LOS ANGELES — The Major League Baseball draft just isn’t about name recognition or quick gratification. No prospect has played in a bowl game or busted a bracket in March. Even for the highest decisions, the dimmer lights of the minor leagues await.
On Sunday, though, the draft began with a rare flurry of the familiar. The sons of two decorated outfielders from the 2000s, Matt Holliday and Andruw Jones, were taken with the primary two picks — and a pitcher rejected by the Mets last yr followed them.
The Baltimore Orioles used the primary pick on Jackson Holliday, a shortstop from Stillwater High School in Oklahoma, who joins the Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (1987) because the only other son of a significant leaguer to be taken first overall. The Arizona Diamondbacks then selected Druw Jones, an outfielder from Wesleyan High School in Georgia, before the Texas Rangers grabbed the right-hander Kumar Rocker.
Rocker has been a phenomenon for years; as a freshman at Vanderbilt University in 2019, he threw a no-hitter within the N.C.A.A. tournament on his solution to a College World Series title. In three seasons, he went 28-10 with a 2.89 E.R.A., averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The Mets took him tenth overall last summer.
Their interest dimmed due to concerns about Rocker’s right arm, and while he has since had minor shoulder surgery, he was pitching well for an independent league team this season. He stands to learn financially from the ordeal; the slotted value for the third pick on this draft is $7.59 million, about $3 million greater than the worth of his draft slot last yr.
The Mets received the eleventh overall pick on Sunday as compensation for failing to sign Rocker, they usually used it on Kevin Parada, a sophomore catcher from Georgia Tech. Parada, a right-handed batter, hit .361 with 26 homers in 2022, earning the Buster Posey Award because the nation’s top college catcher.
“I need to win, I’m a pacesetter, I can hit,” Parada said, when asked to explain himself as a player. He said he aspired to be like Posey and the Phillies’ J.T. Realmuto, the catchers he most admired.
“I grew up being a catcher,” he said. “I’ve played multiple positions throughout my profession, but catching’s been my home.”
Parada said he had also played the outfield and corner infield positions. That versatility could help with the Mets, whose top prospect, in accordance with MLB.com, can be a 20-year-old catcher: Francisco Álvarez, who’s now with Class AAA Syracuse.
The Mets used their regular first-round selection, No. 14 overall, on Jett Williams, a 5-foot-8, right-handed-hitting shortstop from Rockwall-Heath High School outside Dallas. Williams said he modeled himself after similarly undersized stars like Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts and Alex Bregman, and was thrilled to be chosen by the Mets.
“I actually lived in Latest York after I was 2 to 4,” said Williams, who lived on Long Island in Port Jefferson while his father studied at Stony Brook University’s School of Medicine. “Glad to return back home and might’t wait to go to work.”
The Yankees picked twenty fifth overall and selected Spencer Jones, a 6-foot-7, left-handed-hitting junior outfielder from Vanderbilt. Jones hit .370 with 12 home runs, a 1.103 on-base plus slugging percentage and 14 stolen bases in 2022.
The center of the primary round included two other players whose fathers played within the majors: Justin Crawford, a speedy, left-handed-hitting outfielder from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, went to the Philadelphia Phillies at No. 17, and the Cincinnati Reds used the subsequent pick on Cam Collier, a 3rd baseman and left-handed batter from Chipola College, a junior college in Florida. Crawford’s father, Carl, was a four-time All-Star, and Collier’s father, Lou, played eight seasons within the majors.
“You’ve gotten more of an understanding of what to anticipate at the subsequent level,” Justin Crawford said. “That’s the most important thing I’ve been in a position to take away, to comprehend it’s not going to be easy. But I believe I actually have slightly little bit of a step up because I used to be in a position to be there with my dad.”
Jackson Holliday, 18, was a daily across the Colorado Rockies when his father played there, earning a measure of renown across the clubhouse for imitating batting stances. Matt would call out a reputation — Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols — and Jackson would entertain visitors with spot-on impressions. He was 3 years old on the time.
“While you’re imitating big leaguers at 3 years old,” Matt’s father, Tom, said in 2007, “obviously you’re a reasonably good showman.”
A teammate of Holliday’s, pitcher Josh Fogg, predicted then that Jackson Holliday would someday be a first-round draft selection. The day arrived on Sunday, when he was picked before anyone else.