Published On: Tue, Jun 5th, 2018

3 things to know after Round 1 of the MLB Draft

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Round 1 of the 2018 MLB Draft has come and gone, and all 30 teams have upgraded their farm systems with some stellar young talent. Were they the right picks? The answers won’t come for another few years.

Here are three important things to know after the first round of this year’s draft.

Casey Mize: From unknown to No. 1

There was little suspense right out of the gate on Monday, as the Detroit Tigers drafted Auburn Tigers right-hander Casey Mize first overall. The selection completed a remarkable rise in stock for Mize, who joined Stephen Strasburg as the only players to ever be drafted first overall after not getting picked out of high school. Mize struck out 140 batters and tallied an exceptional 0.81 WHIP for Auburn this season, and threw a no-hitter on March 9.

Detroit did well in grabbing Mize, who could emerge as the team’s potential ace in the franchise’s post-Justin Verlander era. Baseball fans in Michigan may well look back at Monday night as a key point in the Tigers’ return to glory.

Big names drop, but Rays and Royals strike

Not everything went according to plan on draft night, as several notable names projected to be high first-round picks ended up having to wait to hear their names called. Two of MLB Pipeline’s top five draft prospects fell on Monday, and there are two teams who may reap the benefits.

The Tampa Bay Rays always seem to be on the lookout for value, and they may have found a bargain at No. 16. Matthew Liberatore, a left-hander out of Mountain Ridge High School in Glendale, Ariz., was ranked as MLB Pipeline’s fourth-best draft prospect, yet he slipped all the way into the Rays’ hands. The 16th pick’s slot value is $3,603,500, over $3 million less than the fourth overall pick.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals also benefited from other teams passing over top-flight arms by landing Brady Singer with the 18th pick at a slot value of $3,349,300. Singer was ranked as the draft’s second-best prospect – behind only first overall pick Mize – by MLB Pipeline, and was thought to be a potential top-five pick.

For small-market teams like the Rays and Royals, picks like Liberatore and Singer are critical to their future success as they attempt to build sustainable winning teams from within. Time will tell, but it sure seems like these two clubs might have picked up some mid-round steals on Day 1 of the draft.

A’s pick Kyler Murray will keep playing football

The Oakland Athletics made waves early on by drafting two-sport star Kyler Murray ninth overall on Monday. Murray is not only a star outfielder at the University of Oklahoma, but is also the Sooners quarterback and presumptive heir to the starting job vacated by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Widely considered to be one of the best athletes in this draft, Murray hit .296/.398/.556 in 189 at-bats as Oklahoma’s center fielder this year; on the gridiron, he completed 18 of 21 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns as a junior, and also rushed for 142 yards.

But just because Murray was taken ninth overall by Oakland – where he could sign for a slot-value contract of $4,761,500 – doesn’t mean he’s giving up the pigskin just yet. Speaking after the draft, the 20-year-old told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle that he will play football at Oklahoma this year, and the Athletics are OK with him doing so. The team added that he’ll focus on football for the rest of this year, and won’t join the A’s organization until the spring.

There is precedent for Murray changing course and potentially playing some minor-league baseball while also quarterbacking the Sooners. Hall of Fame QB John Elway was a second-round pick of the New York Yankees in 1982 and hit .318/.432/.464 that summer before returning to Stanford for his senior football season; his baseball career ended after he went first overall in the 1983 NFL Draft. Russell Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and spent a few years in their system while still playing football in college.

The difference for Murray compared to the paths of Elway and Wilson is that baseball’s likely his best choice to continue as a professional athlete. So, even if he does line up under center and lead Oklahoma to glory as a senior QB, the odds are he won’t see the field in the NFL unless he opts to become the first true NFL-MLB superstar since Deion Sanders. Oakland would probably be just fine with that outcome, especially if he makes good on his potential as a speedy outfielder.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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