Infielders dominate first round of Draft
Beckham, Alvarez, Hosmer, Matusz, Posey are first five picks
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Bend It Like Beckham took on a whole new meaning Thursday afternoon at The Milk House.
While a jet-setting soccer star made the phrase popular, Tampa Bay is hoping its newest charge will twist the phrase into baseball terms after selecting Tim Beckham with the top selection in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. The pro-Rays crowd at The Milk House erupted when Commissioner Bud Selig announced Beckham's name, welcoming the Georgia prep star with an ovation worthy of his soccer counterpart.
Beckham's selection marks the 23rd time that a prep player has been taken with the top selection and first since the D-backs grabbed Justin Upton with the top pick in 2005. He is also the third consecutive prep shortstop to be chosen with the top selection. San Diego picked Matt Bush, since converted to a pitcher, in 2004.
There were six rounds completed by the time the opening day wrapped up at 9 p.m. ET. The First-Year Player Draft will resume Friday morning beginning with the seventh round. Every one of the selections can be heard live on MLB.com beginning at 11:30 a.m. The Draft will continue until the 50th round or whenever each of the clubs has passed on its selection.
In choosing Beckham, the Rays also became the first franchise to make the top selection in the Draft in two consecutive years. Tampa Bay took Vanderbilt pitcher David Price, who made his professional debut last month at Vero Beach. The Rays, at 35-24, also became the eighth team to make the top selection while having a winning record. Only the 2001 Twins (37-18, Joe Mauer) and 1995 Angels (20-13, Darin Erstad) had better records at the time of their selections.
"This is great. I'm kind of speechless right now," Beckham said. "This is what I've been dreaming to be and this is a dream come true. I worked this hard to get to this spot and it really came through. I didn't want to take it to my head too much, but I was hoping and praying I was going to be the No. 1 pick. I didn't want to tell everybody I was the No. 1 pick when I didn't really know. It's a dream come true and it's an honor and a blessing to be with the Tampa Bay Rays."
While a prep star went No. 1 overall, there were 21 college players selected in the first round, equaling the 1992 Draft for most collegiate players taken in the opening round. That the first and compensation rounds were collegiate-heavy also continued a trend this decade that has seen clubs go after older, more established players. Thirty-one of the top 46 selections (through the compensation round) were college players. Since the 2000 Draft, 223 of the 403 first-rounders chosen were from the college ranks.
The Draft favored the colleges through the first six rounds. Of the 202 players selected Thursday, 134 were collegiate selections.
There were six first baseman taken in the first round after only one first baseman was selected in the opening round of the past three Drafts combined. By contrast, there was only one outfielder -- Aaron Hicks -- selected, marking the fewest total number of outfielders ever selected in the opening round.
Pittsburgh followed Tampa Bay's selection of Beckham by choosing Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez. Kansas City, which has had a top-six selection in six of the past seven Drafts, chose Florida prep star Eric Hosmer with the third pick. The Orioles then chose University of San Diego southpaw Brian Matusz with the fourth pick, and the Giants rounded out the top five by selecting Florida State catcher Buster Posey.
Beckham, who led Griffin High to the Georgia State AAAA High School championship earlier this month, is a rare five-tool blend who coaxes power, speed and defense out of his 6-foot-2 frame. Although the Rays were toying with the idea of grabbing several other players with the top pick, including Posey, the consensus was to grab Beckham.
"We project him to be a true impact player," said Andrew Friedman, Tampa's executive vice president of baseball operations. "He has an advanced offensive approach, coupled with outstanding athleticism and a genuine enthusiasm for the game. We are anxious to get him signed and to begin the path to the Major Leagues."
The right-handed-hitting Beckham batted .482 (53-for-110) with six homers, 41 RBIs, 58 runs scored and 23 steals. He hit .512 as a junior and is the first player chosen out of a Georgia school with the top selection since the Padres selected Mike Ivie in 1970.
Top 10 overall picks
|1. TB||SS||Tim Beckham||Griffin HS (Ga.)|
|2. PIT||3B||Pedro Alvarez||Vanderbilt U|
|3. KC||1B||Eric Hosmer||Am. Heritage Sch. (Fla.)|
|4. BAL||LHP||Brian Matusz||U of San Diego|
|5. SF||C||Gerald Posey||Florida State U|
|6. FLA||C||Kyle Skipworth||Patriot HS (Calif.)|
|7. CIN||1B||Yonder Alonso||U of Miami|
|8. CWS||SS||Gordon Beckham||U of Georgia|
|9. WAS||RHP||Aaron Crow||U Missouri Columbia|
|10. HOU||C||Jason Castro||Stanford U|
|Complete Draft results >|
Alvarez, meanwhile, missed out on becoming the answer to another trivia question when the Rays passed on him. Had he gone No. 1, it would have marked the first time a school has produced back-to-back top selections. But the Rays figure to have Evan Longoria at third for quite some time, leaving Alvarez in position to have a similar impact in Pittsburgh.
The now former Commodore hit .317 this season with nine homers and 30 RBIs in 40 games. Alvarez was limited because of a broken hamate bone and a late-season slump but his body of work in three seasons at Vanderbilt -- 49 homers, 162 RBIs -- far outweighed any concerns that may have cropped up this season.
"Once I came back [from the injury], I was 100 percent," Alvarez said. "I didn't work out when I was hurt, so naturally you lose some strength. But that's gainable again."
Hosmer signed a letter of intent to play at Arizona State, but it's doubtful he'll be fulfilling that commitment after tearing up the Florida prep circuit as a first baseman and left-handed pitcher. Kansas City hasn't shied away from choosing Scott Boras-represented players as evidenced by the team taking Mike Moustakas and Luke Hochevar in each of the past two Drafts.
The Royals have been rewarded by their efforts by the aforementioned players and figure to get more of the same from Hosmer, who hit .471 with 11 homers and 27 RBIs for American Heritage High School. He also pitched to a 3.96 ERA and struck out 32 over 17 2/3 innings, according to MaxPreps.
"We need guys that are future stars on that diamond if we're going to win a World Series," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "We think Eric has that type of potential to be that type of guy."
Matusz, a Golden Spikes Award finalist, was 12-2 with a 1.71 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) for San Diego. The junior was 26-8 in three seasons with the Toreros.
"Going in today, I was really unsure of where I was going to go in the Draft," Matusz said. "It was definitely hard for me to sleep last night, just because of the anticipation and not really knowing where I was going to go. I felt really good when I see the first three picks go by, and I saw Baltimore up there with five minutes on the television screen. Deep down inside, I really thought I had an opportunity to become an Oriole. I knew they'd really done a good job all year of scouting me."
Posey, meanwhile, is still in action, leading the Seminoles into this weekend's NCAA Super Regional against Wichita State. A finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, Posey is hitting .468 with 24 home runs and 86 RBIs. He's also thrown out 23 of 32 runners attempting to steal. Posey, a converted shortstop, also has appeared in eight games as a pitcher, striking out 10 in 7 1/3 innings.
While the Marlins grabbed California prep catcher Kyle Skipworth with the sixth overall selection, the trend of teams gobbling up college players continued as the first round progressed. Ten of the top 15 picks came from the collegiate ranks. The Reds took Miami first baseman Yonder Alonso with the seventh pick, while the White Sox tabbed Georgia shortstop Gordon Beckham (no relation to Tim) with the eighth pick.
Washington continued to stockpile young pitching with its top selection, taking Missouri right-hander Aaron Crow with the ninth pick. Stanford's Jason Castro became the third catcher selected when he went to the Astros at No. 10. The Rangers grabbed South Carolina's Justin Smoak with the 11th pick while Jemile Weeks, the younger brother of Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks, went to Oakland at No. 12.
The Cardinals selected Arizona State infielder Brett Wallace with the 14th pick before the Twins returned to the high school ranks by choosing outfielder/pitcher Aaron Hicks, who is a product of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. The Dodgers rounded out the top 15 by taking right-hander Ethan Martin out of Stephens County High School in Georgia.
Four of the final 15 picks in the opening round came from the prep ranks, including Casey Kelly, who was chosen 30th overall by the Red Sox. Kelly's father, Pat, and his uncle, Mike, played for the Blue Jays. His brother, Chris, plays in the Tampa Bay system.
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.