SECAUCUS, N.J. – Casey Mize went from undrafted three years ago all the way to No. 1.
The Detroit Tigers selected the Auburn right-hander with the first pick in the Major League Baseball draft Monday night. The announcement at MLB Network studios marked the second time the Tigers led off the draft, and first since they took Rice pitcher Matt Anderson in 1997.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Mize had long been linked to the Tigers, and this season he pitched his way to the top spot on the board. Mize wasn’t chosen by any organization out of high school three years ago, but developed into a potential big league ace while in college.
“It means a ton,” he said in an interview on MLB Network’s broadcast. “I can’t describe this feeling right now.”
Mize is 10-5 with a 2.95 ERA and 151 strikeouts with just 12 walks in 109 2/3 innings while helping the Tigers to the NCAA Tournament super regionals. He has outstanding command of four pitches, including a fastball that hovers in the mid-90s (mph), and his wicked split changeup creates lots of swings and misses.
Mize became the seventh player to go from undrafted in high school to the No. 1 pick, and first since Stephen Strasburg went to the Washington Nationals in 2009.
In a statement, Tigers general manager Al Avila said the club is confident Mize “will become a pillar in our player development system that’s going to bring winning baseball to Detroit for seasons to come.”
“Being a college pitcher – especially coming from the Southeastern Conference – we know Casey has seen elite competition before,” he added.
With the second selection, San Francisco took slugging Georgia Tech catcher Joey Bart, the Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year.
Wichita State third baseman Alec Bohm was the first of six players in attendance to be drafted, going third overall to Philadelphia.
Oregon State second baseman Nick Madrigal – at 5-foot-7, 160 pounds – went fourth to the Chicago White Sox.
Rounding out the top five was Cincinnati, which took Florida third baseman Jonathan India.
Oakland created a major buzz at No. 9 and shook up some draft boards by tabbing speedy Oklahoma outfielder – and quarterback – Kyler Murray, the favorite to replace Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield this season as the Sooners’ starter on the gridiron.
Shortly after he was picked by Oakland, Murray said he still plans to play football for Oklahoma this year.
“Right now, I’m really not focused on the football-baseball situation,” Murray said on a conference call. “I’m just soaking in the night.”
But when asked again about the coming football season, Murray said he had spoken to the Athletics about it.
“I will be playing football this season,” he insisted.
North Carolina high school outfielder Jordyn Adams might have to make the same big decision. He was taken 17th overall by the Angels, but has committed to playing both baseball and football for the University of North Carolina.
Perhaps the replacement for Giants star Buster Posey someday, Bart follows in the footsteps of Matt Wieters and Jason Varitek – big league backstops who also came out of Georgia Tech.
Bart led the ACC with a .359 batting average and topped the Yellow Jackets with a .632 slugging percentage, 79 hits, 16 home runs, 55 runs and a .471 on-base percentage. He’s also one of the country’s best defensive catchers.
Bohm was one of the top hitters in the draft, batting .339 with 55 RBIs and 16 homers – the most by a Wichita State player since 2004. He set a school record with three grand slams this year.
Bohm had some trouble buttoning his white Phillies jersey before heading to the podium to shake hands with Commissioner Rob Manfred.
“The holes are pretty tight. It was pretty tough,” said the 6-foot-5 Bohm, later adding that his biggest strength is probably his maturity at the plate. “I’m just ready to go play ball.”
Despite his short stature, Madrigal was considered by many to be the best overall hitter in the class. He rebounded nicely for the Beavers after missing half the season with a broken left wrist.
India, the Southeastern Conference player of the year for Florida, has been an offensive force for the defending College World Series champions. He’s the 12th player in school history to post 20 or more homers, 100 or more RBIs and 30 or more stolen bases in his career.
The Mets took the first high school player, selecting Wisconsin prep outfielder Jarred Kelenic sixth overall. The left-handed-hitting Kelenic was the MVP of the Team USA Under-18 squad last September at the Pan American Games in Canada while batting .404 and leading the team in extra-base hits.
Tennessee high school lefty Ryan Weathers, son of former major league pitcher David Weathers, was the No. 7 pick by San Diego.
Florida high school righty Carter Stewart was the second player in attendance to be selected, going eighth overall to Atlanta. It also made for a heartwarming moment as 16-year-old Luke Terry, a one-armed high school catcher from Tennessee and a lifelong Braves fan, announced Stewart’s name at the podium.
South Alabama outfielder Travis Swaggerty went to Pittsburgh with the 10th pick. He hit .296 with 13 homers, 38 RBIs and a whopping 54 walks for the Jaguars this season.
The draft resumes with rounds 3-10 on Tuesday and concludes with rounds 11-40 on Wednesday.
The second round included some players with famous bloodlines: Georgia prep outfielder Parker Meadows, brother of Pirates rookie Austin Meadows, went 44th to Detroit; Duke outfielder Griffin Conine, son of Jeff Conine, went 52nd to Toronto; and California high school shortstop Osiris Johnson, cousin of Jimmy Rollins and Tony Tarasco, was taken by Miami with the next pick.
NOTES: Florida right-hander Brady Singer, considered a potential top-3 selection, fell all the way to Kansas City at No. 18. … Prep catcher Anthony Seigler from Georgia, also an ambidextrous pitcher in high school, went 23rd to the Yankees. … The Dodgers wrapped up the opening round by taking Mississippi high school right-hander J.T. Ginn at No. 30. … Florida prep shortstop Xavier Edwards was the last of the players in attendance to be selected, going 38th overall to San Diego.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.