By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — 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 he pitched his way this season 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’m very thankful that the Tigers thought of me enough to take me with their first selection. 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 solid command of four pitches, including a fastball that hovers in the mid-90s (mph). His outstanding command and wicked split changeup whip up 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 attending the draft to be selected, 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 football field.
Now, the two-sport phenom has a big decision to make.
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 in hitting with a .359 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, with a .992 fielding percentage on the season while throwing out 12 of 33 would-be base stealers.
Bohm is one of the top offensive players in the draft, hitting .339 with 16 homers — the most by a Wichita State player since 2004 — and 55 RBIs with 14 doubles and 39 walks. He also showed a knack for hitting in the clutch by setting a school record with three grand slams this year, and led the team with 10 go-ahead RBIs.
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 is considered by many to be the best overall hitter in the draft. He rebounded nicely for the Beavers after missing half the season with a broken left wrist. He was hitting .406 with three homers, 32 RBIs and just five strikeouts in 133 at-bats while helping lead Oregon State to the NCAA Tournament super regionals.
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.
Florida right-hander Brady Singer, considered a potential top-3 selection, fell all the way to Kansas City at No. 18.
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