Paul Skenes, a graduate from El Toro of Lake Forest, makes history in Sunday’s first round of the MLB Draft by becoming the 18th player from California to be selected in the No. 1 overall position. Skenes was followed by five others in the first round, including a player from Thousand Oaks who was a teammate there of a first round pick from 2021.
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It’s not in too many years of following the annual Major League Baseball draft that State Team of the Year rosters and rosters of teams that won major championships also are furiously being checked as the picks are being made.
That was the case several times during the first 70 picks of this year’s MLB Draft that were held on Sunday night from Lumen Field in Seattle (also where the All-Star Game is being played).
Before the draft began, it was not a consensus among many analysts whether LSU’s Paul Skenes or LSU’s Dylan Crews would the first choice overall. Skenes is a dominant pitcher while Crews is an outfielder. The Pittsburg Pirates had the first pick and they went for Skenes.
That got a whoop from many in Orange County and around the state since Skenes is from El Toro High of Lake Forest. He initially went to the Air Force Academy after playing for the Chargers and has developed into an imposing pitcher at LSU.
Skenes became the eighth No. 1 pick from California in the last 15 years (the last one was Spencer Torkelson in 2021 from Arizona State and Casa Grande of Petaluma). He also has joined a club of all-time No. 1 picks from the state that is now at 18 since the very first MLB Draft in 1965.
In 2017, El Toro won the CIF Southern Section D1 title and had one of the top-ranked teams in the nation. Since he was a senior in 2020, Skenes would have been a freshman at the school at the time, but was not on the varsity roster. He was projected to be one of the top seniors in Orange County as a senior in 2020, but that entire season was wiped out after just a few games by the COVID pandemic. A lot of other players drafted this year also probably had their high school senior seasons wiped out by the pandemic. We weren’t able to do an all-state team that season, but Paul and others were featured in a senior all-state honor roll that was compiled.
El Toro’s main claim to fame in baseball before Skenes’ No. 1 selection this year would have to be it being the home of not one but two MLB standout third basemen – Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman. If Skenes is as freakish with his fastball and breaking pitches moving forward as he was this year for LSU, he may be facing the other Charger alums in MLB very soon.
Just five picks after Skenes was selected at the top, the next player from California to hear his name called was shortstop Jacob Wilson from Grand Canyon University. The big whoop when that happened wasn’t just because of the Thousand Oaks High grad going so high, but that he was selected by the Oakland Athletics. In the 2021 MLB Draft, the A’s selected Max Muncy in the first round at No. 21 overall not long after Max and Jacob were teammates at Thousand Oaks. Jacob had already graduated the year before the Thousand Oaks team that went 29-1 and was named State Team of the Year. Max was a senior on that team.
With Max and Jacob now both prominent members of the A’s organization, the hope is that someday they’ll be teammates again. Yet another player from the Lancers’ 2021 team that is looking stronger and stronger as one that can be ranked among the state’s greatest ever is Oklahoma State second baseman Roc Riggio. He was picked in this year’s draft in the fourth round at No. 129 overall by the New York Yankees.
The head coach of the 2021 Thousand Oaks team was Jacob’s father, former major leaguer Jack Wilson, who stepped away from high school coaching after that season. He was there of course on Sunday to see his son get picked by the A’s.
The third pick in the first round of the MLB Draft from the state (12th overall) was infielder Tommy Troy of Los Gatos by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is one of those players who was noticeable at a young age, which for us was when he was a sophomore at Los Gatos in the 2018 season. Troy was one of the top players as a sophomore for a Wildcats’ team that made it to the CIF Central Coast Section D1 championship game where it lost to State Team of the Year Valley Christian of San Jose. Tommy led that team with a .367 average and went on to have a strong junior season prior to the pandemic. This spring he was one of the leading players for Pac-12 champion Stanford.
Shortstop prospect Jacob Gonzalez of Ole Miss and Glendora High before that was next to be chosen at No. 15 overall by the Chicago White Sox. Gonzalez was known for his power hitting in high school and was a multi-sport athlete. In his career at Glendora, he also was the starting quarterback in football and finished his career with more than 4,000 yards passing.
Another Californian projected to go high and who did was smooth swinging outfielder Chase Davis from the University of Arizona and Franklin of Elk Grove before that. Davis was selected at No. 21 overall in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards already have an Elk Grove player on their top MLB roster, but Dylan Carlson is from Elk Grove High (a rival of Davis’ school).
Speaking of Elk Grove alums in MLB, left-handed power hitter Ryan “Rowdy” Tellez of the Milwaukee Brewers is a player we thought of when watching clips of Huntington Beach’s Ralphie Velazquez. In a quick turnaround from Chase Davis being selected, Velazquez was named just a few minutes later at No. 23 overall by the Cleveland Guardians. Ralphie also will now have the label of being the No. 1 high school player from the state chosen this year. He hit a lot of big homers for the Oilers, none bigger than a game-winner in the eighth inning of the 2022 CIF SoCal D1 championship against JSerra of San Juan Capistrano.
There were no other players from a California high school who were selected in the first round. It was a different format once again, this time with picks not considered first round added in front of two teams that were counted in the first round — the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s why the Dodgers’ 36th pick of the MLB Draft actually technically ended the first round. We ended up with six first-round picks who are from California high schools. That is the same total as last year and about average for most seasons we’ve been tracking it.
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*One of the state’s first-round picks from 2020 during the pandemic was catcher Tyler Soderstrom of Turlock. He was selected by the Oakland A’s. This year, not in the first round but in the second at No. 65 overall, one of Tyler’s Turlock teammates, pitcher Cole Carrigg, was chosen by the Colorado Rockies. Carrigg has been playing at San Diego State since high school.
*Mater Dei of Santa Ana, the school that had NFL No. 1 pick Bryce Young in April, has a second-round MLB pick this year with pitcher Alonzo Tredwell. He was tabbed at No. 61 overall by the Houston Astros. Tredwell did his college pitching for UCLA.
*Also selected in the second round at No. 49 overall by the Twins was infielder Luke Keaschall, who is from Arizona State and Aptos High. He was a two-time all-league player for the Mariners and went to USF before transferring to ASU.
*St. John Bosco’s Alberto Rios was the highest from the state to go in the third round at No. 79 overall by the Los Angeles Angels. Rios started his career at Stanford as a reserve, but by this season was named Player of the Year in the Pac-12 Conference.
*The most surprising pick of the draft concerning California high school players probably would be Brandon Winokur from Edison of Huntington Beach. He wasn’t first team All-Orange County, but the 6-foot-5, 210-pounder had eight homers by the start of May and scouts loved his potential. Winokur was chosen at No. 82 overall in the third round by the Minnesota Twins. He went five spots higher than Eric Bitonti of San Bernardino Aquinas, who was higher than No. 87 overall on most mock drafts we saw. Bitonti was chosen also in the third round by the Milwaukee Brewers.
*Two California prep pitchers almost going right next to each other in the fourth round were Cole Miller of Newbury Park and Cole Schoenwetter from San Marcos of Santa Barbara. Miller was selected at No. 103 overall by the A’s. Schoenwetter went at No. 105 overall to the Reds.