The first round of the MLB draft showcased the wealth of baseball talent in the SEC, with seven SEC players selected in the first round.
The first SEC player off the board was third baseman Nick Senzel out of Tennessee, who was drafted second overall by the Cincinnati Reds. Senzel may be “the best pure hitter in college baseball,” according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis. He finished his junior season batting .352 with 59 RBIs and eight home runs.
With the sixth overall pick, the Oakland Athletics selected left-handed pitcher A.J. Puk out of Florida. Puk had a 3.21 ERA over 15 starts for the Gators this season. Puk was initially projected to be drafted higher, perhaps even first overall, but his inconsistency caused him to fall in the draft, according to Callis.
The Washington Nationals grabbed Puk’s teammate at Florida, right-handed pitcher Dane Dunning. In his sophomore season, Dunning finished with a 5-2 record with a 4.03 ERA in 14 starts. Because Florida is loaded with pitchers, Dunning may not have gotten as much attention from major league teams as his talent warrants. Callis believes he has an opportunity to become a quality starter for the Nationals.
Right-handed pitcher Dakota Hudson out of Mississippi State was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals with the 34th overall pick. Hudson had been projected as a top 10 pick early in the season, but struggles down the stretch caused his draft stock to fall. Hudson finished the season with a 9-4 record and a 2.62 ERA.
The remainder of the SEC players selected in the first round were taken with picks assigned to teams in the competitive balance lottery. These picks are distributed to teams in the 10 smallest markets or with the 10 smallest revenue pools in pro baseball.
The Los Angeles Dodgers took right-handed pitcher Jordan Sheffield out of Vanderbilt with the 36th overall pick. Sheffield was a redshirt sophomore this season, and he had an 8-6 record and a 3.01 ERA. In the middle of the Commodores season, Sheffield had a stretch where he logged 24 consecutive scoreless innings.
The Colorado Rockies selected right-handed pitcher Robert Tyler out of Georgia with the 38th overall pick. Tyler has an impressive fastball that can reach speeds in the triple digits. He struggled with injuries earlier in his college career, but played his entire junior season, finishing with a 3-5 record and a 4.10 ERA in 14 starts.
The last SEC player to be selected in the first round of the MLB draft was outfielder Anfernee Grier out of Auburn. Grier was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the 39th overall pick. Grier played three seasons for the Tigers, finishing his junior year hitting .366 with 56 runs, 41 RBIs and 12 home runs. He led the SEC in runs with 56 and in total bases with 137.