High school pitchers go 1-2 in MLB draft

Posted: June 07, 2014

SECAUCUS, N.J. - It was ironic that Kansas City's Willie Wilson, whose swing-and-miss cemented the Phillies' first World Series triumph, represented the Royals on Thursday night at the 2014 MLB draft.

After all, if there was one thing the talent-thin Phils wanted to avoid with this draft's No. 7 overall pick, it was a strikeout.

With that in mind, the Phillies opted for the age and experience over the promise of raw talent, selecting a college righthander, Louisiana State's Aaron Nola, in a pitching-heavy opening round.

For the first time, the top two picks in the draft - whose No. 1 picks have skewed dramatically toward college arms in the last 12 years - were high school pitchers. The Houston Astros selected California lefthander Brady Aiken with their third consecutive No. 1 overall pick. The Miami Marlins followed with Texas flamethrower Tyler Kolek at No. 2.

The Phillies, not in a position to wait long for a desperately needed talent infusion, took the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Nola, who went 30-6 with a 2.09 ERA at LSU and was twice named Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year.

The Phils reportedly considered another polished college righthander, North Carolina State's Carlos Rodon, but he went to the White Sox at No. 3 in the opening round of the draft, which will continue here Friday.

"From what I hear, Rodon is a little further along. He might be the first player from this draft to reach the big leagues," said Bob Boone, the ex-Phillies all-star who was here as the Washington Nationals vice president for player personnel.

Nick Gordon, the Florida high school shortstop whose father is former Phillies closer Tom Gordon and whose brother is Dodgers speedster Dee Gordon, was taken fifth by the Minnesota Twins.

Gordon, who attended the draft, was asked whether he had family bragging rights, since his father was a sixth-round choice and his brother a fourth-rounder.

"There's no bragging rights for me," said the 6-1, 180-pounder, smiling beneath a Twins cap that was a little too large. "My brother is tearing it up in the big leagues, and my dad played there for 21 years. I'm just going to try my hardest to get there, too."

His father stood alongside during his interviews.

"I know what you're all thinking," Tom Gordon said. " 'I forgot how small Flash really is.' . . . I'm so proud. If I were going to offer him any advice, I'd tell him to work hard and never take a day off."

Twenty pitchers were taken in the first round, tying the draft record set in 2001.

Seven of the first 12 picks were pitchers, three of them high-schoolers. In terms of potential, Aiken and Kolek were graded as head, shoulders, and arms above this year's field, though Kolek is a less-finished product.

The 6-4 Aiken, just 17, throws mid-90s, has a devastating curveball, and fanned 229 hitters in 1442/3 innings at Cathedral Catholic near San Diego. He won twice last summer in leading the United States to the gold medal at the 18-and-under world championships in Taiwan, dominating a strong Japanese team.

"When I got back from Taiwan, I sat down with my adviser, my parents, and my trainer and set a goal of being the best player in the nation this season," he said. "I'm thrilled, and I'm just ready to move forward and see what the Astros have in mind."

Kolek, 18, is even bigger and faster, though not quite the finished product the silky Aiken appears to be. A 6-5, 235-pound righthander from Shepherd, Texas, he has hit 102 m.p.h. on scouts' guns, and his slider has been timed at 90.

Maybe the biggest surprise of the early first round was the Cubs' choice of Indiana University catcher Kyle Schwarber at No. 4. A high school linebacker who drew interest from several Big Ten football programs, Schwarber had been projected as a mid-first-rounder.


ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com

@philafitz

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