Pitcher? Hitter? Both? MLB draft marked by two-way players
NEW YORK — Brendan McKay’s fastball-firing left arm has made him the possible No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
Thing is, so has the Louisville slugger’s bat.
The Cardinals star is one of college baseball’s greatest two-way players, a rare talent who has given big league ballclubs a tough question to consider: Do they take McKay as a pitcher, hitter — or both?
“That remains to be seen, whether or not someone can do that,” said Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, whose team picks first in the draft that starts Monday night. “I’m not necessarily saying it’s impossible, but the amount of time, if you talk to any of these guys, that they put in on either the hitting side or the pitching side, to double that, no one’s figured out a way to make more than 24 hours in a day.
“If someone figures that out, maybe we’ll have an opportunity, but it’s a challenge.”
With McKay, though, a team might be willing to find out. He’s a two-time winner of the John Olerud Two-Way Player award and is the favorite to win it again this year after hitting .343 with 17 home runs and 56 RBIs for the College World Series-bound Cardinals. He’s also 10-3 with a 2.34 ERA on the mound.
Two-way players in high school and college aren’t uncommon in the draft, with Olerud, Dave Winfield, Ken Brett, Jason Jennings and A.J. Reed among those big names who major league teams had to make a call on. But this year’s draft class has a handful expected to be selected early.
In addition to McKay, California high school shortstop and right-handed pitcher Hunter Greene has piqued lots of interest from teams picking early, including the Twins.
“There are a lot of two-way players in every draft, but for 2017, a number of first-round talents have significant experience as two-way players,” said Braves general manager John Coppolella, whose team picks No. 5 overall. “There may come a day where there is a true impact two-way player, but until that day, you just choose one outcome and know the other possibility looms if failure occurs.”
Kentucky high school outfielder Jordon Adell, Texas high school right-hander Shane Baz and Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley are others who have pulled double-duty on the diamond and are expected to be first-rounders.
“The talents of the players and how things play out, you try to be as open-minded as you can,” said Rays GM Erik Neander, whose team picks fourth overall. “I think the history of the professional game and what it looks like, we’re certainly cognizant of the perspective of going one direction or the other. But it’s quite an accomplishment to do it at the collegiate level.”
Here are some other things to know about the draft:
WHEN? WHERE?: Starts Monday at 7 p.m. EDT and continues for 40 rounds over three days, with the first two rounds at MLB Network’s studios in Secaucus. Rounds 3-10 will be held Tuesday, and rounds 11-40 Wednesday — both days via team conference calls. Teams pick in reverse order of finish from the overall standings from last season.
FIRST PICK: The Twins have the No. 1 overall pick for the third time, and first since taking Minnesota high school catcher Joe Mauer in 2001.
OTHER NAMES TO KNOW: Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, North Carolina high school lefty MacKenzie Gore, California high school shortstop/outfielder Royce Lewis and North Carolina high school outfielder Austin Beck.
SHOWING UP: Four top prospects are expected to be at the draft site, where they’ll shake hands with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and slip on their new team’s cap and jersey: Greene, Adell, New Mexico high school left-hander Trevor Rogers and Alabama high school outfielder Bubba Thompson.
WHO ELSE IS THERE?: Each of baseball’s 30 teams has a former player and/or current member of its front office representing them at the draft. Among those scheduled to attend are Hall of Famer George Brett (Royals), 1973 NL Rookie of the Year Gary Matthews (Phillies), 1976 NL Cy Young winner Randy Jones (Padres), 1983 AL Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle (White Sox) and former All-Stars such as Bob Boone (Nationals) and Ron Cey (Dodgers). Lloyd Moseby, the No. 2 overall pick by Toronto in 1978, and Jeffrey Hammonds, No. 4 overall in 1992 by the Orioles, are also expected to be there.
EARLY ACTION: Toronto (22nd and 28th), Texas (26th and 29th) and the Chicago Cubs (27th and 30th) each have two first-round selections, including compensatory picks. Houston and Pittsburgh both have four picks in the first 75 selections. For the Pirates, that includes No. 42 overall, which they received after failing to come to terms with lefty Nick Lodolo, the No. 41 pick who chose to attend Texas Christian instead of signing.
QUIET CARDINALS: St. Louis won’t pick until the third round on Tuesday. The Cardinals had to give their first-round selection to the Cubs for signing free agent Dexter Fowler, and forfeited their next two picks (Nos. 56 and 75) — along with $2 million — to Houston after MLB completed its investigation into a data breach of the Astros’ baseball operations database by a former St. Louis employee.
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