MLB: Strasburg, Ackley go 1-2 in draft
By Mike Fitzpatrick
SECAUCUS, N.J. ó Drafting pitcher Stephen Strasburg was the easy part for Washington. Signing him could be much more difficult.
Strasburg was selected by the woeful Nationals with the first pick in baseball’s amateur draft Tuesday night, a move that was long expected.
With the second pick, the Seattle Mariners chose North Carolina slugger Dustin Ackley, who has batted at least .400 for three consecutive seasons. UNC pitcher Alex White went 15th to Cleveland, and Northwest Cabarrus alum Kyle Seager was taken by Seattle in the third round.
Considered one of the most talented prospects in the event’s 45-year history, Strasburg features a fastball that’s been clocked at 102 mph ó and some nasty breaking stuff, too. He went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA this season for San Diego State, leading the Aztecs to their first postseason berth since 1991.
“He’s a tremendous pitching package,” Nationals acting general manager Mike Rizzo said. “We weren’t going to pass on the best player in the draft.”
Agent Scott Boras is sure to seek a record contract that easily exceeds the $10.5 million Mark Prior received after he was drafted in 2001. Teams have until Aug. 15 to sign draft choices, otherwise they lose their rights.
Strasburg went undrafted out of high school, but some think he has the ability to go straight from college to the big leagues.
“It’s tough to say right now,” Strasburg said in a phone interview on MLB Network.
Also represented by Boras, Ackley has 22 home runs and 70 RBIs this year, helping UNC earn its fourth straight trip to the College World Series, which begins this weekend.
Ackley played mostly first base for the Tar Heels as he recovered from elbow ligament replacement surgery this season. But his impressive speed makes him a candidate to switch to center field as a pro.
“We think this kid is the best hitter in the draft,” Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “This is a guy we thought could be here in a short period of time.”
It was Seattle’s highest pick since 1993, when the Mariners took Alex Rodriguez first.
The 6-foot-1, 184-pound Ackley is the first outfielder the Mariners have drafted with their initial pick since Jose Cruz Jr. in 1995. The only other outfielder the Mariners have taken first in the last 23 years is Ken Griffey Jr.
Ackley comes from Walnut Cove, a former plantation-turned-town outside Winston-Salem so small and unknown that the information the Mariners handed out called it Walnut Grove.
Asked if he’s now its most famous resident, Ackley said sheepishly, “I guess so.”
Ackley is so health conscious, he can’t remember the last time he drank soda. Tuesday was so special, he figured he’d finally have one.
“I just try to stay away from the bad stuff,” Ackley said.
The San Diego Padres grabbed high school outfielder Donavan Tate at No. 3. A gifted all-around athlete, Tate was a baseball and football star at Cartersville High in Georgia, and he has committed to play both sports at North Carolina. He is the son of former NFL running back Lars Tate.
Eleven of the first 15 picks were pitchers, considered the strength of this unpredictable class. Eight in a row went from Nos. 5-12.
The fourth and fifth selections were players who soared up draft boards late.
The Atlanta Braves used the seventh pick on Mike Minor, who joined David Price (2007) and Jeremy Sowers (2004) as Vanderbilt lefties to go among the first seven picks.
Minor grew up a Braves fan in Chapel Hill, Tenn. ó about 45 minutes south of Nashville and no more than a five-hour drive from Atlanta. He was the highest Braves’ choice since Mike Kelly was taken No. 2 in 1991.
The Nationals were the first team to have a pair of top-10 picks. They chose reliever Drew Storen, a right-hander from Stanford.
That pick was compensation for Washington failing to sign 2008 selection and former Missouri pitcher Aaron Crow at No. 9 last year. After playing in an independent minor league, Crow went back into the pool this year and was chosen No. 12 overall by Kansas City.
White, 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, is 8-4 with a 4.13 ERA for the Tar Heels. The Indians liked the 20-year-old White three years ago, when he was drafted in the 14th round but didn’t sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Indians project him as a bullpen pitcher.
“Alex has been one of our targets since the beginning of the season,” Indians scouting director Brad Grant said. “He’s a guy we’ve had interest in since high school.”
Depending on when White signs, Grant said, the transformation into a reliever likely will begin next year.
By Seth Leonard firstname.lastname@example.org A gang of far-riding and well-traveled motorcyclists made Salisbury their home Thursday. But it wasn’t a... read more