Brooks Lee, a graduate of San Luis Obispo, is the highest player from a California high school taken in the 2022 MLB Draft. The Cal Poly SLO shortstop went at No. 8 in the first round by the Minnesota Twins. The state did not get shutout in the first round for the first time since 1988 for high school players picked, but there was only one and by the end of the 10th round on Monday there were only seven.
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So how quickly have Major League Baseball teams pretty much abandoned picking high school players instead of favoring those coming into the system from college in the annual MLB Draft?
Just eight years ago, in 2014, there were six California high school players who were chosen in the first round alone of the MLB Draft. This year, after the 2022 draft had completed 10 rounds on Monday, there were just seven for all 10 rounds combined.
College players are more developed and more ready to hit the minor league system generally than high school players and the metrics (which have taken over baseball) show it makes more sense to go that route as well. The high school player with potential star power at the top of the class is still being picked — like No. 1 overall choice this year Jackson Holliday of Stillwater, Okla., and No. 4 last year Marcelo Mayer from Eastlake of Chula Vista (Calif.) — but after that first top group it’s becoming more rare for MLB teams to choose a high school player over a college player.
There was some speculation that the No. 1 overall pick this year could have been shortstop Brooks Lee of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Regarded as perhaps the top college hitter in the draft, Lee (a graduate of San Luis Obispo High) fell down the pecking order in Sunday’s draft before going at No. 8 overall to the Minnesota Twins. The son of Cal Poly SLO head coach Larry Lee still was the top player selected from a California high school.
California’s next three selections in the first round were catcher Kevin Parada (Georgia Tech) from Loyola of Los Angeles at No. 11 by the New York Mets, catcher Daniel Susac (Arizona) from Jesuit of Carmichael at No. 19 by the Oakland Athletics and pitcher Cooper Hjerpe (Oregon State) of Woodland at No. 22 by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Parada is believed to be the highest drafted player ever from Loyola, the oldest school in Southern California. He has a chance to be the best MLB player ever from the school as well. Former California Angels catcher Tom Satriano (10 years) might still be the one with that label now.
Susac, like Parada, was a first team all-state catcher in high school. He is following in the path of older brother Andrew Susac, also from Jesuit, who has had six years of MLB experience (including a stint with the San Francisco Giants). Their cousin, Anthony, is currently a pitcher at Arizona and may get drafted next year or the year after. Jesuit also has had a great run of MLB success in recent years with Rhys Hoskins currently starring for the Philadelphia Phillies plus relief pitcher J.P. Howell (also a former Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year).
Hjerpe is the only player taken in the first two days of the draft who appears in two categories of the all-time Cal-Hi Sports state high school record book. When he was at Woodland in 2019, Hjerpe threw three straight no-hitters. The first team all-state player also ended that season with four no-hitters in all. He will have to be a pretty great player indeed to be Woodland’s best player ever since the school also counts American League MVP Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox) as an alum.
When the day began, most of the mock drafts didn’t have a single player from a California high school going in the first round. Because of that, we checked our files beforehand and found that the last time that happened was in 1988 (35 years ago).
The shutout, however, didn’t happen because at No. 24 in the first round the Boston Red Sox surprised a lot of analysts by grabbing infielder Mikey Romero of Orange Lutheran. Romero also was not widely seen as being the one from a California high school to go the highest, but it was he and not outfielder Henry Bolte of Palo Alto or catcher Malcolm Moore from McClatchy of Sacramento who will now get to wear that crown. Romero also has a great family behind him since he is the younger brother of Sydney and Sierra Romero, who are the first sister duo to ever play on the national team in USA softball history. They both went to Vista Murrieta of Murrieta, which is where Michael started before he transferred to Orange Lutheran.
The final pick from California in Sunday’s first round was first baseman Spencer Jones (Vanderbilt) from La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad. He went at No. 25 overall to the New York Yankees. Spencer was highly regarded coming into his senior season at LCC, but was slowed by injuries and he also had to overcome some other injuries in college. He did and had an outstanding season at Vandy to prepare him for this year’s draft.
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*At No. 33 overall and chosen in the compensation part of the draft in between the first and second round was Cal slugger Dylan Beavers by the Baltimore Orioles. Beavers is from Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo, which gave the town of SLO two picks out of the first 33. There are many much larger places all around the country that didn’t get two that high.
*Both Cutter Coffey (Liberty, Bakersfield) and Henry Bolte (Palo Alto) were tabbed in the second round. Coffey, a hard-hitting shortstop, went at No. 41 overall to the Red Sox. Bolte, an outfielder with great speed and a Mr. Baseball State Player of the Year finalist, went at No. 56 overall to the Oakland Athletics. The other high school player from the state who was forecast to be in the second round, McClatchy’s Moore, was not chosen at all in the first 10 rounds. He is a Stanford recruit, however, and that usually means it costs more for a pro team to sign him. Heading to Stanford, Malcolm will be fine moving forward in his career.
*In the third round, a California high school player going at No. 86 overall to the Chicago Cubs was shortstop Chris Paciolla from Temecula Valley of Temecula. A UCLA recruit, Paciolla batted .390 for the Golden Bears and hit nine homers over the last two seasons. He wasn’t projected to be going that high and he wasn’t even first team All-Inland Empire by the Riverside Press-Enterprise. Former Carlsbad pitcher Michael Knorr (who first went to Cal State Fullerton and played last spring at Coastal Carolina) was chosen at No. 103 overall by the Houston Astros.
*The fourth round on Monday was a good one, too. A player from Etiwanda’s 2017 CIF Southern Section D2 title team that went 27-3 and was No. 2 in the state, pitcher Marcus Johnson of Duke, went at No. 112 overall to the Miami Marlins. Then at 115 it was pitcher Steven Zobac of Cal going at No. 115 to the Kansas City Royals. Zobac was probably the top player (he also hit for a high average) on San Jose Valley Christian’s team in 2019 that was No. 1 in the state. Then at 119 it was recent Yucaipa High grad Jacob Reimer selected by the New York Mets.
*In the sixth round on Monday, a player from California on Ole Miss’s recent NCAA championship team, pitcher Derek Diamond, was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Diamond is a graduate of Ramona High (San Diego Section). The sixth round also saw Orange Lutheran grad Max Rajcic (UCLA) picked by the St. Louis Cardinals. Max was considered the top contender to be Mr. Baseball for the 2020 season if it had been played to conclusion and not stopped by COVID.
*The only other California high school players (just graduated) who were selected in the first 10 rounds were pitcher Mason McGwire from Capistrano Valley of San Juan Capistrano and pitcher Tyler Gough from JSerra of SJ Capistrano. Mason, who went at No. 233 overall to the Cubs, is the son of legendary MLB slugger Mark McGwire. Tyler was chosen at No. 276 overall by the Seattle Mariners.