), Adam Haseley (No. 8, Phillies), Shane Baz (No. 12, Pirates) and Nick Pratto (No. 14, Royals).

"They're doubling down on their bet," said Rick Ankiel, who tasted success as both a pitcher and an outfielder during his 11-year career -- though never at the same time. "If it doesn't work one way, they can go the other way."
This two-way mix speaks to the kind of athleticism MLB teams covet these days, and it sets the stage for the arrival of Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese sensation who has the talent to pitch and hit at the Major Leagues upon his arrival, which could come as soon as this offseason.

With Monday's action complete, the Draft will continue today with Rounds 3-10. The preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Earlier Monday, the Twins seemed to be leaning toward taking McKay with the No. 1 pick. After talking dollars with the two-way star, Minnesota ultimately decided to select Lewis.
The move evoked memories of the last time the Twins had the top pick, when they opted for Joe Mauer as the top pick of the 2001 Draft rather than the more highly touted -- and more expensive -- Mark Prior.
The Twins are expected to sign Lewis for under the slot value of $7,770,700, which they can use on later picks, including their selections at Nos. 35 (Mississippi State outfielder Brent Rooker) and 37 (prep right-hander Landon Leach).
But while Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff admitted that money played a role in the decision, he stressed that Lewis had been on the club's radar for quite some time.
"Royce is one of the elite athletes and makeup/intangible [players] available in any Draft," Radcliff said. "We see him as an impact player on both sides of the ball. He also has a unique ability to impact the clubhouse and the locker room and the community. He's got that 'it factor' that a No. 1 pick needs."
McKay said he was not disappointed about not being taken with the top pick.
"They had offered a number that we felt that we could get a better offer from another team or what not, and it ultimately came down to another team was able to give a better offer, so we went with that and I'm happy things worked out," McKay said. "You get a good deal and a great organization to work with."
While players around the country watched on and MLB Network as their names were called Monday night, four young men attended the Draft in Studio 42 with their families, getting a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Greene, Jo Adell, Trevor Rogers and Bubba Thompson -- all high schoolers -- were camped out in the third-base dugout as they waited to learn their Draft fate.

Greene didn't have to wait long, ultimately going second overall. The Studio 42 audience erupted with delight as Greene slipped into his Reds jersey and exchanged a laugh at the podium with Commissioner Rob Manfred.
"He was complimenting me about my suit and my whole outfit," Greene said. "It was really cool. Mr. Manfred is awesome; I'm glad I was able to share that moment with him."
Adell, an outfielder from Ballard High School (Louisville, Ky.) became the second of the four players present at the Draft to be taken, going No. 10 to the Angels.

"I definitely didn't want to miss out on this," Adell said of his decision to attend the Draft.
Rogers, a left-hander from Carlsbad (N.M.) High School and the cousin of former Marlins outfielder , went 13th to Miami. The decision to attend the Draft was an easy one for Rogers, who saw it as the perfect gift for his father, Mike, who was celebrating his birthday on Monday.
"My heart was beating every step of the way," Rogers said. "I knew it was coming eventually, and it finally came. I couldn't be happier."

That left Thompson as the last undrafted player in the dugout. The outfielder from McGill-Toolen High School in Theodore, Ala., heard a dozen more names called as he waited to be taken, each passing pick making the night a little longer.
The Rangers finally ended Thompson's wait, taking him with the No. 26 pick. The room lit up with applause, relieved that the youngster could slip on a jersey and join the other three for a group photo.
"It was worth the wait," Thompson said. "It was getting down to the wire, but I still had faith. My goal was to be a first-rounder, and I still got that."
• With the No. 18 pick, the Tigers drafted University of Florida right-hander Alex Faedo, though he was busy helping the Gators advance to the College World Series at the time. Faedo, who recorded the final six outs against Wake Forest, was also selected by the Tigers in the 40th round of the 2014 Draft as a high schooler.
• The Reds passed on Derek Jeter with the No. 5 pick in the 1992 Draft, allowing the Yankees to take him in the No. 6 spot. Twenty-five years later, Cincinnati made sure not to make the same mistake, selecting Jeter Downs -- a shortstop from Miami's Edward Pace High School named after the legendary Yankee -- with the No. 32 pick on Monday night.

• This marked the first time since 1990 that the top three picks in the Draft were all high schoolers. The three players selected that year? Chipper Jones, Tony Clark and Mike Lieberthal.
• First baseman Pavin Smith (No. 7, D-backs) and Haseley became the first pair of college position-player teammates to go together in the top 10 since 1988, when Monty Fariss (No. 6, Rangers) and Robin Ventura (No. 10, White Sox) were taken out of Oklahoma State.