MLB Draft: Top two are SoCal preps

The scoreboard at Target Field in Minneapolis displayed the news that JSerra’s Royce Lewis had been chosen No. 1 in the 2017 MLB Draft. Photo: Carlos Gonzalez/

It’s the first time two players from CIF Southern Section schools go 1-2 in the MLB Draft after Royce Lewis and Hunter Greene are selected in those positions during Monday’s MLB Draft. It’s not the first time it’s happened for California. Go inside to read about the 1980 and 2000 MLB Drafts and for a look back at all of the No. 1 picks that are from California. Plus, check out why our favorite pick of the day was Templeton grad Spencer Howard.

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Legendary prep writer Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times must have known there was a good chance that two players from Southern California high schools were going to go 1-2 in the first round of Monday’s MLB Draft. He issued a tweet shortly before the first pick was announced challenging anyone to do research if there was ever an MLB Draft in which that had happened before.

That research then had to be done in a hurry after Royce Lewis from JSerra of San Juan Capistrano and Hunter Greene from Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks did just that. Lewis was picked first overall by the Minnesota Twins and then Greene went second overall to the Cincinnati Reds.

Monday’s MLB Draft got us looking at 1980 when L.A. Crenshaw’s Darryl Strawberry was the first pick overall. Photo:

Both players are finalists to be the 2017 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year along with Hagen Danner (Huntington Beach), Jake Jackson (El Toro) and junior Grant Holman (Chula Vista Eastlake).

It’s the second year in a row that a California high school player has gone first in the MLB Draft and it’s the third in four years. Lewis follows 2016 No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak of La Costa Canyon and 2014 No. 1 pick Brady Aiken from Cathedral Catholic of San Diego. And if you’re wondering, yes last year’s No. 1 pick and this year’s No. 1 pick did play against each other in a Boras Classic game that JSerra won 11-2.

The search through the various MLB drafts in which a California player went first — it’s now happened 14 times since the first draft was conducted in 1965 and that includes players who were in college at the time — revealed that the No. 1 and No. 2 slots were taken twice before by players from the state.

The first time was in 1980, still the most famous MLB Draft involving California ever. Topping that draft was Crenshaw of Los Angeles multi-sport athlete Darrell Strawberry (chosen first by the New York Mets). He was followed by outfielder Garry Harris of San Diego Hoover at No. 2.

Moving downward on that 1980 first round also shows California players chosen at No. 6 — shorstop Darnell Coles (Monrovia) — and at No. 7 — first base Jessie Reid (Lynwood) — and at No. 8 — outfielder Cecil Espy (San Diego Point Loma). That 1980 draft also was the one mentioned in the famous baseball book Moneyball since it was the one in which Mt. Carmel (San Diego) outfielder Billy Beane went in the first round at No. 23. In addition, the 1980 draft had two NorCal players picked in the first round — pitcher Ron Robinson (Woodlake) and outfielder Dion James (Sacramento McClatchy). In all, eight of that draft’s 26 players were from California high schools.

The second time for the 1-2 punch came 20 years later in 2000. That was the draft when many were surprised by Chula Vista Eastlake’s Adrian Gonzalez going at the top by the Florida Marlins. As it has turned out, Gonzalez went on to have a better MLB career than anyone else in that first round.

Going right behind Gonzalez at No. 2 was Adam Johnson, pitcher from Cal State Fullerton. He went to high school, however, at Torrey Pines (San Diego) so to us that sort of counts as a 1-2 from SoCal schools.

That 2000 draft also showcased San Diego’s baseball prominence with one school, Rancho Bernardo, landing two in the first round with pitcher Matt Wheatland going at No. 8 and catcher Scott Heard going at No. 25.

In 2000, the 1-2 picks also were followed by a California player chosen at No. 4 overall. That was where pitcher Mike Stodolka From Centennial of Corona was selected by the Kansas City Royals.

More Picks This Year From No. 3 to No. 75
(These would be all for First Round, Second Round & Competitive Balance Round B)

No. 9 Keston Huira (Valencia)
He’s had a tremendous career at UC Irvine and was chosen by the Milwaukee Brewers.

No. 14 Nick Pratto (Huntington Beach)
He ended up as the only other SoCal high schooler to go in the first round. Picked by Kansas City.

Nick Pratto of Huntington Beach has USA baseball international experience. Photo: ProspectPipeline/

No. 40 Mike Mercado (Westview, San Diego)
No, he’s not from the same high school as former MLB No. 1 pick Stephen Strasburg, who is from West Hills of Santee. Mercado was the state’s highest pick in the second round, chosen by Tampa Bay.

No. 45 Spencer Howard (Templeton)
Our favorite pick of the day is him. Why? He’s from a small town, went to college (in his case Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) and ended up a high MLB draft pick. Maybe we love that story so much since we’re writing this 15 miles from Linden, a small town near Stockton where a young lad named Aaron Judge did the same thing. Get out from under that rock if you don’t know what Aaron is doing this season.

No. 47 Griffin Canning (Santa Margarita)
It was not lost on the Eagle faithful that Griffin was drafted by the hometown Angels on the same day that Santa Margarita grad Klay Thompson celebrated winning an NBA title with the Golden State Warriors.

No. 50 Calvin Mitchell (Rancho Bernardo)
One of the state leaders in homers for the last two seasons, Calvin was picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

No. 54 Matt Sauer (Righetti, San Maria)
Reportedly hitting 97 on the gun helped make teams sweet on Sauer. He was chosen by the Yankees.

No. 61 Hagen Danner (Huntington Beach)
He seemed to slip based on some draft projections, but the Toronto Blue Jays think they have a bonafide star of the future.

No. 66 Hans Crouse (Dana Hills, Dana Point)
Another likely first team all-state choice, Crouse heard his name called by the Texas Rangers.

No. 67 Cory Abbott (Serra, San Diego)
Currently at Loyola-Marymount, Abbot was selected by the Chicago Cubs.

No. 69 Blake Hunt (Mater Dei, Santa Ana)
You wonder if players like Hunt benefit from all the scouts surrounding Royce Lewis since they see other players when scouting Lewis. Still, he had a great senior season and went to the San Diego Padres.

No. 71 Tyler Freeman (Etiwanda)
He just starred in leading the Eagles to CIF Southern Section D2 title. May now not be going to TCU after Cleveland Indians chose him.

California’s No. 1 MLB Draft Picks

1968 – Tim Foli (Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks) INF
This was the fourth draft ever held. Foli was chosen by the New York Mets.

1969 – Jeff Burroughs (Wilson, Long Beach) OF
Taken by the Washington Senators, he later became MVP of the American League.

1980 – Darryl Strawberry (Crenshaw, Los Angeles) OF
Also a standout basketball player, he was selected by the New York Mets.

Brady Aiken also was the 2014 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year. Photo: Student Sports.

Brady Aiken also was the 2014 Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year. Photo: Student Sports.

1992 – Phil Nevin (El Dorado, Placentia) 3B
He was from Cal State Fullerton when picked by the Houston Astros and now is third base coach for the San Francisco Giants.

1998 – Pat Burrell (Bellarmine, San Jose) OF
After graduating from Bellarmine, he went across the country to Miami for college. He was chosen by the Phillies.

2000 – Adrian Gonzalez (Eastlake, Chula Vista) 1B
He became a perennial all-star with the Padres, Red Sox and Dodgers but was the No. 1 pick by the Florida Marlins.

2003 – Delmon Young (Camarillo) OF
Tampa Bay made Young the first pick of the draft after a great prep career. He was State Player of the Year as a junior, but Ian Stewart of Westminster La Quinta (also picked in the first round) was State POY the next season.

2004 – Matt Bush (Mission Bay, San Diego) INF
He has had a difficult path to reach the majors, but finally did early in 2016 season as a relief pitcher. Bush was picked No. 1 by his hometown San Diego Padres.

2009 – Stephen Strasburg (West Hills, Santee) P
The Washington Nationals went with Strasburg at No. 1 after he became a big-time prospect at the San Diego State.

2011 – Gerrit Cole (Lutheran, Orange) P
An all-state choice for the Lancers, Cole became a candidate to be a No. 1 pick after going to UCLA. He was tabbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

2013 – Mark Appel (Monte Vista, Danville) P
The Houston Astros had the No. 1 pick and went with Appel, who had become a star at Stanford after graduating from Monte Vista.

2014 – Brady Aiken (Cathedral Catholic, San Diego) P
He famously didn’t sign with the Astros after they chose him No. 1. Another San Diego player, catcher Alex Jackson of Rancho Bernardo, went right near the top as well at No. 6.

2016 – Mickey Moniak (La Costa Canyon, Carlsbad) OF
The last outfielder that the Phillies picked No. 1 was Burrell (another Californian) in 1992 and he had a more than solid MLB career.

2017 – Royce Lewis (JSerra, San Juan Capistrano) INF
He’s the first-ever No. 1 MLB pick directly from an Orange County high school. The other two, Phil Nevin and Gerrit Cole, were in college when they were chosen at the top.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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