Shortstop trio atop Draft makes history
Displaying depth at position, Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers are first three picks
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Shortstops made history on Monday night in the first round of Major League Baseball's Draft. The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson with the No. 1 overall pick, and he was the first of a record-tying eight shortstops taken in the first round.
Swanson's selection started the night off on a celebratory note, as he watched the Draft on an iPhone in the midst of a postgame dogpile after helping the Commodores reach the College World Series with a 4-2 win against Illinois. The junior shortstop -- and reigning College World Series Most Outstanding Player -- helped fuel a Vandy comeback earlier in the game, hitting a game-tying home run off Illini lefty Tyler Jay, the No. 6 overall pick to the Twins.
"This day definitely couldn't have been scripted any better," said Swanson.
The shortstop trend continued with the Astros drafting Alex Bregman out of Louisiana State University with the second pick, and the Rockies taking Orlando-area prep shortstop Brendan Rodgers third overall. The night's haul marked the first time in the 51-year history of the Draft that shortstops had been taken with each of the first three picks.
In fact, with the exception of pitcher, no other position had monopolized the first three picks in the history of the event. Swanson was the first college shortstop taken atop the Draft since Bill Almon from Brown University in 1974, and the selection of eight shortstops in the Draft's first round on Monday night tied the record achieved twice previously (1971 and 2002).
LSU has already qualified for the College World Series. Bregman, a three-year starter at LSU, has batted .312 and walked (36) more times than he's struck out (21). He and Swanson could soon meet in Omaha.
Rodgers, ranked by MLBPipeline as the top prospect available in the Draft, completed the three-deep haul of shortstops when he was taken by Colorado. Rodgers, a right-handed hitter from Lake Mary High School in Florida, batted .360 with eight home runs in the first 25 games of his senior season.
"I really have no words now -- I'm in awe now," said Rodgers, one of four players who attended the Draft. "Those are two great shortstops ahead of me. I've done all I can, and everything worked out."
Tate makes UYA history
The first non-shortstop off the board was UC-Santa Barbara right-hander Dillon Tate, who was chosen No. 4 overall by the Rangers and is now the highest-drafted alumnus of MLB's Urban Youth Academy. Tate credits the Compton Academy with turning him into the pitcher he is today.
"The academy really helped me take big steps in the right direction," said Tate. "I was able to get a lot of [innings] there, develop my pitches and get ... more in the [strike] zone."
Tate was one of nine African-American players selected in the first round, along with Cornelius Randolph (10th overall, Phillies); Garrett Whitley (13th, Rays); Trent Clark (15th, Brewers); Richie Martin (20th, A's); Nick Plummer (23rd, Cardinals); D.J. Stewart (25th, Orioles); Ke'Bryan Hayes (32nd, Pirates); and Christin Stewart (34th, Tigers).
"A full quarter of the first round were African-Americans," said Commissioner Rob Manfred. "That's a great improvement for us. I think it shows that some of the things we've been working so hard on are starting to bear a little fruit, in terms of the amateur Draft. I think it's encouraging for us, and it makes us want to work even harder at the things we've been working on."
Houston's big haul
The Astros, the first team in Draft history to have two top-five selections, took prep outfielder Kyle Tucker from Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., at No. 5. Tucker's older brother, Preston, is already in the Astros organization, a seventh-round pick in 2012 who made his big league debut earlier this season.
Houston also nabbed a prominent player -- prep outfielder Daz Cameron, son of former big leaguer Mike Cameron -- with the first pick of Competitive Balance Round A (No. 37 overall). Cameron, who was No. 6 overall on MLB Pipeline's Draft board, fell out of the first round due to rumors of high bonus demands, and the Astros -- by virtue of being awarded the No. 2 pick after they were unable to sign last year's No. 1 overall pick, Brady Aiken -- were one of the few teams with a large enough bonus pool to take a chance on the talented high schooler.
"I think, certainly, we were one of the teams best positioned to make a run at him, and we're going to do that when the time is right," Astros scouting director Mike Elias said. "For now, we're just happy to have gotten him in the Draft where we did, and we look forward to engage with him sometime this summer."
Houston was also able to grab Cal-State Fullerton righty Thomas Eshelman, who was on the mound when the Titans dramatically clinched a spot in the College World Series on Monday night against Louisville, at No. 46 overall.
Aiken saw his strange odyssey end at No. 17 when he was selected by the Indians. The left-hander, who couldn't come to terms with the Astros a year ago, is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Swanson, Bregman and Tate were among seven collegians taken within the first 10 picks, the most in the top 10 since 2008. The trio was joined by Jay (No. 6, Twins), Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi (No. 7, Red Sox), Vanderbilt righty Carson Fulmer (No. 8, White Sox) and Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ (No. 9, Cubs).
A third Vanderbilt player -- right-handed pitcher Walker Buehler -- went No. 24 overall to the Dodgers. The night was an embarrassment of riches for Vanderbilt, the defending College World Series champs. Not only did the Commodores punch another ticket to Omaha, but Vandy became just fifth school to have three true first-rounders in a single Draft, joining Michigan in 1979 (Rick Leach, Steve Howe and Steve Perry), Fresno State in 1989 (Steve Hosey, Eddie Zosky and Tom Goodwin), Rice in 2004 (Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend), and Miami in 2008 (Yonder Alonso, Jemile Weeks and Carlos Gutierrez).
Best of the rest
Tucker and Cameron weren't the only players with big league bloodlines to get drafted on Monday. At No. 38, six picks after the Pirates selected Hayes, a prep third baseman and the son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes, the Rockies grabbed California prep third baseman Tyler Nevin, the son of Phil Nevin, the No. 1 overall pick in 1992. Orlando prep southpaw Juan Hillman, who was adopted by former Major Leaguer Tom Gordon, was taken 59th by the Indians.
All four players who attended the Draft -- Rodgers, Whitley, Ashe Russell and Mike Nikorak -- were taken within the first 30 picks. Russell and Nikorak, both high school pitchers, were drafted 21st by Kansas City and 27th by Colorado, respectively.
A total of 19 players in the first round were chosen from college, while 16 were selected from the high school ranks. Aiken was the lone player selected in the opening round without ties to a school.
The states of California and Florida each produced seven players in the first round, followed by Georgia (four) and Texas (three).
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.