Southeast players dominate Day 1 of Draft
Region strongly represented with 29 of top 60 selections
If someone wanted to get a preview of what the first round of the Draft would look like, they needed only to take a spring trip to the southeastern United States to witness all they'd need to see.
The states of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi -- to go along with the Carolinas and Puerto Rico -- accounted for nearly half of the players selected on Monday night. A total of 29 of the 60 players taken in the first round and compensation round A played ball in this region in 2012.
It started at the very top, with the first four picks coming out of the Southeast: Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico, Byron Buxton from Georgia, Mike Zunino from Florida and Kevin Gausman from Louisiana. Albert Almora (Florida) and David Dahl (Alabama) gave the region six out of the top 10. The numbers continued to be staggering from there: 20 of the 31 first-rounders and then nine more in the sandwich round.
Florida, not surprisingly, led the states, with 12 players taken on the first day of the Draft. Georgia was next with five, while Louisiana and Puerto Rico had three apiece. Two came from Mississippi and North Carolina, while Alabama and South Carolina claimed one each.
"It was an old Florida year," said a scout who covers the area. "Florida was up. They had a number of players, a number of good players, a lot of diversity down there. It was an all-over-the-diamond Draft with young potential players."
It's true, a first-rounder from the Southeast could be found at just about any position. Sure, there was a fair share of right-handed pitchers -- 10 to be precise, but it could be possible to field a team with the potential in this group. Clemson's Richie Shaffer at first (Keon Barnum backs him up), Jesmuel Valentin plays second, Correa is at short to form an all-Puerto Rico Baseball Academy middle infield. Corey Seager, a shortstop in high school, can move to third, as can Addison Russell (if he's not backing up Correa). Gavin Cecchini will be a ridiculously good utility man for this squad, likely able to start at either middle-infield position.
Finding a true center fielder isn't always so easy. But in this region, there are two with tremendous ceilings: No. 2 pick Buxton and D.J. Davis, who went No. 17 overall. Both Almora and Dahl can play center, too, but they'll get moved to corners to form an absolutely thrilling outfield. Fellow toolsy outfielder Lewis Brinson is in the mix, along with Florida State senior James Ramsey. Behind the plate: none other than Zunino and Stryker Trahan.
"You look at what the different kids bring to the table," the scout said. "You have all those dynamics with those kids. It was really an interesting deal when you start to think about the differences and what they brought to the table. It was very exciting.
"There were a lot of angles taken by clubs according to what they wanted to accomplish, but if you take the players as a whole, they filled the whole diamond up."
And they do it with youth. Twenty of the 29 southeasterners are high school players, reflecting a trend from the first day, where 35 of the 60 picks came from the prep ranks. Typically, college players will rise up at the last minute as teams decide to go the less risky rout. In years past, a college lefty like Brian Johnson may have gone much higher than No. 31. Missouri State righty Pierce Johnson may have gone in the first round and Stanford's Stephen Piscotty, projected by many to go in the top 31 picks, would have almost certainly done so.
That's not what happened here. Teams went high school early and often. Even a team like the Oakland A's, perhaps forever branded as a "college team" in the Draft, took three prep standouts on Monday. While it may not be that surprising given that many felt this was the strength of the top of the Draft, it is worth noting that teams didn't heed warnings that the new bonus system in place would push more high schoolers to college and thus take the surer signs out of college.
Or perhaps they did. Knowing that it might be a bit tougher to get the high school kids to sign, no longer able to let them slide and then throw above-slot bonuses at them, they took the top high school talent early because that would be the best chance to have the funds to sign them. That would mean that the players were, for the most part, being taken where they should be based on talent. Obviously, it remains to be seen what happens between now and the signing deadline on July 13, but at least in terms of who went where, it seems like the system may have -- gasp -- worked.
"Coming in, I thought that's what this Draft had," the scout said. "It was high school-laden with high-upside guys that you could profile all over the diamond. It wasn't just right-handed pitchers or something like that. It was kind of neat how it all played out."