SECAUCUS, N.J. – The Houston Astros selected California high school pitcher Brady Aiken with the No. 1 pick in the Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday night.
The polished left-hander from San Diego’s Cathedral Catholic High School is just the third prep pitcher to be selected first overall, joining fellow lefties Brien Taylor (1991, Yankees) and David Clyde (1973, Rangers).
Aiken is also the first high school lefty to be drafted in the first five picks since Adam Loewen went fourth overall to Baltimore in 2002. The UCLA recruit has terrific control of a fastball that hits 96-97 mph, a knee-buckling curve and a tough changeup that sits in the low- to mid-80s.
“He is the most advanced high school pitcher I’ve ever seen in my entire career,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. “He has command like I’ve never seen before of his stuff.”
Aiken’s draft stock rose late last year when he struck out 10 in a gold medal-winning performance against Japan in the 18-and-under World Cup.
“We actually did find out on TV. We were kind of going back and forth,” Aiken said in an interview on MLB Network. “It was a crazy moment. ... This whole thing, it’s crazy.”
The Astros are the first team to select first in three consecutive drafts, having picked shortstop Carlos Correa in 2012 and right-hander Mark Appel last year.
“I’m just ready to move forward and see what the Astros have in store for me in the future,” Aiken said. “I’m just really excited.”
With the second pick, Miami took hard-throwing Texas high school pitcher Tyler Kolek. The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder from Shepherd High School has a fastball that sits in the high-90s and touched 100-102 mph several times, causing many to compare him to some fellow Texas flamethrowers such as Nolan Ryan, Kerry Wood and Josh Beckett.
The Chicago White Sox selected N.C. State left-hander Carlos Rodon with the third overall pick. The 6-3, 235-pound junior was widely regarded as the top college pitcher available in the draft and had been in the mix to go No. 1 overall.
He followed up a dominant sophomore year – 10-3, 2.99 ERA, 184 strikeouts and 45 walks in 132 1-3 innings – with a solid but not spectacular junior campaign: 6-7, 2.01, 117 Ks, 31 BBs in 98 2/3 innings. Rodon has a fastball that sits in the mid- to low-90s, but gets up to 96-97 mph, and a devastating slider that sits in the mid-80s.
Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber went No. 4 overall to the Chicago Cubs as the first position player selected. The Hoosiers star is a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the best catcher in Division I, although he could move to third base or the outfield in the pros.
He has a powerful bat from the left side of plate, hitting .358 with 14 homers and 48 RBI and a .659 slugging percentage while leading the Hoosiers to the NCAA Tournament. Schwarber’s stock rose drastically in the past few weeks as he hit .469 with four HRs and 12 RBI in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA regionals.
Nick Gordon, the son of former big leaguer Tom Gordon and brother of the Dodgers’ Dee Gordon, went fifth overall to Minnesota. The Florida high school shortstop was the first of the seven prospects in attendance at the draft site at MLB Network Studio to have his name called by Commissioner Bud Selig.
The 6-2, 170-pound Gordon, from Orlando’s Olympia High School, is an outstanding defensive player with smooth mechanics, terrific range, quick hands and a strong arm. He also has speed on the bases, and his left-hander bat sprays line drives all over the field with good power. Gordon has also been impressive as pitcher with a fastball in the low- to mid-90s, but his pro future is as a five-tool shortstop.
He also has some family bragging rights now: His father was a sixth-rounder by Kansas City in 1986, while his brother was a fourth-rounder by Los Angeles in 2008.
California high school catcher Alex Jackson went sixth to Seattle. LSU righty Aaron Nola was the seventh overall selection by Philadelphia. University of Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland, a Colorado native, went No. 8 to the Rockies.
East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who missed the end of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was the ninth pick by Toronto.
The New York Mets rounded out the top 10 picks by selecting Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto, a two-time Pac-12 player of the year and a finalist for the Golden Spikes award.
The draft, which is held over three days and 40 rounds, started with the first two rounds Thursday.