LOS ANGELES – Jackson Holliday and Druw Jones, sons of All-Stars Matt and Andruw, were taken by Baltimore and Arizona with the first two picks in baseball’s amateur draft on Sunday night.
Holliday, whose father is a former batting champion, was chosen by Baltimore over Jones in somewhat of a surprise.
“A tough decision,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said. “I would liken it to deciding what to order at a five-star restaurant.”
Texas used the third pick on Kumar Rocker, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who failed to sign with the New York Mets after being selected 10th overall last year. Rocker will be reunited with Rangers minor league pitcher Jack Leiter, his teammate on Vanderbilt’s 2019 NCAA baseball championship team. Texas chose Leiter with the No. 2 pick last year.
Holliday, a left-handed-hitting shortstop from Stillwater High in Oklahoma, is 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds – quite a bit smaller than his 6-foot-4, 240-pound father. He hit .685 and with 89 hits in 41 games and broke a national record for hits in a high school season that had been held by J.T. Realmuto.
His dad was a seven-time All-Star and the 2007 NL batting champion. Matt was taken by Colorado with the 210th overall pick in the seventh round in 2007.
Jackson has said he planned to attend Oklahoma State, but he’s likely headed to pro ball now. The slot value assigned to the first pick is nearly $9 million.
Jones is a 6-foot-3 18-year-old from Wesleyan High in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. He hit .570 with 13 homers, 39 RBIs, 72 runs, 33 walks and 32 stolen bases this year. He also went 10-1 as a pitcher, though he is projected as an outfielder.
His father, a five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner, was born in Curacao and signed with Atlanta as an international free agent.
Rocker, a 22-year-old from Georgia, failed to sign last year after the Mets became concerned over his physical. He had shoulder surgery last September and pitched this year for the independent Frontier League’s Tri-City ValleyCats as a showcase ahead of the draft, going 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in five starts.
Baltimore has five of the top 81 picks as the big league team has rebounded after five straight losing seasons. The Orioles recovered from an 8-16 start to enter the All-Star break at 46-46, just 3 1/2 games back of a wild-card berth.
Pittsburgh used the fourth pick on second baseman Termarr Johnson of Mays High in Georgia, a product of baseball’s Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program. The top pick present for the broadcast, Johnson said the Pirates were getting “the best player in the draft.”
In contrast to other sports, baseball draft picks take time to reach the majors. Catcher Adley Rutschman, taken by the Orioles with the top overall pick three years ago, made his debut this May 21 and is hitting .222 with five homers and 16 RBIs.
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Chase Silseth was the first of last year’s selections to reach the majors. Taken in the 11th round and 321st overall, he debuted this May 13.
The first pick is assigned a slot value of $8,846,900, followed by $8,189,400 for the second, $7,591,600 for the third, $7,005,800 for the fourth and $6,497,700 for the fifth. The value decreases to $2,486,800 by pick 30 and $807,200 by No. 80.
Baltimore has the highest signing bonus pool at $16.9 million, followed by Arizona at $15.1 million and the Mets at just under $14 million. The Dodgers have the lowest at $4.2 million.
The first 80 picks were scheduled for Sunday, when the draft was held outdoors for the first time at LA Live, its second year taking place in conjunction with the All-Star Game. The draft resumes with the start of the third round on Monday and 616 players in all are to be selected.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ top pick was dropped 10 spots to 40th for exceeding a luxury tax threshold, and the Mets got an extra first-round pick (No. 11) for failing to sign Rocker.
Colorado gained an additional pick (No. 31) for the loss of Trevor Story to Boston as a free agent and Cincinnati (No. 32) for the loss of Nick Castellanos to Philadelphia. The Red Sox and Phillies forfeited their second-round picks and $500,000 each from their international signing bonus pools.
Residents of the U.S. – including Puerto Rico – and Canada are eligible for the draft if their high school class has been graduated and the player will be at least 17 within 45 days of the end of the draft. In addition, a player enrolled at a four-year college is not eligible until the end of his junior year.
MLB hopes to start an international draft, and the March lockout settlement with the players’ association set a July 25 deadline to reach an agreement or keep direct draft-pick compensation for the loss of qualified free agents.