SECAUCUS, N.J. — Shortstops were a big hit leading off the Major League Baseball draft.
The Arizona Diamondbacks selected Vanderbilt slugger Dansby Swanson with the No. 1 pick Monday night, setting off a history-making run at the position.
With the second pick, Houston took LSU’s Alex Bregman — marking the first time the first two players chosen were shortstops since Shawon Dunston (Cubs) and Augie Schmidt (Blue Jays) got drafted in 1982. Colorado made it 3 for 3 by taking Florida high schooler Brendan Rodgers at No. 3 overall.
Mississauga, Ont., high schooler Josh Naylor was selected 12th overall by the Miami Marlins. The 17-year-old first baseman is the highest Canadian position player ever drafted.
Blue Jays prospect Dalton Pompey, also of Mississauga, tweeted out a congratulatory message to Naylor moments after the selection was announced.
“That’s huge! Making Mississauga and Canada proud! All the best,” Pompey wrote.
Naylor, a six-foot, 225-pound left-handed hitter, has been a standout on the junior national team for the past few years. He participated in last year’s MLB junior home run derby at Target Field, finishing second behind American Luken Baker.
Calgary right-hander Michael Soroka was selected 28th overall by the Atlanta Braves.
The Blue Jays took right-hander Jon Harris out of Missouri State with the 29th pick.
A fourth shortstop went 10th, with Philadelphia selecting Georgia high schooler Cornelius Randolph.
Swanson, who helped lead the Commodores to the College World Series earlier in the day, was the first college shortstop to be the top pick since Brown University’s Bill Almon in 1974.
“I think it sounds pretty good,” a smiling Swanson said in an interview on MLB Network.
It marked the first time the Diamondbacks had the No. 1 selection since they took Justin Upton in 2005.
Swanson seamlessly switched from second base to shortstop this season as a junior. He was the Most Outstanding Player at the College World Series last year, helping the Commodores to the national championship. Swanson is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award and Howser Trophy, given to college baseball’s top player.
“An exceptional baseball player that has all of the intangibles and makeup of a championship-type player for which this organization is building a foundation on,” Diamondbacks scouting director Deric Ladnier said in a statement.
Swanson also is the first shortstop — college or high school — to go No. 1 since Houston took Carlos Correa out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy in 2012. Correa made his major league debut Monday night, just more than three years to the day after he was drafted.
It was the 50th anniversary of the first draft in 1965, and the first for new Commissioner Rob Manfred, who took over when Bud Selig retired in January.
“I haven’t spoken to Commissioner Selig about the draft. I actually was going to call him on the way out here and I got tied up,” Manfred said, minutes before stepping to the podium to begin announcing the first-round selections. “So I didn’t get any advice. I think I can get through it.”
The Astros received the No. 2 pick as compensation for not signing pitcher Brady Aiken, last year’s No. 1 overall pick. Aiken was taken by Cleveland at No. 17 despite having Tommy John surgery in March.
Bregman is the offensive leader of an LSU team that will play in the College World Series and has been ranked No. 1 in the country in several polls for most of the season. The Golden Spikes Award finalist is hitting .312 with nine homers and 49 RBIs, and has stolen 37 bases.
Bregman has shown good patience at the plate, striking out just 20 times in 239 at-bats. He has also improved defensively in each of his three seasons at LSU, and could remain at shortstop in the pros.
Houston kept things in the family at No. 5, taking Florida high school outfielder Kyle Tucker, the younger brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker. He broke his brother’s school record with 31 career homers, and has the power to potentially move to a corner outfield spot at the next level.
Rodgers was the first of four players in attendance to have his name called by Manfred, shaking hands with the commissioner while slipping on a Rockies cap and jersey.
“I really have no words right now,” Rodgers said. “I’m in awe right now. This is a dream come true.”
Rodgers, from Lake Mary High School, was widely regarded as the best prep player in the draft. He has power to all fields, soft hands and good range at shortstop — where he could remain in the pros.
Rodgers said he had 22 friends and family members at the draft, nearly all from Florida, and a roar went up when his name was announced.
“Everyone’s here,” he said. “They’re still in shock over there. So am I.”
UC Santa Barbara fireballing right-hander Dillon Tate was selected by Texas with the fourth pick, giving the Rangers a potential staff ace or late-inning reliever. He was one of the best closers in the country last year, and established himself as an outstanding starter this season for the Gauchos.
At No. 6, Minnesota drafted Illinois closer Tyler Jay, a lefty who could be used as a starter at the next level because of his excellent command of four pitches.
Arkansas slugging outfielder Andrew Benintendi went seventh to Boston; Vanderbilt righty Carson Fulmer was the No. 8 pick by the Chicago White Sox; and the Chicago Cubs selected Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ ninth overall.
Dennis Waszak Jr., The Associated Press