Four Big 12 pitchers, headed by Oklahoma junior Jonathan Gray, were selected in the first two rounds of Major League Baseball’s annual first-year-player draft Thursday night. Gray, who generally leads the Oklahoma weekend rotation, was the third overall selection in this year’s draft, the first-round pick of the Colorado Rockies.
Oklahoma State right-handed pitcher Jason Hursh also was a first-round selection, selected 31st overall by the Atlanta Braves.
Corey Knebel from Texas, one of the country’s best collegiate relief pitchers, was the 39th overall selection in the 2013 draft, chosen by the Detroit Tigers in what they call the competitive balance r0und or the compensatory round, awarded to teams as a result of “players to be named later” as part of trades or free-agent movement.
The final Big 12 player selection on the first day of the three-day, 40-round proceedings was Oklahoma left-handed starter Dillon Overton.
Gray is the second highest baseball draft pick in Big 12 history and the highest pitcher selected all-time. The hard-throwing right-hander, who reaches 97 mph with his fastball on the radar gun has won 10 games for the Sooners this season, led the Big 12 in strikeouts (138) and was second in ERA (1.59). He is scheduled to start OU’s super-regional game at LSU on Friday night.
“It feels great. I finally had the dream come true,” Gray said when asked by reporters Thursday how he felt about his draft position this time around. “It’s a big relief for me, because tomorrow I can focus on winning.”
Gray has had his name called twice before in the MLB Draft. He was the selected out of high school in the 13th round in 2010 by the Kansas City Royals, and the New York Yankees picked him in the 10th round in 2011. Both times he decided to stay in school.
The 6-4, 239-pound starter becomes the 18th Oklahoma player all-time selected in the first round of the MLB Draft and the fourth in the nine years Sunny Golloway has been coach of the baseball program at OU.
OSU’s Hursh is coming off a 6-5 season on the mound in 16 starts. He had a 2.79 ERA for the Cowboys this season and pitched three complete games in 106 1/2 innings of work. Hursh missed his sophomore season in 2012 following elbow surgery. He is the second Oklahoma State pitcher to be taken in the first round.
Knebel, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s Stopper of the Year and Collegiate Baseball’s Freshman Pitcher of the Year two seasons ago, in 2011, ranks second all-time on the Big 12 career saves list – behind another former Longhorn, Huston Street – with 37 career saves. His composite ERA in two seasons at Texas is 2.07 in 91 relief appearances.
A member of the Texas 2014 baseball recruiting class, incoming frehman Trey Ball, was selected seventh overall in round one of the draft by the Boston Red Sox. He is listed as a pitcher/outfielder out of New Castle (Ind.) High School.
Overton is in his junior season at Oklahoma. The southpaw hurler is 9-2 this season for the Sooners, with an ERA of 2.91, and has an overall career record of 23-9 in his three seasons at OU.
“I was kind of surprised,” Overton said. “I didn’t think I was going to be picked in the second round.”
With Gray going No. 3 overall and Overton’s second-round selection as the 63rd overall pick, it marked the first time in almost 30 years that two Oklahoma Sooners have been taken in the first two rounds.
Candidly speaking, yours truly was pleasantly surprised to see how high Overton went in this year’s annual MLB Draft. I thought he would go somewhere in the third or fourth round, but I also thought Gray’s name would be called in the top two.
It’s difficult to say whether the recent disclosure that Gray tested positive for Adderall, a prescription drug that is banned by Major League Baseball, had anything to do with the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs passing on him in the first two draft selections. My sense is that it did not affect his draft position. Had this been a game-changing issue, he probably would have fallen much further.
Some may be surprised that only for prospects from the Big 12 were selected in the opening two rounds, plus a competitive-balance round, of this year’s draft. It’s important, though, not to confuse the structure of the MLB draft with that of the NFL or NBA. The annual NFL Draft process is only two rounds, and the NFL Draft process extends through seven rounds and 32 picks per round.
The Major League Baseball Draft, on the other hand, covers 40 rounds of 30 selections each. If you do the math, that’s over 1,000 draft more selections than either of the other two major professional sports.
Long story short: There are 38 more MLB draft rounds to go, and you can be sure that a whole lot more Big 12 players will have their big league aspirations answered before the 2013 process is all over.