2017 MLB Draft: Los Angeles shines bright in first round

January 14, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; High school pitcher Hunter Greene during the USA Baseball sponsored Dream Series at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
January 14, 2017; Tempe, AZ, USA; High school pitcher Hunter Greene during the USA Baseball sponsored Dream Series at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

With 10 local players hearing their names during Day One of the 2017 MLB Draft, the Los Angeles legacy as fertile ground for top-tier baseball talent continues.

The first and second overall picks in the 2017 MLB Draft were both from Los Angeles. The first pick overall by the Minnesota Twins was Royce Lewis, a shortstop from JSerra Catholic HS in San Juan Capistrano. Lewis was ranked as the fifth-best player by MLB.com and projected as the top pick by Baseball America.

The three-time MVP of the ultra-competitive Trinity League, the former outfielder moved to shortstop with aplomb, leading the Lions to the 25th overall ranking in the state, while menacing opposing defenses with his speed and hitting ability. Lewis swiped 25 stolen bases to accompany with his .377 batting average.

He was named Gatorade California Player of the Year as a Junior and is considered the ‘toolsiest‘ player in the 2017 draft.

The second pick was made by the Cincinnati Reds, who selected Sherman Oaks Notre Dame HS pitcher/shortstop Hunter Greene. The mighty Greene, with apologies to Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, might be the best overall baseball player in L.A. Armed with a 102-mph fastball and bat speed reminiscent of Alex Rodriguez, Greene is one of a litany of potential two-way players in this year’s draft, though is expected to focus on pitching in the Reds organization, at least initially.

With the ninth selection, the Milwaukee Brewers snagged Keston Hiura of the University of California-Irvine, a second baseman that has hit at every level of competition. With “a ton of bat speed, the ball comes off his bat different than most,” per MLB.com, the Anteater projects to be a major league caliber hitter, perhaps in the mold of Howie Kendrick. The Valencia native hit .442 for UCI this season with a 1.260 OPS.

Nick Pratto of Huntington Beach HS was the next L.A.-area player to heed the call, heading to the Royals with the 14th selection. Pratto committed to USC as a left-handed first baseman/pitcher but is considered a higher-ceiling prospect as a batter, where his hit tool is considered amongst the best in the nation amongst draft-eligible prospects.

Pratto is no stranger to the limelight, having smacked the game-winning hit for Huntington Beach Little League in the 2011 Little League World Series.

UCLA Bruin Griffin Canning was the next Angeleno to come off the board, landing at 47 to the hometown Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Once projected to be a top-20 pick, there were rumors that there were “issues with his medical report” that sent his stock tumbling.

Griffin, the next in a long line of UCLA pitchers drafted on Day One (Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, James Kaprelian) has a fastball that reaches 95mph but is known more for his savvy and intellect on the mound. He finished 2017 with a 2.35 ERA and 140 K’s in 119 innings for the tournament-bound Bruins.

Pratto’s teammate at Huntington Beach HS, Hagen Danner, was the 61st pick to the Toronto Blue Jays. Danner is a rock-solid catcher with a plus bat but also figures as one of the two-way players in the draft, touching 95mph as a right-handed pitcher. It is worth noting that the UCLA-committed Danner is considered “special” as a catcher, with a defensive and game-calling ability amongst the top of the 2017 MLB Draft class.

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Another USC commit, Hans Crouse of Dana Hills HS, was picked 66th by the Texas Rangers. Crouse, whose fastball touches 97mph, featured a 0.88 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings for the Dolphins this year.

Cory Abbott, a right-handed pitcher for Loyola Marymount, allowed only two runs in 67 conference innings for the Lions, rocketing up draft boards after being considered a fringe prospect prior to the season. The Chicago Cubs snapped him up with the 67th pick, hoping to rely on his slider and curveball that helped him accumulate 130 strikeouts sin 98 1/3 innings in 2017.

Blake Hunt of Mater Dei HS is known as a defensive specialist at the catcher position. His catch-and-throw is considered elite and likes to call his own game behind the plate. The Pepperdine commit hit .394 with six home runs for the Monarchs, and the San Diego Padres are hoping that he produces offensively as the 69th pick.

Rounding out the Day One draftees from greater Los Angeles, shortstop Tyler Freeman of Etiwanda HS in Rancho Cucamonga was drafted 71st by the Cleveland Indians. Freeman led the Eagles to their first CIF Southern Section Division 2 Championship, hitting .526 with a 1.452 OPS. Freeman is a Texas Christian University commit and is expected to go to college unless the Indians offer a generous compensation package.

Next: Ranking the Dodgers best picks of the 2000s

With two rounds completed and 10 L.A. players already selected, it is definitely a banner year for the greater Los Angeles metro region. there are still 38 rounds over the next two days, so expect to hear countless more screams of baseball-loving joy from living rooms from San Juan Capistrano to Agoura over the next two days of the 2017 MLB Draft.