Atlanta Braves draft San Clemente High duo 14th, 54th; UCLA's Kaprielian goes 16th to Yankees
San Clemente High baseball players Kolby Allard and Lucas Herbert knew it was a long shot that they’d get an opportunity to continue playing together, but they never gave up hope.
On Monday, their dream became reality when Allard (14th overall) and Herbert (54th), both UCLA signees, were selected by the Atlanta Braves in the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. Two other players who played high school baseball in Orange County were drafted Monday, with UCLA pitcher James Kaprielian (Beckman High) and Azusa Pacific pitcher Josh Staumont (La Habra High) going to the New York Yankees (16th) and Kansas City Royals (64th), respectively.
Allard, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound left-handed pitcher, and Herbert, a 6-1, 195-pound catcher, have been teammates for the past three seasons at San Clemente.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to be a professional baseball player and now it’s like ‘baseball is your job’ – it’s surreal,” Allard said. “I’m so incredibly honored and humbled to be drafted in the first round.”
Allard has a fastball that sits between 92-94 mph and has touched 96 at times. He also has a plus curveball and is developing a changeup.
Despite missing most of his senior year because of a stress reaction suffered in March, the Braves showed little concern by taking Allard midway through the first round.
“That’s not something a lot of people get to experience,” Allard said. “(They’re) a world-class organization, I couldn’t be happier with how it went.”
Herbert is considered one of the strongest defensive catchers in this year’s class. He showed promise with his bat this season, leading the county in hits (50) and extra-base hits (25).
Despite batting leadoff for most of the season, Herbert still led the Tritons with 28 RBI to go with his team-high 26 runs scored.
Allard is the highest draft pick to come out of San Clemente High, a status Herbert would have claimed if not for his teammate.
“We’ve been talking about that for a month and a half, just hoping it was a possibility,” Allard said. “We weren’t expecting it because there are 30 other teams out there, but somehow the Braves pulled it off and we couldn’t be happier.”
For the fourth time under Coach John Savage, a UCLA pitcher was taken in the first round.
Kaprielian led the Pac-12 in strikeouts the past two seasons as a starter and had previously been a reliever on the Bruins’ 2013 team that won the NCAA championship.
He is the first UCLA pitcher to go in the first round since Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer were taken first and third overall in 2011. Left-hander David Huff also went in the first round (39th overall) in 2006.
Last season, Kaprielian went 10-4 in 16 starts with a 2.03 ERA, helping to lead UCLA to an outright Pac-12 championship and the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, where they eventually fell to Maryland in the regional final.
Kaprielian throws four pitches, including a fastball that touches 95 miles per hour and a tough breaking ball. He also throws a changeup and slider.
He’s also durable. As Savage noted last week, he never missed a start in two seasons.
“He seems to get better as the season goes along, as games go along, which is obviously what they’re looking for as a starter,” Savage said.
Kaprielian’s best work did come near the end of the season, during the final regular-season homestand at Jackie Robinson Stadium. On May 22 against Arizona, he combined with closer David Berg to throw a 10-inning no-hitter, the first in school history.
“You’re talking about a front-line, Pac-12 starting pitcher who has a strong history of success in the league," Savage said. “You’re talking about a sought after guy who is pretty complete.”
Last week, Kaprielian said he was planning to watch the draft with his family rather than attend the draft in Secaucus, N.J.
“I’m not too overwhelmed with it,” he said then. “I’m just looking forward to seeing what happens if all goes well and if it’s time to start a professional career.”
Cal State Fullerton junior pitcher Thomas Eshelman was selected 46th by the Houston Astros just as the right-hander was helping the Titans clinch a berth in the College World Series by closing out their 4-3 victory over Louisville.
UCLA senior shortstop Kevin Kramer was selected 62nd overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates. After missing the 2014 with an injury, the 6-1, 190-pound switch-hitter started all 61 games at shortstop this season, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors. Kramer had a career-high .323 batting average and finished second in the conference in runs (55) and fourth in hits (82). He had 23 extra-base hits, including a team-high-tying seven home runs.
The starting third baseman on the 2013 national championship team, Kramer finished his UCLA career with a .297 batting average to go with 114 runs and 89 RBI.
Rounds 3-10 are Tuesday (10 a.m.) and rounds 11-40 are Wednesday (9 a.m.).
The Arizona Diamondbacks selected slugging Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson with the No. 1 pick.
Swanson, who helped lead the Commodores to the College World Series earlier in the day, is the first college shortstop to be chosen with the top selection in the draft since Brown University’s Bill Almon in 1974.
The pick at MLB Network studios marked the first time the Diamondbacks had the No. 1 selection since they took Justin Upton in 2005. It’s the 50th anniversary of the first draft in 1965, and the first for new Commissioner Rob Manfred.
With the second pick, Houston took LSU’s Alex Bregman – marking the first time shortstops have gone with the first two selections since Shawon Dunston (Cubs) and Augie Schmidt (Blue Jays) were drafted in 1982. The Astros, who also select fifth, received the pick as compensation for not signing pitcher Brady Aiken, last year’s No. 1 overall pick.
Colorado made it 3 for 3 on shortstops by taking Florida high schooler Brendan Rodgers at No. 3 overall. Rodgers was the first of four players in attendance to have his name called by Manfred, shaking hands with the commissioner while slipping on a Rockies cap and jersey.
“I really have no words right now,” Rodgers said. “I’m in awe right now. This is a dream come true.”
Swanson seamlessly switched from second base to shortstop this season as a junior. He was the College World Series’ Most Outstanding Player last year, helping the Commodores to the national championship. Swanson is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and Howser Trophy, given to college baseball’s top player.
He also is the first shortstop – college or high school – to go No. 1 since Houston took Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2012. Correa was set to make his major league debut Monday night, just more than three years to day after he was drafted.
Bregman is the offensive leader of an LSU team that will play in the College World Series and has been ranked No. 1 in the country in several polls for most of the season. The Golden Spikes Award finalist is hitting .312 with nine homers and 49 RBIs, and has stolen 37 bases. Bregman has shown good patience at the plate, striking out just 20 times in 239 at-bats. He has also improved defensively in each of his three seasons at LSU, and could remain at shortstop in the pros.
Rodgers, from Lake Mary High School, was widely regarded as the best prep player in the draft. He has a powerful bat to all fields, and has soft hands and good range at shortstop –where he could remain in the pros.
UC Santa Barbara fireballing right-hander Dillon Tate was selected by Texas with the fourth pick, giving the Rangers a potential staff ace or late-inning reliever. He was one of the best closers in the country last year, and established himself as an outstanding starter this season for the Gauchos. He went 8-5 with a 2.26 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 1031/3 innings with a fastball that hits the upper-90s (mph) and a wicked slider to go along with a solid curve and changeup.
Houston kept things in the family at No. 5, taking Florida high school outfielder Kyle Tucker, the younger brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker. He broke his brother’s school record with 31 career homers, and has the power to potentially move to a corner outfield spot at the next level.