LOS ANGELES. The Major League Baseball draft isn’t about name recognition or instant gratification. In March, no prospect bowled or went off the grid. Even the best players are waiting for the dimmer lights of the minor leagues.
On Sunday, however, the draft began with a rare flurry of familiarity. The sons of two titled 2000s outfielders, Matt Holliday and Andrew Jones, were selected as the top two picks, followed by a pitcher rejected by the Mets last year.
The Baltimore Orioles used the first pick on Jackson Holliday, a shortstop from Stillwater High School in Oklahoma who joined Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. (1987) as the only son of a major league member to finish first overall. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted Drew Jones, an outfielder from Wesleyan High School in Georgia, before the Texas Rangers grabbed right-hander Kumar Roker.
The rocker has been a phenomenon for many years; As a freshman at Vanderbilt University in 2019, he threw in a no-hitter in the NCAA Tournament en route to a College World Series title. Over three seasons, he went 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA, averaging 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The Mets finished 10th overall last summer.
Their interest waned due to concerns over Rocker’s right arm, and although he has since undergone minor shoulder surgery, he has performed quite well for the league’s independent team this season. He will benefit financially from this ordeal; The cost of the third pick in this draft is $7.59 million, about $3 million more than the cost of his entry in the draft last year.
The Mets received the 11th overall pick on Sunday as compensation for not signing Roker, and they used him on Kevin Parade, a sophomore catcher at Georgia Tech. Parada, a right-handed batsman, hit .361 with 26 homers in 2022, earning the Buster Posey Award as the nation’s top college catcher.
“I want to win, I’m a leader, I can hit,” Parada said when asked to describe himself as a player. He said he aspired to be like Posey and JT Realmuto of the Phillies, the catchers he most admired.
“I grew up as a catcher,” he said. “I’ve played multiple positions throughout my career, but catching has been my home.”
Parada said he also played in the outfield and corner positions. That versatility could help the Mets, whose main prospect, according to MLB.com, is also a 20-year-old catcher: Francisco Alvarez, who now plays in Class AAA Syracuse.
The Mets used their usual first-round pick of No. 1. 14th overall on Jett Williams, a 5-foot-8 right-handed shortstop from Rockwall Heat High School outside of Dallas. Williams said that he modeled himself after undersized stars such as José Altuve, Mookie Betts and Alex Bregman and was thrilled that the Mets chose him.
“I actually lived in New York when I was 2 to 4 years old,” said Williams, who lived on Long Island in Port Jefferson when his father attended Stony Brook University School of Medicine. “Glad to be back home and can’t wait to go to work.”
The Yankees finished 25th overall and drafted Spencer Jones, a 6-foot-7 teenage outfielder and left-hander from Vanderbilt. Jones hit .370 with 12 home runs, 1,103 on base plus field goal percentage and 14 stolen bases in 2022.
Midway through the first round, two more players whose dads played in the majors were involved: Justin Crawford, a fast southpaw from Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas, moved to the Philadelphia Phillies at No. 1.17, and the Cincinnati Reds were selected as the next pick. Cam Collier, third baseman and lefty slugger from Chipola College, a junior college in Florida. Crawford’s father, Carl, was a four-time All-Star, while Collier’s father, Lou, spent eight seasons in major tournaments.
“You have a better idea of what to expect at the next level,” said Justin Crawford. “That’s the most important thing I could carry, knowing that it won’t be easy. But I think I have a small step forward because I was able to be there with my father.”
Jackson Holliday, aged 18, was regular in the Colorado Rockies when his father played there, earning notoriety at the club for imitating batting stances. Matt called out names—Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, David Ortiz, Albert Pujols—and Jackson entertained visitors with accurate impressions. At that time he was 3 years old.
“When you imitate major league players at age 3,” Matt’s father, Tom, said in 2007, “you’re obviously a pretty good showman.”
Holliday’s teammate, pitcher Josh Fogg, then predicted that Jackson Holliday would someday be drafted in the first round. The day came on Sunday, when he was chosen before anyone else.